Myung Jae Chun/AFP
Waltam, Massachusetts – F. Lee Bailey, the famous attorney who defended OJ Simpson, Patricia Hearst and the alleged Boston Strangler, but whose legal career was interrupted when he was fired in two states, has died, a former colleague said Thursday. He was 87 years old.
The death was confirmed Thursday by Peter Horstmann, who worked with Bailey as an assistant in the same law firm for seven years.
In a legal career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, selfish, and a contempt for authority. But he has also been recognized as being bold, brilliant, meticulous and tireless in the defense of his clients.
Bailey said in an interview with US News & World Report in September 1981. “The legal profession is a firm with a formidable set of vanities. Few people who aren’t strong are drawn to it.”
Pelly’s other notable clients include Dr. Samuel Sheppard – accused of killing his wife – and Captain Ernest Medina, accused in connection with the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War.
C said. Albert Johnson, Billy’s legal partner and childhood friend: “I have never known a greater intelligence than that of F. Lee Bailey.”
An avid pilot, author, and best-selling television presenter, Billy was a member of the legal “dream team” that defended Simpson, and a declining former NFL star and actor acquitted of the 1995 murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.
Simpson said in a 1996 article in the Boston Globe that Billy was the most valuable member of the team.
“He was able to simplify everything and identify the most vital parts of the case,” Simpson said. “He showed me what the case strategy was, what would be important and what was not. I thought he had an amazing understanding of what would be the most important parts of the case, and it turned out to be true.”
One of the most memorable moments of the trial came when Bailey aggressively interrogated LAPD Detective Mark Foreman in an attempt to portray him as a racist whose goal was to frame Simpson. It was a classic Billy.
Fuhrmann denied using racist nicknames, but the defense later revealed recordings of Fuhrmann making racial insults.
Although Fuhrmann remained calm under pressure, and some legal experts called the confrontation a draw, Bailey said, recalling the exchange months later, “that was the day the Fuhrmann dug his grave.”
Bailey won acquittal for many of his clients, but he also lost cases, most notably the Hearst case.
Robert F. Bukati / AFP
Hirst, the publishing heiress, was kidnapped by the terrorist group Sempione Liberation Army on February 4, 1974, and was involved in armed robberies with the group. At trial, Bailey alleged that she was forced to participate because she feared for her life. She was still convicted.
Hurst called Bailey an “ineffective attorney” who turned the trial into “a mockery, a farce, and a deceit”, in an advertisement she signed with a proposal to reduce the sentence. Hearst accused him of sacrificing her defense in an effort to get a book deal on the case.
She was released in January 1979 after President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence.
Bailey made his name as an attorney for Shepherd, an Ohio osteopath convicted in 1954 of the murder of his wife.
Sheppard spent more than a decade behind bars before the US Supreme Court ruled in a landmark 1966 ruling that “widespread, pervasive and biased advertising” violated his rights. He helped Bailey win acquittal at a second trial.
Bailey also defended Albert DeSalvo, the man who claimed responsibility for the Boston Strangler murders between 1962 and 1964. DeSalvo confessed to the murders, but was never tried or convicted, and later retracted. Despite the skepticism cast on DeSalvo’s claim, Bailey always maintained that DeSalvo was the suffocator.
Throughout his career, Bailey has antagonized the authorities with his sometimes abrasive style and pursuit of publicity. He was criticized by a Massachusetts judge in 1970 for his “philosophy of excessive selfishness,” and was disqualified for a year in New Jersey in 1971 for speaking out about a case.
Bailey was dismissed in Florida in 2001 and the following year in Massachusetts for the way he handled millions of dollars in stock owned by a convicted drug smuggler in 1994. He spent nearly six weeks in federal prison for contempt of court in 1996 after refusing to overturn Inventory. This experience left him “bitter”. He eventually gained the right to practice law in Maine in 2013.
Francis Lee Bailey was born in the Boston suburb of Waltham, the son of a newspaper advertisement man and a schoolteacher.
He attended Harvard University in 1950 but left at the end of his sophomore year to train to become a pilot in the Marine Corps. He kept a love of flying all his life and owned his own airline.
While in the Army, Bailey volunteered for legal staff at North Carolina’s Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Force Station, and soon found himself in charge of more than 2,000 men.
Bailey received his law degree from Boston University in 1960, with a GPA of 90.5, but graduated without honors because he refused to join the Law Journal. He said the university waived the college degree requirement because of his military legal experience.
Billy has been married four times and divorced three times. His fourth wife, Patricia, died in 1999. He has three children.