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Lawyer seeks ban on '54 testimony in Sheppard trial

All testimony from the 1954 trial at which Dr. Sam Sheppard was convicted of killing his wife should be barred from the new trial aimed at clearing his name, an attorney argued Monday.

Nothing from the original case _ not even Sheppard's own testimony _ should be allowed in the wrongful-imprisonment case because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that Sheppard's 1954 conviction was unfair as a result of pretrial publicity, lawyer Terry Gilbert told Cuyahoga County Judge Ronald Suster.

The sensational trial was one of the most highly publicized of the 1950s and inspired The Fugitive TV series and movie. The Supreme Court's ruling was a landmark decision on the unfair effect of pretrial publicity.

Gilbert represents Sheppard's son, Sam Reese Sheppard, who is suing the state of Ohio, claiming his father was wrongfully imprisoned for his mother's beating death. Sheppard was found guilty of murder and spent 10 years in prison before being acquitted at a retrial. He died in 1970.

The judge did not immediately rule on Gilbert's request. Jury selection in the civil case is not expected to begin until next week.

Because many witnesses in the case have died, the jury may have to listen for days to readings of their testimony. Prosecutors, who are representing the state in this case, want the jury to hear the testimony of 19 witnesses from the first trial, including Sheppard, who testified for three days.

"There's no other way we're going to get a complete trial," prosecutor Steve Dever said.

In his argument against using the testimony, Gilbert noted that the Supreme Court ruled the first trial was unfair in part because witness accounts were publicized before they appeared in court.

But Dever said the high court never questioned the honesty of witnesses' testimony in 1954, just the lack of control the judge exercised over the media.

The elder Sheppard, who died in 1970, always insisted that a "bushy-haired intruder" killed his wife, Marilyn, in her upstairs bedroom while he slept downstairs. He said he heard his wife's cries and ran to help her but was knocked unconscious by the killer, who fled from the family's home.

Sam Reese Sheppard, 52, of Oakland, Calif., has investigated his mother's murder for more than a decade and is convinced the real killer was a window washer named Richard Eberling, who died in prison in 1998 after being convicted of killing a woman for whom he worked as a caretaker.

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