F. Lee Bailey passes away: Why did the lawyer defend O.J. Simpson?
For those even tangentially involved in the realm of true crime, you’ve probably heard the name F. Lee Bailey. Bailey was one of the biggest defense attorneys around, being part of major true crime cases like the Boston Strangler case & the murder trial for O.J. Simpson. Bailey has died at the age of 87, confirmed Peter Horstmann, who worked with Bailey for seven years.
Bailey’s career, which lasted several decades, definitely had its highs & lows. It also ended after he was disbarred in two states (Florida and Massachusetts) over financial fraud allegations. This was due to how he handled stock from a drug smuggler he represented in 1994, which led to a six-week federal prison stay over a contempt of court charge in 1996.
Let’s take a brief look at some of the most famous cases of F. Lee Bailey’s career.
Albert DeSalvo: The Boston Strangler
While it’s been confirmed by DNA that DeSalvo killed one of the Boston Strangler victims, the debate rages if he killed all of them. DeSalvo’s cellmate, George Nassar, was the one who told Bailey about DeSalvo’s case. At the time, DeSalvo was in jail due to a series of sexual assaults & rapes as “The Green Man”, but he confessed his guilt in the Boston Strangler crimes to Bailey.
DeSalvo was never tried for the stranglings. Rather, the police got him on the sexual assaults that they know he committed. DeSalvo was murdered about six years into his sentence with his killers never caught.
This 1954 case was what, originally, brought Bailey’s name to national attention. The Sheppard case, actually, was what inspired The Fugitive. Sheppard was initially convicted of the murder of his wife, Marilyn, who was bludgeoned to death in their bed as Sheppard slept on the couch. Sheppard did hear the cries and ran to his wife, but was knocked unconscious by the assailant.
Or so he says anyway. Police never really bought Sheppard’s story. The media also had a huge role in the case, which is what got his conviction overturned. Bailey wasn’t part of the team in 1954, but took over Sheppard’s appeal in 1961. And it worked. Bailey got a retiral for Sheppard, who was acquitted. Unfortunately, it’s one of those cases where people aren’t sure if he did it or not.
Patty Hearst, an heiress to the Hearst family, was kidnapped by Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. During the course of her captivity, Hearst became involved with the SLA and ended up committing several armed bank robberies with the group. Bailey was her legal counsel for her trial, which was definitely the trial of the 1970s. He used the defense that Hearst was brainwashed during her time with the SLA
Hearst was convicted, but had her seven-year sentence pardoned by President Jimmy Carter. On President Bill Clinton’s last day in office, Hearst was given a full pardon for her crimes.
Bailey was a lawyer for O.J. Simpson on his legal “Dream Team”, which included Robert Kardashian & Johnnie Cochran. Simpson, as many know, was believed to have murder his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the crimes. Thanks, in large part, to his lawyer’s dream team for the defense, which included Bailey amongst them.
Bailey’s moment in the trial took place when the lawyer cross-examined Det. Mark Fuhrman, who found the glove at Simpson’s residence, believed to have matched the one found at the crime scene. During his cross, Bailey got Fuhrman to admit that he had never used the “n” word in 10 years, which was a claim that the defense easily refuted. Thus, it made Fuhrman’s entire testimony suspect. A key in winning the case for O.J.