In what could become the final chapter of the case that spawned the TV series and the movie “The Fugitive,” Jaffe/Braunstein Films has acquired the rights to “Mockery of Justice: The True Story of the Sheppard Murder Case” by Cynthia L. Cooper and Sam Reese Sheppard for a two-hour telepic for CBS.
Principals Michael Jaffe and Howard Braunstein will executive produce the film along with Yvonne Chotzen. The trio previously teamed on the ABC telefilm “Lies He Told.” Adam Greenman will pen the teleplay.
The book details the 1954 case in which Cleveland osteopath Sam Sheppard was convicted of murdering his wife, Marilyn. After what many then referred to as the “Trial of the Century,” Sheppard served 10 years in prison for the crime before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction. While he was retried (represented by F. Lee Bailey) and found not guilty, public opinion held that he had gotten away with murder. Four years after his acquittal, Sheppard died.
Co-written by Sheppard’s son, the book tells of his quest to clear his father’s name and track down his mother’s killer. Jaffe/Braunstein also optioned the son’s life rights for the film.
Although the renowned 1963-67 TV series and hit 1993 film starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones fictionalized the doctor’s escape from custody and his dogged pursuit to find the real murderer, the CBS film promises to reveal the events of the crime, even revealing the actual murderer. In the book, the authors discuss evidence pointing to a window washer who once had worked for the Sheppards and who now is in prison in Ohio for another murder.
The film deal comes on the heels of a new trial being set for Jan. 26 to determine whether Sheppard was wrongfully convicted of the crime. If the judge rules that Sheppard was wrongfully imprisoned, his estate would be free to sue the state of Ohio for damages in another court.
“Mockery of Justice” was published in 1995 by Northeastern U. Press.
The project is the latest major literary acquisition by the longform production company, which has paid large sums for the rights to produce such projects as Ken Follett’s novel “The Third Twin” and the eight-book “Prey” series by John Sandford. Jaffe/Braunstein films has produced 20 films in the past four years, including the ABC telefilm “First Do No Harm,” starring Meryl Streep.
Ron Bernstein of the Gersh Agency brokered the deal on behalf of Cooper and Sheppard’s literary agent Carol Mann.