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Attorney F. Lee Bailey, Whose Notorious Clients Included O.J. Simpson And Patty Hearst, Dead At 87

F. Lee Bailey was hailed by his infamous former client as "one of the great lawyers of our time."

By Dorian Geiger
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F. Lee Bailey, the celebrity defense lawyer whose clients included O.J. Simpson, the Boston Strangler, and Patty Hearst, died on Thursday. He was 87. 

Bailey was one of a handful of star attorneys who comprised O.J. Simpson’s “Dream Team” defense in the former football star's 1995 murder trial for the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Bailey worked alongside Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian, and Robert Shapiro on the infamous case, which played out on television screens across the country. Simpson, the ex-NFL running back and actor, was acquitted in the slayings.

“I lost a great one,” Simpson wrote in a Tweet on Thursday. “F. Lee Bailey you will be missed.”

Simpson called Bailey a “great friend” and "one of the great lawyers of our time." 

“He was able to simplify everything and identify what the most vital parts of the case were,” Simpson said. “Lee laid down what the case’s strategy was, what was going to be important and what was not. I thought he had an amazing grasp of what was going to be the most important parts of the case, and that turned out to be true.”

During cross-examination at Simpson’s trial, Bailey famously painted Los Angeles police Detective Mark Fuhrman as a racist cop bent on framing his client. The defense later produced recordings of Fuhrman using racial slurs, despite the officer’s repeated insistence he wasn’t racist. 

“That was the day Fuhrman dug his own grave,” Bailey said at the time, according to the Associated Press.

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In 1960, Bailey cemented his reputation as a premier defense attorney while representing Massachusetts mechanic George Edgerly, who was accused of mutilating his wife and dumping her dismembered body in the river. Edgerly was ultimately acquitted but was later convicted in a separate homicide case. 

More than a decade later, Bailey represented U.S. Army Capt. Ernest L. Medina, who was accused in the 1968 massacre of 104 South Vietnamese villagers during the Vietnam War. Medina, too, was acquitted.

In 1967, Bailey agreed to represent Boston Strangler suspect Albert DeSalvo, who proclaimed he raped and murdered 13 women between 1962 and 1964. Bailey fell short in his insanity defense of DeSalvo, who was ultimately declared sane and was convicted. 

“Massachusetts just burned another witch,” Bailey said following the ruling.  

Bailey also failed to persuade jurors in the 1976 case of Patty Hearst, the publishing heiress, who was sentenced to 22 months in prison for armed robbery after she was infamously kidnapped by domestic militants. 

Bailey was ultimately disbarred in Florida and Massachusetts after mishandling millions of dollars in stocks once controlled by a convicted narcotics smuggler he represented.

Bailey’s book, “The Truth About the O.J. Simpson Trial: By The Architect of the Defense,” was slated for release this month.

Bailey’s exact cause of death hasn’t been released, however, his family said his condition had deteriorated in recent years while in hospice care. He’ll be cremated. Bailey was living in Georgia in recent years, according to the New York Times.