About Me

My name is Christy Sheppard. In 1982 my cousin, Debbie Carter, was murdered in our small town of Ada, Oklahoma.

After 2 men were wrongfully convicted of her murder I became an advocate for victims of crime and criminal justice reform.

I have participated in documentaries, including the Netflix series Innocent Man.



Debbie Carter

Debbie was 21 years old when her lifeless naked body was discovered the morning of December 8, 1982.  She had moved into her first apartment and living life on her own terms.  

At times she was quiet and hated to be embarrassed.  Debbie was the first to tell you what she thought or put you in your place.  Her friends lovingly describe her as “mouthy”.

Debbie was working three jobs.  Her little garage apartment represented everything; independence, adulthood, making her own way, and being her own boss. The life Debbie had waited a lifetime for would last only sixty days.


Defending the Lion; A memoir telling Debbie’s story.

Defending the Lion is a book chronically the journey of my family from the day Debbie’s body was discovered, through the wrongful conviction of 2 innocent men, and finding a personal calling to fight for the rights of victims’ families and those wrongfully convicted.

Depictions of wrongful conviction have recently captured popular attention. Yet none of these accounts are told by the murder victim’s family.

This book illustrates how a family from small town Oklahoma – who had every right to seek the power and justice of the courts and the promise of the death penalty – watched in disbelief as that system, designed to find justice for victims of violent crime, crumbled on every level. This left us with the realization that the truth of Debbie’s murder had little to do with the “Carter Murder Case” and even less to do with Debbie Sue Carter.


“Until survivors speak for themselves, however, society will continue to project its hoped-for outcome on their experience and the voice of survivors will only be heard in reaction to the presumptions and misrepresentation of their journey.” –(2012) Marquette Law Review, Volume 96 (Issue 1), page 5


“Christy Sheppard has turned her fierce intelligence and natural curiosity into a relentless pursuit of truth and justice. Christy’s cousin, Debbie Sue Carter, was brutally murdered in the 1980’s and two men were wrongfully convicted for these crimes–one was sentenced to die. Rather than descend into bitterness, Sheppard became a fierce advocate: for the wrongfully convicted, for families like her own, and for a more fair justice system. She has spoke about her cousin’s case at forums across the country, and was named to Oklahoma’s Blue Ribbon Commission to study the death penalty. After Debbie’s case became a national sensation following John Grisham’s account in An Innocent Man and continues to remain in the news as the subject of a forthcoming Netflix series, Sheppard decided it was time to tell her family’s side of the story in a first person account that promises to be equal parts revealing and fascinating.” Lara Bazelon- Professor at San Francisco Law School, Author of ‘Rectify’, Contributing writer for Slate and Politico Magazines

“I first met Christy Sheppard when I was launching the Innocence Project’s nationwide policy reform efforts. It was regular people like Christy- and John Thompson, Jennifer Thompson (no direct relation) Betty Ann Waters, Fernando Bermudez, Katie Monroe, and more – whose work and stories compelled “the Innocence Movement” like no others.

They are the people whose lives were forever impacted by the system of criminal justice in America – who then took it upon themselves to change that system. It is often not pretty. It often fails – but sometimes it doesn’t. You keep reflecting, you keep inquiring, and you keep trying. The decades of devastation experienced in the wake of a rape and/or murder compounded by the wrongful conviction of an innocent person are experiences that everyone agrees must be avoided – yet which few understand, or even consider.

This has been Christy Sheppard’s struggle. We have explored her story, her experiences, and the lessons she’s taken away from courtrooms, legislatures, prisons, Oklahoma backyard TV stations, Washington D.C., and across the county, and I’ve loved every minute of hearing her tell its and exploring it with her. If you’ve read this far, I have a good feeling that you’re going to really enjoy this book.” Stephen Saloom – Innocence Project Policy Director (2004-2014)



 “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.”                         William Wilberforce