Tags: America's Forum | Exclusive Interviews | OJ Trial | F. Lee Bailey

F. Lee Bailey: O.J. Trial Was a 'Circus'

Thursday, 22 May 2014 07:54 PM

By Sean Piccoli

Renowned defense attorney F. Lee Bailey called his most famous case, the O.J. Simpson murder trial, a "circus" and "a poor example" of American jurispridence even though his client went free.

Bailey, a former Marine and author of several books including last year's "Excellence in Cross-Examination," spoke with "America's Forum" host JD Hayworth on Newsmax TV on Thursday about the Simpson saga and his career-launching win in another famous case — the Sam Sheppard murder retrial of 1966.

A broadcaster and television show host, Bailey rejected the conventional wisdom that the O.J. case, with its slow-speed car chase — "An oxymoron if I ever heard one," he said — and exhaustively televised trial, launched the reality TV era.

"There had been many prior trials that had been televised," Bailey told Hayworth. "Some had been watched fairly intently."

"However, this was a circus," he said of the Simpson proceedings, "and the big camera on the wall brought it home to American television and many people were fascinated by this. ... So it became, unfortunately, an example of an American trial. It was a poor example."

Bailey said he started working on Simpson's defense "with reluctance, because in California any two-week trial can take a year."

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The Simpson trial started with jury selection on Sept. 26, 1994 — three months after the murders of Nicole Simpson Brown and Ronald Goldman — and ended with the former star running back's acquittal about a year later, on Oct. 3, 1995.

Bailey wasn't so ambivalent about the Sheppard trial, which riveted America in the 1950s, and again in the '60s, and inspired "The Fugitive" television series and movie.

"I took it on because I got angry," he said. "A lieutenant or detective in Cleveland said to me after a big argument about Sheppard ... 'If Sam Sheppard is innocent I don't want to know it.' And I said, 'Yes, I bet there are a lot just like you in Ohio, and I'm going to make them as miserable as I can by getting him out and showing he didn't do it.' "

"The nice thing about that was when I went to pick a jury for the second trial in 1966, 'The Fugitive' had been running on TV for several years, was very popular, and everybody knew 'The Fugitive' was innocent," he said. "That was a bit of a leg up."

Bailey, 80, got his law degree from Boston University but didn't want to practice. He wanted to be a writer, until the armed forces came calling.

"Actually, my time in the Marine Corps was the reason I became a lawyer," he said. "I had no intention of doing anything but writing, and then the Marine Corps conscripted me because they ran out of lawyers, and I found that I loved the life in the [military] courtroom."

He added: "Once I got out in the civilian life, I didn't love it [practicing law] so much anymore because it was nowhere near as clean. It was a dirty business much of the time."

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