Son of real-life `Fugitive' in battle to prove his father's innocence

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A DOCTOR whose bizarre life story formed the basis of the long- running television serial The Fugitive has still not been completely cleared of a murder he did not commit despite new DNA evidence

Dr Sam Sheppard was acquitted in 1966 of beating his wife to death after spending 10 years in prison. However, unlike in the television version, starring David Janssen, and the movie with Harrison Ford, Dr Sheppard became "a broken and bitter man, turned to alcohol and painkillers ... and died four years later from liver complications," said Terry Gilbert, the attorney for the Sheppard estate which is pursuing the case through the Ohio Supreme Court.

His body was exhumed in September for a forensic tests. Comparing the DNA of Dr Sheppard and samples found in a smear from Marylin Sheppard, as well as another sample from the original crime scene, has led to calls for a retrial.

The defence is pointing the finger at Richard Eberling, the Sheppards' window cleaner, who is currently serving a sentence for the murder of an elderly widow in 1984. Eberling has denied the murder of Mrs Sheppard, and according to authorities, was subjected to two polygraph tests during the original investigations in 1954, which he passed.

Sam Reese Sheppard, the only son of Dr Sheppard, is unconvinced of Eberling's innocence, and is seeking redress through the legal system for his father's imprisonment. If he is successful, he could stand to gain $2m (pounds 1.25m).

Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the county prosecutor, argues that Sam Reese Sheppard has no legal standing. "If the Supreme Court says that the statute of limitations has run its course, then there is no law suit. What I am saying is that it has, because Sam Sheppard had never sought a wrongful incarceration claim, nor did he say that he would seek anything from the state of Ohio."

If the case does go ahead, the burden of proof for innocence will lie with the defence, "We are hopeful for a successful outcome. The last time, Sam Sheppard was vilified by the press and the community. Allegations were flying around that he was acquitted because he had a slick lawyer. This time we will prove his innocence," said Terry Gilbert.

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