I. Sheppard v Maxwell, Warden II. Citation 384 U. S. 333 (1966) III. Facts: The petitioner, Dr. Samuel Sheppard sought habeas corpus relief in the federal courts after serving seven years of a life sentence for murder. Sheppard was charged with the murder of his wife, Marilyn who also was four months pregnant. Marilyn was murdered on July 4, 1954 in the couple’s Bay Village, Ohio home. Sheppard was the primary suspect from beginning of the case and was arrested for murder on July 30. His trail began on October 18 and he was convicted on to a life sentence on December 21, 1954.
During the entire time prior to the trail, the case was highly published in many forms of the media. The case attracted massive media coverage and bias information was leaked regarding charges in which the petitioner was not being tried. Pertinent information such as names and addresses of potential jurors were published thus allowing for more bias and contamination before the trail begun. The jurors themselves were constantly exposed to the news media. Over three weeks prior to the trail, the media published the names and addresses of prospective jurors. As a result many of them received both letters and phone calls about the case.
Inside the courtroom, newsmen were allowed to take over majority of the small courtroom. Reporters were assigned seats by the court within the bar and in close proximity of the jury and counsel. This precluded privacy between the petitioner and his counsel. IV. Legal Issues: The petitioner filed for habeas corpus relief in the federal courts. The question was whether Sheppard was deprived of a fair trail and his right to due process according to the Sixth Amendment. Was the petitioner denied a fair trail for the second-degree murder of his wife, of which he was onvicted, because of the trail judge’s failure to protect Sheppard sufficiently from the massive, pervasive, and prejudicial publicity that attended his prosecution? V. Decision of the Court In an 8 to 1 decision, The Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed his conviction and ordered a new trail. Justices Douglas, Clark, Harlan II, Brennan, Stewart, White, and Goldberg were in the majority with Justice Black dissenting. VI. Opinion and Reasoning of the Court( By Justice Clark) The Supreme Court did not rule on Sheppard’s guilt or innocence, however the conviction was reversed and a new trail was ordered.
The majority opinion was based on and made reference to several prior rulings, however the most cited ruling was Estes v Texas, 381 U. S. 532. The reasoning was as follows: 1. The massive, pervasive and prejudicial attending petitioner’s prevented him from receiving a fair trail consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. i. Though freedom of discussion should be given the widest range compatible with the fair and orderly administration of justice, it must not divert the trail from the purpose of adjudicating controversies according to legal procedures based on evidence received only in open court. i. Identifiable prejudices to the accused need not be shown if as in Estes v Texas, 381 U. S. 532, and even more so in this case, the totality of the circumstances raises the probability of prejudices. iii. The trail court failed to invoke procedures which would have guaranteed petitioner a fair trail, such as adopting stricter rules for use of the courtroom by newsman as petitioner’s counsel requested, limiting their number, and more closely supervising their courtroom conduct.
The court should also have insulated the witnesses; controlled the release of leads, information, and gossip to the press by officers, witnesses, and counsel; prescribed extrajudicial statements by any lawyer, witness, party, or court official divulging prejudicial matters, and requesting the appropriate city and county officials to regulate release of information by their employees. 2. The case is remanded to the District Court with instructions to release petitioner from custody unless he is tried again within a reasonable time.
The majority quoted Justice Holmes from a case over half a century ago in Patterson v Colorado, 205 U. S. 454, 462: “ The theory of our system is that the conclusion to be reached in a case will be induced only by evidence and argument in open court, and not by any outside influence, whether private talk or public print. ” Furthermore, the majority pointed out that “tails are not like elections, to be won through the use of the meeting hall, the radio, and the newspaper. Bridges v California, supora, at 271 And the Court has insisted that no one be punished for a crime without “ a charge fairly made and fairly tried in a public tribunal free of prejudice, passion, excitement, and tyrannical power. ” Chambers v Florida, 309 U. S. The U. S District Court Judge Carl Weinmane ruled in Sheppard’s favor (Sheppard v Maxell, 231) Without addressing the guilt or innocence, Weinman held Sheppard had been denied due process. But one year later, the U. S.
Court of Appeals overruled Judge Weinman (Sheppard v Maxwell, 346) The Appeals Court ruled that qualified jurors are able to make thoughtful rulings in the face of publicity. But this decision by the U. S Supreme Court once again without ruling on Sheppard’s guilt or innocence reversed his conviction and ordered a new trail due to the failure of the trail judge’s inability to protect the defendant and take such measures of isolating the jury through Sequestration. VII. Dissenting Opinion (Justice Black)
Justice Black’s opinion stands on the principle that justice cannot survive behind walls of silence. He states American distrust secret trails as held in a prior ruling of Oliver, 333 U. S. 257. Justice Black stand behind the role of the press and that its functionality is apart of the judicial process. The role of the press not is simply to publish information but to also guard against the miscarriage of justice by the officers of the courts. Justice Black quoted two prior rulings: Craig v Harney, 331 U.
S. 367,374 “what transpires in court is public property. ” The “unqualified prohibitions laid down by the framers were intended to give liberty of the press…the broadest scope that could be countenanced in an orderly society. ” Bridges v California, 314 U. S. 252,265. Black dissents there were “no threat or menace to the integrity of trail. ” “the courts have consistently required that the press have a free hand, even though we sometimes deplored its sensationalism. ” VIII. Personal Opinion by Student
I agree with the ruling of the courts. Although the courts have limited control over the contents of what is reported by the media, the courts have an obligation to ensure that it does not affect the rights of the defendants on trails. Media is a very pervasive tool used in our society and can be used skillfully to get a desired result. Although I am not saying these newspapers and television stations purposely tried to do what they did, however the media is going to run with the hype! Our Constitution was created for a reason.
The officers of the courts must ensure that everything is done within their power to ensure that the right to due process is obtained. The judge did not take control of the courtroom or ensure the jurors were isolated. I believe Sheppard did not get a fair trail. Freedom of Press is one thing, and is an extremely important component to our judicial system. However, The Courts have to be able to recognize when the media is threatening a fair trail. The judge could have changed the venue of the trail, placed a gag order, limited the numbers of newsmen in the courtroom, and isolation of the jurors.