Sheppard v. Maxwell, 16077.

Citation346 F.2d 707
Decision Date14 July 1965
Docket NumberNo. 16077.,16077.
PartiesSamuel H. SHEPPARD, Petitioner-Appellee, v. E. L. MAXWELL, Warden, Respondent-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)


William B. Saxbe, Atty. Gen. of Ohio, Columbus, Ohio, John T. Corrigan, Pros. Atty. of Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, Ohio (for amicus curiae), for appellant, David L. Kessler, Asst. Atty. Gen., Columbus, Ohio, on the brief, Gertrude Bauer Mahon, Asst. Pros. Atty., Cleveland, Ohio, on brief for amicus curiae.

F. Lee Bailey, Boston, Mass., for appellee, Benjamin L. Clark, Columbus, Ohio, Russell A. Sherman, Elyria, Ohio, on the brief.

Before O'SULLIVAN, PHILLIPS and EDWARDS, Circuit Judges.

O'SULLIVAN, Circuit Judge.

Appellant, Warden of the Ohio State Penitentiary, appeals from a United States District Court order declaring void the 1954 conviction of petitioner, Dr. Samuel H. Sheppard. Judgment had been entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, upon a jury verdict convicting Sheppard of the second-degree murder of his wife.1 Upon his appraisal of trial and pretrial publicity and other matters, the District Judge concluded that Dr. Sheppard did not have a fair trial and was thus deprived of rights guaranteed him by the United States Constitution His order granted bail to Dr. Sheppard and released him from the Ohio Penitentiary where he had been confined under a life sentence since his conviction in 1954. Ohio was granted 60 days within which to take further action against Dr. Sheppard. Sheppard v. Maxwell, D.C., 231 F.Supp. 37 (July 15, 1964). This Court has stayed the order fixing such time limitation.

Sheppard's conviction and the denial of his motion for new trial on grounds of newly discovered evidence were both affirmed on appeal by the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County, Ohio. State v. Sheppard, 100 Ohio App. 345, 128 N.E. 2d 471 (1955); State v. Sheppard, 100 Ohio App. 399, 128 N.E.2d 504 (1955). The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from the decision affirming the denial of a new trial in State v. Sheppard, 164 Ohio St. 428, 131 N.E.2d 837 (1956), and affirmed the conviction in State v. Sheppard, 165 Ohio St. 293, 135 N.E.2d 340 (1956), two judges dissenting. Application for certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court, Sheppard v. State of Ohio, 352 U.S. 910, 77 S.Ct. 118, 1 L.Ed.2d 119 (1956), and rehearing was denied, Sheppard v. Ohio, 352 U.S. 955, 77 S.Ct. 323, 1 L.Ed.2d 245 (1956). Dr. Sheppard's later petition to the Supreme Court of Ohio for a writ of habeas corpus was denied. State ex rel. Sheppard v. Alvis, 170 Ohio St. 551, 167 N.E.2d 94 (1960). Dr. Sheppard thus has had the benefit of all the processes of law provided by the State of Ohio, and the United States Supreme Court did not see fit to take the case for its review.

The habeas corpus proceeding here involved was commenced in the United States District Court April 11, 1963, charging, as amended, some 23 separate constitutional defects in Sheppard's conviction. Some of these had already been found without merit by the Ohio courts and others were new. Indicating his view that there were probably other constitutional imperfections in Dr. Sheppard's trial, the District Judge bottomed his decision on four separate grounds, (1) newspaper publicity before and during the trial denied Sheppard a fair trial, (2) the trial judge should have disqualified himself, (3) evidence that Sheppard had refused to take a lie detector test and that another witness had taken such a test was improperly brought before the jury, and (4) the bailiffs in charge of the jury after the cause was submitted to it improperly allowed individual jurors to make telephone calls to their families. Grounds 1 and 4 were passed upon in the Ohio Court of Appeals and Supreme Court and were found to be without merit. They were also relied upon in the application to the United States Supreme Court for certiorari, which was supported by the same volumes of newspaper publicity as are before us. Ground 2 and part of ground 3 were first asserted in the instant petition for habeas corpus.

We are of the opinion that the release of Dr. Sheppard was improvident, and that the District Court order should be vacated and Dr. Sheppard remanded to the custody of the respondent Warden of the Ohio Penitentiary.

