The Sheppard Team Presents Its Case
With the conclusion of the opening statements, Bill Mason and his assistants felt confident that they had achieved a strategic advantage. While acknowledging that Terry Gilbert had made a well-organized presentation, stating his convictions with passion and sincerity, Mason believed that Gilbert had promised to deliver too much. Perhaps Gilbert was starting to believe his own hyperbole and the misrepresentations he had made to the public. Mason knew it was a tactical error for anyone to overstate a case in the opening statement. Jurors have good memories, and they would expect the Sheppard team to substantiate all claims. Of course, Mason would remind the jurors of any unfulfilled promises made by the Plaintiffs, knowing that an unfulfilled assertion or claim in a critical element of the case can undermine the integrity of the whole case.
Gilbert had made a number of bold claims. He had condemned the behavior of law enforcement officials, legal officers, and the media, blaming them for a miscarriage of justice. He had misrepresented the marital relationship between Marilyn and Sam Sheppard. He had promised that powerful new technology would prove Sam Sheppard's innocence. Finally, Gilbert had promised to identify the real murderer. Based on the evidence and the testimony he had accumulated, Mason knew that all of these assertions could be challenged, and in some cases refuted: He could clearly demonstrate the expertise and care exercised by the law enforcement community; numerous witnesses would dispute Gilbert's characterization of Sam and Marilyn's marital relationship; and the results of the new technology Gilbert promised were not incontrovertible and definitive. Despite this general sense of optimism, Mason knew that most trials were emotional roller coasters, with moments of both elation and despair. There were also always some surprises.