By Frank Lewis
Samuel Holmes “Sam” Sheppard, a Bay Village, Ohio, osteopathic physician, was convicted in 1954 of the brutal murder of his pregnant wife, Marilyn Reese Sheppard, at their home. He spent almost a decade in prison, mostly at the Ohio Penitentiary, before a retrial was ordered, where he was acquitted in 1966. To his death, he maintained his innocence of the murder. Now, Sheppard’s son, Sam Reese Sheppard has taken up the fight to end the death penalty in the state of Ohio.
Sam Reese Sheppard grew up under a stigma that most people will never experience in their lifetime. And as it turned out, it was a needless stigma.
“It’s been a tough go,” Sheppard told the Daily Times. “I suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome like many of us do and don’t realize it in regular families.” All in all, though, Sheppard says his growing up was not as bad as many would think.
Sheppard rang the bell across the road from Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, on Sunday as Ohioans to Stop Executions began a walk to Columbus to call for an end to the death penalty. The walk is sponsored by Scioto Peace and Justice Fellowship of Reconciliation.
“I’ve been active around the death penalty issue for years in terms of trying to get rid of it and also I try to bring a little bit of balance to the issue because we try to remember the victim’s family members,” Sheppard said. “People who are suffering on the other (victim) side, that’s a hell of a way to live.”
Sheppard works with both sides of the death penalty issue because he says it is a two-sided issue, but make no mistake about it, he is opposed to the death penalty. Also opposed to the death penalty is Derrick Jamison, who was exonerated in 2005 after serving 20 years on Ohio’s death row for a crime he did not commit.
“I am the 119th death row exoneree in the United States, that’s why I’m involved,” Jamison told the Times. “I’m on a mission. I was sentenced to die on Oct. 5, 1985 in Hamilton County, Ohio. I went to death row in Lucasville (SOCF). In my case they withheld 35 pieces of evidence and I was released by Judge Robert Neihouse. I could have been home three years earlier. They had a plan if I signed the papers I could go home free but I refused because I would not admit to something I didn’t do.”
Starting at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, death penalty abolitionists from Ohio and beyond began a 7 day, 83 mile walk from the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, the prison where Ohio conducts executions, to the Statehouse in Columbus, calling for an end to capital punishment. More than a dozen participants registered to walk the entire route, and hundreds of supporters from across Ohio are expected for the final leg to the Statehouse on Saturday, Oct. 10, which is observed internationally as World Day Against the Death Penalty.
“I want to bring to people’s attention that the death penalty is not fair,” Jamison said. “They’re killing innocent people and we need to stop this. We’ve got things in Ohio like life without possibility of parole and we need to use that for when we make mistakes. We’ve got nine death row exonerees in Ohio.
One of the most interesting participants is Terry Collins, who retired as Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections after participating in 33 executions. Collins was scheduled to speak Monday evening at 7 in Chillicothe.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.