OJ Simpson confirms death of his former defense attorney F Lee Bailey

OJ Simpson confirms death of his former defense attorney F Lee Bailey
The lawyer was known for his theatrics and defense of high-profile murder suspects

Famed criminal defense attorney F Lee Bailey, made famous for his representation of OJ Simpson in his 1995 murder trial, has died.

Mr Bailey’s former partner Superior Court Judge Kenneth J Fishman confirmed the lawyer‘s death to The Boston Globe.

The attorney was 87. He died in Georgia, though the cause of his death was not immediately apparent.

Mr Simpson shared a post on Twitter memorializing the man who helped him escape a murder conviction in one of the most watched trials in US history.

The former NFL star called him a “great friend” and “one of the great lawyers of our time”.

“He was smart, sharp as ever,” Mr Simpson said. “F. Lee Bailey, maybe the best lawyer of our time, of this generation, but a great guy. God bless his family. God bless you, Lee. You will be missed by me.”

Mr Simpson was far from Mr Bailey’s only high profile client.

In the 1960s, Mr Bailey navigated a reversal of a murder conviction for Dr Sam Sheppard, who had been accused of killing his pregnant wife. Mr Sheppard’s story inspired the Harrison Ford movie and subsequent television series “The Fugitive”.

He also represented the man who claimed to be the Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo.

Patricia Hearst, the heiress to the Hearst publishing legacy who was kidnapped and later became a bank robber, also enlisted Mr Bailey for his services.

One of the US army officers implicated in the infamous My Lai Massacre in the Vietnam War, Ernest Medina, relied on Mr Bailey to defend him.

The attorney was known for his aggressive, theatrical deliveries in the court room. His expressive flourishes were augmented by formidable legal skills and ferocious cross-examinations of prosecutors’ witnesses and experts.

It was Mr Bailey’s brutal cross-examination of Los Angeles police Detective Mark Fuhrman in the OJ Simpson trial – revealing the officer’s history of using racial slurs – that helped secure a not-guilty verdict for the football star.

He maintained for years that Mr Simpson was innocent, but noted that the case damaged his image among a certain segment of Americans.

“Among the rednecks of America, which there are many more than people seem to realize, it was terribly damaging,” he said, recalling the trial. “I got blamed for OJ’s acquittal.”

That was a rare admission for Mr Bailey; by and large, the attorney did not apologise for the cases he took.

“I get paid for seeing that my clients have every break the law allows,” he once said. “I have knowingly defended a number of guilty men. But the guilty never escape unscathed. My fees are sufficient punishment for anyone.”

The attorney was busy outside the courtroom as well, having authored several best-selling books and acting as a host on TV specials. He toured and lectured widely, and enjoyed flying helicopters and airplanes. He even starred in commercials for vodka and mattresses.

As a result, detractors claimed Mr Bailey was more concerned with growing his own legend than defending his clients.

During his defense of Ms Hearst, she claimed Mr Bailey drank on the job and signed a lucrative book deal before the trial even began.

Jeffrey Toobin, who wrote a best-selling book about the Hearst case, wrote that Mr Bailey’s “hunger for money dwarfed even his lust for fame”.

Mr Bailey was disbarred in Florida in 2001 on multiple counts of judicial misconduct, and was shortly after disbarred in Massachusetts.

He tried to re-enter the legal world in 2012 after passing the state bar exam in Maine, but the state’s board of examiners refused to admit him.

That was his last attempt to return to the courtroom.


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