Famed OJ Simpson lawyer F. Lee Bailey dies aged 87

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey, part of the “Dream Team” of attorneys that won OJ Simpson acquittal on double-murder charges in 1995, died on Thursday (June 3) at the age of 87.

The larger-than-life US attorney, whose domineering courtroom presence made him one of the nation’s most prominent lawyers, died of unspecified causes in hospice care in the southern state of Georgia, his family said.

“He was great, he was smart, sharp as ever,” said Simpson in a video tribute that described Bailey as “maybe the best lawyer of our time, of his generation.”

Bailey famously eviscerated a Los Angeles detective at the former American football player’s trial, accusing him of manipulating crime scene evidence and harbouring racist motivations.

That cross-examination was widely seen as key to Simpson’s acquittal.

Representing notorious clients was Bailey’s stock-in-trade, beginning with his 1966 reversal of osteopath Sam Sheppard’s conviction for murdering his wife, in a case that would inspire “The Fugitive”.

Other infamous clients Bailey had acquitted included Ernest Medina, the US army commander in charge at the time of mass killings in the Vietnamese community of My Lai.

He also represented kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst in her 1976 bank robbery case, and Albert DeSalvo in the Boston Strangler case.

But Hearst was convicted after Bailey’s argument that she was “brainwashed” failed to convince, while DeSalvo – who reportedly told Bailey he had killed 13 women in the 1960s – lost his insanity plea in a sexual assault trial.

Born in Massachusetts in 1933, Bailey worked as a private investigator before becoming a top lawyer, and capitalised on his early fame as the television host of short-lived celebrity interview show “Good Company.”

He would become a regular guest on late-night US talk shows, and cashed in on his public persona by appearing in an advert for Smirnoff vodka.

Bailey also experienced a series of legal woes of his own.

He spent six weeks in federal prison on a contempt of court charge in 1996, after refusing to hand over fees he had taken from the government for defending a drug dealer.

He eventually agreed to pay up, pawning his 22.5-metre (74-foot) yacht, Spellbound, as security, but was later disbarred.

Bailey was a prolific public speaker and author, and had just finished a book on Simpson’s trial.

He was married four times and had three children including son Bendrix, who confirmed the death to multiple US media outlets.

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