Criminal defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, who as part of O.J. Simpson’s so-called “dream team” of lawyers played a key role in persuading a Los Angeles jury to acquit the former football star of murder charges, died Thursday at age 87.
Bailey died at a hospice center in the Atlanta, Georgia, area, according to his son Bendrix Bailey. No cause was given.
As one of the first “celebrity attorneys,” Bailey defended such high-profile clients as Patty Hearst and the confessed Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, during his long career. Working with Johnnie Cochran Jr., Robert Kardashian, Robert Shapiro and others, he helped win a 1995 not-guilty verdict for Simpson, who was charged with killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
An emotional Simpson in a video posted to his Twitter page said that with the death of Bailey, “I lost a great friend.” He recalled that during the trial, Bailey would come into his cell every morning “to tell me what to expect that day. He was smart, he was sharp.”
Attorney Carl Douglas said Bailey “was a warrior as a trial lawyer and became a good friend over the 18 months that we worked together defending O.J. Simpson. I loved his enthusiastic support for O.J’s innocence, and his tireless belief in his ability best represent him. On a personal level, he took an interest in my personal development, and in making me a better lawyer. I will miss him dearly.”
Bailey’s televised grilling of Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman on the witness stand at the downtown L.A. courthouse focused on the then-officer’s racial history and provided a key moment in the trial. Bailey and the Simpson defense team had set a strategic trap for Fuhrman in an effort to discredit him and have him possibly perjure himself before the jury regarding the use of racially-charged language.
After having witnesses testify against Fuhrman and the subsequent release of tapes of the officer using racial slurs, Fuhrman ended up the only person associated with Simpson’s murder trial to be convicted of a crime after pleading no contest to perjury.
Bailey, the author of several books, including “The Truth About the O.J. Simpson Trial: By the Architect of the Defense,” had legal troubles of his own. In 1996, he served over a month in a federal detention center on a contempt-of-court charge. For most of his career, he was licensed in Florida and in Massachusetts, where he was disbarred in 2001 and 2003, respectively.
Working as a private investigator in Massachusetts after his military discharge, Bailey received a law degree from Boston University in 1960.
Bailey is survived by three sons, a sister, and five grandchildren.
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