Former OJ lawyer F Lee Bailey dead at 87

·3-min read

F Lee Bailey, the celebrity lawyer who defended OJ Simpson, Patricia Hearst and the alleged Boston Strangler but whose legal career halted when he was disbarred in two US states, has died at aged 87.

The death was confirmed by Peter Horstmann, who worked with Bailey as an associate in the same law office for seven years.

In a legal career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, egocentric and contemptuous of authority. But he was also acknowledged as bold, brilliant, meticulous and tireless in the defence of his clients.

"The legal profession is a business with a tremendous collection of egos," Bailey said an in interview with US News and World Report in 1981.

"Few people who are not strong egotistically gravitate to it."

Bailey, an avid pilot, best-selling author and television show host, was a member of the legal "dream team" that defended Simpson, the former football star and actor acquitted on charges that he killed his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, in 1995.

Bailey was the most valuable member of the team, Simpson said in a 1996 story in The Boston Globe Magazine.

"He was able to simplify everything and identify what the most vital parts of the case were," Simpson said.

One of the trial's most memorable moments came when Bailey cross-examined Los Angeles detective Mark Fuhrman in an attempt to portray him as a racist whose goal was to frame Simpson.

Fuhrman denied using racial epithets but the defence later turned up recordings of him making racist slurs.

Bailey earned acquittals for many of his clients but he also lost cases, most notably Hearst's.

Hearst, a publishing heiress, was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist group on February 4, 1974, and took part in armed robberies with the group.

Bailey claimed she was coerced into taking part because she feared for her life. She still was convicted.

Hearst said Bailey reduced the trial to "a mockery, a farce, and a sham" in a declaration she signed with a motion to reduce her sentence.

Hearst accused him of sacrificing her defence in an effort to get a book deal about the case.

She was released in January 1979 after president Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence.

Bailey also defended Albert DeSalvo, the man who claimed responsibility for the Boston Strangler murders between 1962 and 1964.

DeSalvo confessed to the slayings but was never tried or convicted, and later recanted. Despite doubts thrown on DeSalvo's claim, Bailey always maintained DeSalvo was the strangler.

Bailey antagonised authorities throughout his career. He was disbarred in Florida in 2001 and the next year in Massachusetts for the way he handled millions of dollars in stock owned by a convicted drug smuggler in 1994.

He spent almost six weeks in federal prison charged with contempt of court in 1996 after refusing to relinquish the shares. He eventually won the right to practise law in Maine in 2013.

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