Christmas Day, 1954 — A Gift?

Dec 25, 1954. A Gift?

Image for post
Image for post

Imagine, if you will, that your loved one has been facing the death penalty for the murder of his wife, who is also your loved one. Several days prior to Christmas Day, 1954, the Sheppard family learned that Dr. Sheppard would not get a death sentence, but he was wrongly convicted. Today, Christmas Day, is the first day since October 11th that there was nothing in the newspaper about your case. December 23rd and 24th, the story was on page two.

Marilyn Sheppard was murdered on July 4th, 1954. Excluding Sundays, when the Cleveland​Press did not publish, the Sheppard family endured 115 days of often salacious front page headlines, often presuming the worst. There were only 35 days in the past six months when there was nothing about the case on the front page, but often there was something on an inside page. December 23 and 24, the days after the verdict was announced, the story was on page 2.

And so, today, Christmas Day, the gift was that there was nothing in the paper about the case.

What must it be like to have your life lived out in the media? What must it be like to be incarcerated, or to be the loved one of an incarcerated person on death row or otherwise, or to be the family member of a murder victim, on days like today?

As we continue this holiday season, please keep the families of murder victims and the families of the incarcerated in mind.

There’s just a few more weeks of TheSheppardExperience1954, a daily chronicle of the front page coverage of the murder of Marilyn Sheppard and the wrongful conviction of Dr. Sam Sheppard. There will be four more front pages, with the last two (Jan 7 & 8) being among the most tragic of them all.

The Sheppard Experience 1954 project has been sharing the headline of the day each day from July 5, 1954 to January 8, 1955. Join us on this journey. Visit The Sheppard Experience — 1954 on the web at, follow on Twitter at and “Like/Follow” and share the Facebook page at

​Thank you,

— abe

PS: When Death Penalty Action Advisory Board Member and longtime friend Sam Reese Sheppard invited our help with this project, we couldn’t say no. Yes, it is ancient history to many of us, however the relevance to the headlines of today are surprising and real. In many ways, not much has changed. It has been an eye opening experience, and it is not over yet. Thank you very much to Scott Langley and Kyle Rubin for handling much of the daily posting on the web page, Facebook and Twitter.

If you would like to support the work that we do, Please join several dozen supporters who have already checked the box to commit a recurring donation of between $5 and $100 (or more) each month. This is how we will keep Death Penalty Action in leadership in the movement to end executions. Thank you.

​​OR, please consider a generous year-end investment in the amazing and vital work that Death Penalty Action will accomplish in 2020:

Donate using PayPal Here.

Donate using a credit card here.

Or send a check to Death Penalty Action, PO Box 89, Ghent, NY 12075.

Thank you in advance for supporting this vital work today!

Written by

Death Penalty Action provides high visibility resources, leadership and support in order to stop executions.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store