Shepherd v. Florida (1951)

In this case a seventeen-year-old white girl from Lake County, Florida claimed to have been raped by four black men in 1949. Shortly after her accusation the petitioners were indicted, tried, and sentenced to death. Newspapers published that the defendants had confessed to the crime, information they attributed to the sheriff. This information was never repudiated by anyone, including the sheriff. However, no confession came up duringSupreme Court the actual trial. The only explanation for this is that the story was either false, or the confession was inadmissible in court. Many witnesses, as well as, members of the jury said they had read or heard about the article. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction for the following reasons:

"But prejudicial influences outside the courtroom, becoming all too typical of a highly publicized trial, were brought to bear on this jury with such force that the conclusion is inescapable that these defendants were prejudged as guilty and the trial was but a legal gesture to register a verdict already dictated by the press and the public opinion which it generated (citations omitted)."

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