Before detailed discussion of the issues before us, it should be preliminarily observed that Dr. Sheppard was released not because of any evidentiary showing that the jury was prejudiced by the newspaper and other publicity or that the trial judge exhibited partiality or prejudice in his conduct of the trial, nor because of any evidence that the jurors' calls to their homes contained any improprieties. The District Judge presumed that the judge and the jury must have been so affected by the publicity and other events as to be unable to discharge their respective responsibilities in keeping with constitutional standards. Reviewing substantially the same record as did the District Judge here, the appellate machinery of Ohio, challenged to do so, was unable to discern the evils now presumed by the District Judge. Aware that as a matter of formal rule, denial of certiorari by the United States Supreme Court does not bespeak its approval of a state court decision, we do mention that critical points now made by Dr. Sheppard did not excite the Supreme Court to take for review this case now characterized by the District Judge as "a mockery of justice."

The District Judge's comprehensive and painstakingly prepared opinion exhibits his searching and laudable zeal to protect Dr. Sheppard's constitutional rights. He cast a wide and fine net over Dr. Sheppard's trial and its background, gathering in many imperfections each of which was found to have offended the United States Constitution.2 This conclusion is reached notwithstanding that on the main points discussed some nine Ohio judges of the Common Pleas Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court, did not find error or constitutional vice in the Sheppard trial and that the case "did not commend itself to at least four members of the United States Supreme Court as falling within those considerations which should lead this Court to exercise its discretion in reviewing a lower court's decision." Sheppard v. State of Ohio, 352 U.S. 910, 911, 77 S.Ct. 118, 119, 1 L.Ed.2d 119 (remarks of Frankfurter, J.). Other points now found to be of constitutional magnitude evidently did not appear of sufficient significance to prompt Dr. Sheppard's counsel to assert them as error on appeal.

Aside from the question of lie detector evidence, which we find without merit, the judgment of the District Court cannot be affirmed unless we are willing to accept its conclusion that the jurors who heard this case were, wittingly or unwittingly, false to their oaths; or that the trial judge, deceased before the start of this habeas corpus proceeding, was guilty of impropriety in sitting as a judge at the Sheppard trial. We cannot join in such conclusions, notwithstanding our agreement with the District Judge's characterization of the conduct of some of the Cleveland press as being shameful journalism, certainly not conducive to the judiciary's continuing concern for the freedom that the press insists should at all times be accorded to it. Contemporary American society would be greatly benefited if those members of the press and other media of information who offend in this regard were as conscious of and devoted to their responsibilities as they are solicitous that their privileges remain unimpaired. Good would also be the product of greater restraint by prosecutors and other members of the bar who indulge in public and truculent announcement of their trial plans and ammunition.

An initial question should be disposed of. The respondent warden now charges that the District Court was without jurisdiction to entertain the instant habeas corpus action, asserting that Dr. Sheppard has not exhausted remedies still available in the state courts of Ohio, citing 28 U.S.C.A. § 2254. He contends that application for delayed appeal is still available to petitioner under Ohio Revised Code § 2953.05 as to errors not already considered by the Ohio court, and that under Ohio Revised Code § 2725.02, habeas corpus may also be presently employed to present federal constitutional questions to the Ohio courts. In his answer to the petition for habeas corpus, however, respondent admitted "that petitioner has exhausted all his remedies in the courts of Ohio. * * *" Whether such response constitutes a judicial admission foreclosing present consideration of the jurisdictional question and whether, assuming the court's right to now consider exhaustion of remedies, petitioner has exhausted his state remedies as required by 28 U.S.C.A. § 2254, are interesting questions. We pass them, however, believing that since the District Judge has entertained the application for habeas corpus and ruled on the merits, we have the right to, and should, dispose of the appeal before us on its merits. Particularly is this so since the result of our determination is in a sense a vindication of the state courts. Compare the Third Circuit rule that exhaustion is not required prior to a ruling against the merits of a state prisoner's petition, United States ex rel. Drew v. Myers, 327 F.2d 174 (CA 3, 1964); In re Thompson, 301 F.2d 659 (CA 3, 1962); In re Ernst, 294 F.2d 556 (CA 3, 1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 917, 82 S.Ct. 198, 7 L.Ed.2d 132 (1961).

We shall discuss the merits under the headings of Publicity, Disqualification of Judge Blythin, Lie Detector Evidence, Communications with Jurors, and Other Questions.

1) Publicity.

We should at the outset confess a certain temptation to yield to today's accelerating current of excitement and concern about undue press coverage of criminal charges and trials, and to affirm petitio...

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  • Corbett v. Patterson
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Colorado
    • July 3, 1967
    ...still hasn't been taken to headquarters. See the various opinions on the Sheppard case in 384 U.S. 333, 86 S.Ct. 1507 (1966); 346 F.2d 707 (6th Cir. 1965); 231 F.Supp. 37 (S.D.Ohio 1964); State v. Sheppard, 165 Ohio St. 293, 135 N.E. 2d 340 (1956); and 100 Ohio App. 345, 128 N.E.2d 471 The ......
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