America’s most notorious lawyer

Even lawyer F Lee Bailey’s critics agree that his gifts as a lawyer appeared almost supernatural.


F. Lee Bailey (left) at the OJ trial: his gifts as a lawyer were "almost supernatural"
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After serving nine years for armed robbery, OJ Simpson recently won parole and is due for release from prison in October. Unsurprisingly, the disgraced former American football star, who was controversially acquitted in 1995 of killing his wife and her friend, is such a pariah that the price of his former home in Miami "has been lowered after failing to find a buyer in the last six months", reports Isabelle Fraser in The Daily Telegraph. The price has fallen from $1.475m to $1.3m.

Perhaps the last person to believe in Simpson's innocence is his former lawyer F. Lee Bailey, 84, who is no stranger to controversial clients. Decades before he represented Simpson in the "trial of the century", he was building "a courtroom rsum that even Perry Mason would be jealous of", notes Michael Rosenwald in The Washington Post. In the 1960s, in a similarly high-profile case, Bailey secured a retrial and a not-guilty verdict for surgeon Sam Sheppard, who had been jailed for murdering his wife. Bailey also "defended fugitive newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, and scores of other accused murderers".

Even Bailey's critics agree that his "gifts as a lawyer appeared almost supernatural", says Andrew Goldman in Town & Country magazine. "A lethal cross-examiner and a prodigious pre-trial crammer", he "would often astonish judges by reciting from memory, not only case law but the page numbers where the citations could be found". He became "the most sought-after criminal defender in the country", and a celebrity to boot. Among his many TV appearances, he once hosted a "mock trial to determine whether Paul McCartney was indeed dead" (an urban legend that he was spread at the height of The Beatles' fame).

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As well as fame, Bailey's legal skills also brought him vast riches. At one point he owned "a Mercedes 350SL, a Citron SM, and a helicopter that he could land inside the circular driveway of his property in Marshfield, Massachusetts". Perhaps his most impressive possession was "an aircraft that at the push of a button would be plucked up by a space-age assembly and deposited safely inside a hangar". A lover of fine living, he thought that "money can buy a certain amount of happiness", and was known for his "caviar and vodka suppers and nightly closings of San Francisco bars" during key trials.

However, his career imploded in the 1990s, when he defended someone accused of running a $165m-a-year marijuana ring. Bailey claims the government agreed to let his client pay him $6m-worth of shares in a biotech company, in return for arranging the sale of other assets. But when the shares soared in price to $26m, the government produced a document that said Bailey had agreed to be paid only $3m. Having already blown $3m on a Florida house and a yacht restoration business, Bailey ended up broke, and was eventually disbarred in 2001. Last year, he filed for bankruptcy: "all he had to his name was a gold 1999 Mercedes station wagon worth less than $2,000, sundry effects worth around five grand, and a modest condo in Yarmouth".

Tabloid money "Everywhere we look in Britain, we're being shrinkflated"

"Did you notice that a Maltesers sharing bag has decreased by 15%, M&M's family packs have been cut by 25g and bags of Minstrels and Revels are 10% lighter?" asks Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror. When the big confectionery firms were asked to explain why their chocolate bars were getting smaller, they blamed rising raw-material costs. Nonsense. "Imagine if football clubs ended matches five minutes early because their players were asking for higher wages? There would be riots." Economists have a word for this clever con trick: shrinkflation. "Word of the year is what I call it," says Reade. "It perfectly sums up what is happening in Britain today. Everywhere we look we're being shrinkflated."

As a child, my daughter set up a lemonade stall when on holiday in Fire Island, a New York beach resort, says Jennifer Selway in the Daily Express. She also sold seashells and pebbles painted with nail varnish. "Her success was partly due to the way she'd lisp regretfully, I'm too little to give change', when offered a $10 note for a pebble. Soooo cute', the punters all agreed as they parted with their cash." She grew up to be a successful sales woman. "So, the lemonade girl who was given a bad fright by the jobsworths [at Tower Hamlets council, who issued a fine for trading without a licence], chin up. And as they say Don't let the b******s grind you down'."

A staggering 80,000 people applied to appear on Love Island, the ITV reality show won by Kem Cetinay and Amber Davies. It's "a cross between a soft-porn version of Holiday Homes Under The Hammer and a half-term spent with [glamour model] Katie Price", with "bikini-clad babes" and "muscly hunks" hooking up for the chance to win £50,000, says Camilla Tominey in the Sunday Express. "It's not the fame-hungry nature of today's youngsters that gets me. It's the lack of ambition. Eighty thousand apply to Love Island, but just 17,000 to study at Cambridge."