Sam Sheppard's Walk Gathers Support For Use Of Alternatives To Death Penalty In Ohio

A Personal Experience From The Walk

Contributed by Marianne Kruse-Blanchong

We met at a ball park just across from the old MANCI. The walls and towers still loom in the background like a dungeon. After greetings and a press conference, we boarded the bus and drove down the road to the Harley Davidson shop on 13.

From there we started our walk down the busy road carrying signs that said, "Don't kill in my name, I am against the death penalty." A camera crew followed along side us.

Sam Sheppard, stopped in front of the prison and crossed the busy intersection with a wreath of flowers. He walked up to the prison as far as the guards and State Highway Patrol would let him. Then he tied the wreath of flowers to a small tree next to the large sign that read, Mansfield Federal Prison, saying that the wreath is for the families of murder victims, the victim, and for the family members of those housed on the row in Mansfield.

From there we walked back to the ball park, where we all sat in a circle and talked about we are going to do in order to stop the first execution from taking place in Ohio, and abolishing the death penalty. It was a very moving experience.

Sam Sheppard Remarks About His Walk -- Oct 3, 1997

"I have been touched by the compassion of the people I have met along the road during this walk," said Sam Reese Sheppard, who was age seven at the time his mother was murdered. Sheppard grew up visiting his father the man wrongly accused of murdering his wife and whose story inspired the movie, "The Fugitive" in Ohio State Penitentiaries at Columbus and Marion. "I can't tell you how many times I was stopped by people who told me they have always believed in my fathers innocence. And this is why it is not surprising that this new survey shows that 46% of Ohioans think that it is not just possible, but that it is likely that we will kill an innocent person. This is why my friends and I urge the people of Ohio to look at the American Bar Association's study, calling for a moratorium on the death penalty in the USA because of its unfairness, disparity and futility," continued Sheppard. "We believe that politicians who push for the death penalty are out of touch with the true aspects of a humane people. The alternative of 25 years or more without possibility of parole, with restitution payments to the victims families, proves to be the answer which will allow us to look beyond the fear and division so that we may build communities of caring and peace."

Cincinnati is the final stop of Shepard's 18-day Alternatives / Memorial Walk Across Ohio. Sam Reese Sheppard began The Alternatives / Memorial Walk Across Ohio on September 18th, the day after the exhumation of Dr. Samuel H. Sheppard from Forest Lawn Cemetery in Columbus. He continued the walk after Dr. Sheppard's cremated remains were placed inside a crypt with the body of Marilyn Reese Sheppard at Knollwood Cemetery east of Cleveland. The exhumation of Dr. Sheppard was called for by the Cuyahoga County Coroner in order to conduct DNA testing as part of a civil suit filed by the Sheppard estate seeking a complete declaration of the innocence of Dr. Sheppard from the State of Ohio. Sheppard's walk has included visits to the house in Bay Village where his mother was murdered, Mansfield Correctional Institution where Ohio's death row is currently housed, Marion State Correctional Institution, where Dr. Sheppard served about a year of his life sentence in medium security before being returned to the Ohio State Pen in Columbus as a punitive measure. Dr. Sheppard served most of his ten years in prison at the Columbus facility, which the younger Sheppard visited while in Columbus last Saturday.

Additional Dates of Interest:

Saturday, October 4: Sheppard will resume his walk through Cincinnati on US 42 beginning at 9:30am at Sharon Woods, just inside I-275.

Sheppard will speak at 7pm at Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church. This event is open to the public.

Sunday, October 5: Sheppard will speak at worship service at 8am at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.

Everyone is invited to gather at the office of the Hamilton County Prosecutor at 11am on Sunday, October 5th for the final leg of Sam Reese Sheppard's Alternatives / Memorial Walk Across Ohio. Sheppard will lead those gathered to a rally in Fountain Square from 12pm to 1pm. At 1pm participants in the rally will be invited to walk with Sheppard to the Ohio River.

NOTE: Sam Reese Sheppard leaves Ohio on Sunday afternoon to join with other murder victims families and offender families on the "Journey of Hope... from violence to healing," an educational/speaking tour in Missouri October 5th to 12th. For more information please contact CUADP at 800-973-6548.


The following is the press release from the Survey Research Unit at Ohio State University:

From Wed Oct 1 13:50:38 1997

Ohio State University
Derby Hall, Room 0126
Survey Research Unit 154 N Oval Mall
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Columbus OH 43210-1373

Phone: 614-292-6672
FAX: 614-292-6673

Office of the Director


The Ohio State University's College of Social and Behavioral Sciences' Survey Research Unit has just completed a study examining the opinions of Ohioans regarding the use of the Death Penalty. This was done as part of the September Buckeye State Poll and consisted of three questions asked of a random sample of 805 English speaking adults.

Following are the findings:

* When asked if they favor or oppose the death penalty for convicted murderers, 66% of Ohioans report being in favor and another 9% being in favor under certain circumstances. 17% reported opposition, while another 8% expressed ambivalence.

Consistent with previous research, males (74%), and whites (71%) were more likely to report being in favor of the death penalty than were females (59%) and African-Americans (47%). Additionally, those over 30 years of age (69%) those married (72%) and those with a college degree (74%) were more inclined to favor the death penalty than those under 30 (59%), those not married (57%) and those without a college degree (65%).

* Ohioans were also asked how likely they thought it would be for an innocent person to be wrongly convicted and executed. While 46% of repondents indicated it was somewhat likely or very likely, 47% reported it was either somewhat unlikely or very unlikely and 4% felt it was not at all possible. (3% were unsure or refused to answer).

African-American respondents were more inclined to believe that wrongful conviction and execution could occur with 65% reporting it as being likely and 28% reporting it as unlikely or not at all possible. 42% of white respondents indicated that it was likely that someone could be convicted and executed wrongly and 57% indicated it was unlikely or impossible. Additionally, those without a college degree (50%), females (53%) and those not married (55%) were more likely to believe that someone could be wrongly convicted and executed, as opposed to those with a college degree (27%), males (37%) and those married (39%).

* Respondents were also asked if they would prefer an alternative to the death penalty if such an alternative included a commitment to life in prison without parole and an obligation to work in prison industries with the money earned going to the victim's family. According to the findings, 59% of Ohioans would support such an alternative, while 31% were not in support. 9% of respondents were unsure.

For this particular question, non-college graduates (60%), those under 30 years of age (67%), females (68%), those not married (64%) and African-Americans (70%) were more likely to support this alternative than college graduates (53%), those 30 years old or older (56%), males (49%), those married (55%) and Whites (56%).


The information for this survey was gathered through telephone interviews conducted from September 6 through September 23, 1997.

The results have been weighted to take into account household size and the number of telephone lines in each household and to adjust for variations in the sample relating to county of residence, gender, age, race, and education.

In theory, in 19 cases of 20, the results will differ by no more than 3.5 percentage points in either direction from what would have been obtained by interviewing all adults in the state.

For further information contact Dr. Erik Stewart or Dr. Paul Lavrakas at 614-292-6672.