Former clients and colleagues paid tribute Thursday to famed defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey, who died Thursday in Georgia at the age of 87.
Among the public figures who took to social media to share their thoughts was one of Bailey’s most infamous clients, O.J. Simpson, whom Bailey helped acquit of murder charges in the so-called Trial of the Century in 1995 in Los Angeles.
“Today I found out that I lost a great friend,” Simpson said Thursday in a video clip posted to Twitter. “His name was F. Lee Bailey, one of the great lawyers of our time. I called him ‘flea.’ He hated it. ... Boy, was he full of energy.”
Timing and talent had much to do with F. Lee Bailey’s high profile as a lawyer and how he helped shape the legal profession we know today, said Superior Court Judge Kenneth J. Fishman, his longtime friend.
Mr. Bailey graduated from law school three years before Gideon v. Wainwright, the 1963 US Supreme Court decision that guaranteed criminal defendants the right to legal counsel in federal and state courts.
He subsequently emphasized preparation, investigation, and fine-tuned the art of cross-examination “to really become a model for lawyers out there. It’s important for people to realize that he’s in many respects the architect of the modern criminal defense attorney,” said Fishman, a former law partner and book coauthor.
“He seized on all that, not just to make a living but to let people know that this is the way it ought to be done,” Fishman added.
As for the legal profession today, he said, “I don’t think it would look exactly like it does now if Bailey and some others from that generation didn’t do what they did.”
Martin G. Weinberg, a prominent defense attorney based in Boston who worked on some cases with Bailey during the latter part of his career, said Thursday by phone that Bailey leaves a lasting legacy of excellence in the courtroom.
“Lee Bailey was a giant for many decades,” Weinberg said. “He was the quintessential criminal defense lawyer. ... For many decades his skills were unparalleled.”
Brian Jencunas, a Massachusetts political strategist, also noted Bailey’s death via Twitter.
“F. Lee Bailey was the kind of celebrity defense lawyer we don’t have any more, because nobody actually tries criminal cases these days,” Jencunas tweeted. “He owned his own jet, got disbarred, then refused to show the remorse required for reinstatement. Legend.”
David Oscar Markus, a Miami-based criminal lawyer, paid tribute via Twitter as well.
“RIP F. Lee Bailey,” Markus tweeted. “One of the greatest.”
And sports agent Allan Walsh, a former prosecutor in LA, recalled Bailey’s swagger during the OJ trial.
“Will never forget working as a Prosecutor in the LA District Attorney’s Hardcore Gang Division and seeing F. Lee Bailey walking thru the corridors of the L.A. Criminal Courts Building during the O.J. Simpson trial,” Walsh tweeted.