Selected Court Cases

Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Richard Sharpe

In a widely watched trial that had been nationally televised gavel to gavel, Dr. Richard Sharpe, a very successful Massachusetts dermatologist and entrepreneur, was convicted of the murder of his wife. The trial was also notable for Dr. Sharpe’s loathed public profile during the trial. Antagonism toward him spread to the corrections officers who were maintaining him in custody. Dr. Sharpe made suicide attempts and accounting for his safety became a challenge in a prison already notorious for inmate deaths.


In a post-conviction context and at the request of the defense, The Forensic Panel’s specialist studied corrections management challenges at a time of his intense suicidality. An appeal was planned but there was concern about keeping Dr. Sharpe alive and decreasing his pathological relatedness that contributed to his management challenges. Our specialist worked collaboratively with state officials on custodial approaches that promoted the mental stability of the defendant and the resolution of his behavioral problems. His management became completely quiet, his mood improved, and suicidal behaviors ended without undue compromise of procedures.


The Forensic Panel, also at the request of the defense, reviewed psychiatric evidence and previous testimony in consideration of appeals. Our specialist ultimately concluded and demonstrated that the psychiatric defense at trial had less available evidence to support it than would have a non-mental health defense aiming to focus the jury on evidence for a lesser charge of manslaughter. 


When corrections conditions were changed a few years later, coinciding with leadership changes in the prison, Dr. Sharpe soon thereafter was found dead, and was reported to have committed suicide. Dr. Sharpe died before his appeal could ever be heard.