Remembering F. Lee Bailey, Famed Trial Lawyer Celebrity defense attorney F. Lee Bailey has died, His high-profile clients included Patty Hearst and OJ Simpson and those cases, along with controversy, helped bring national prominence.

Remembering F. Lee Bailey, Famed Trial Lawyer

Remembering F. Lee Bailey, Famed Trial Lawyer

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1003172051/1003172052" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Celebrity defense attorney F. Lee Bailey has died, His high-profile clients included Patty Hearst and OJ Simpson and those cases, along with controversy, helped bring national prominence.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Not so long ago, a kid at my house made a fierce and impressive argument about - I don't know - bedtime or something. And a name came into my head. I thought, that kid sounds like F. Lee Bailey. For generations, he has personified the high-profile defense lawyer. Bailey died yesterday at age 87, and NPR's Martin Kaste reports he was famous even before joining O.J. Simpson's defense in the 1990s.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Law professor and former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson did TV commentary of the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995. But she remembers seeing F. Lee Bailey much earlier, in 1976.

LAURIE LEVENSON: When I was a college student, I went up to San Francisco to watch the Patty Hearst case. And that was the - actually the first time I saw F. Lee Bailey in action. And by this time, he was already a legend.

KASTE: A legend because of the Sam Sheppard case, the Ohio osteopath who was convicted of killing his wife in the 1950s, whom Bailey got out of prison in a case that reached the Supreme Court in the '60s. Three decades later, in the Simpson murder trial, Bailey made his mark for his combative cross-examination of LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

F LEE BAILEY: There's a problem that's been brought to your attention, isn't there, Detective Fuhrman?

MARK FUHRMAN: No.

BAILEY: When discussing this event in the preliminary hearing and talking about the glove, his tongue slipped, and you said them, didn't you?

KENNETH FISHMAN: He used that personality together with incredible skills.

KASTE: Kenneth Fishman was Bailey's longtime law partner.

FISHMAN: He was brilliant. He had one of the most remarkable memories I've ever seen and a fair dose of chutzpah (laughter) to become, really, a model criminal defense attorney.

KASTE: Bailey's record was not perfect. Patty Hearst, the kidnapped heiress-turned-bank robber, was convicted, and she accused Bailey of sacrificing her defense for a book deal. And after the acquittal of Simpson, Bailey went to federal prison for contempt of court relating to his handling of stocks owned by a convicted drug smuggler. But in the long run, Levenson says Bailey will be remembered for the way he presented himself.

LEVENSON: I think F. Lee Bailey thought of himself as a living legend in the law, and that's what he portrayed in the courtroom.

KASTE: Martin Kaste, NPR News.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.