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Sam Sheppard - F. Lee Bailey

court trial criminal attorney


F. Lee Bailey was a recent graduate of Boston University Law School and an aspiring criminal attorney when he was introduced to the Sheppard case in the early 1960s. He began the appeals process for Sam Sheppard arguing that his trial had been unfair and so was his continued prison sentence. Bailey filed the writ (written request) in Ohio's southern federal district in 1963 so it would be considered by U.S. District Judge Carl Weinman of Dayton.

Weinman ruled in Sheppard's favor but a federal court of appeals overturned the decision by a vote of two to one. Failing on a second plea to the same court, Bailey filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court was itself already focusing on granting defendants better legal standing in the criminal justice system. In February 1966, Bailey successfully presented his case. The Supreme Court ruled that Sam Sheppard did not receive a fair trial due to publicity before and during the trial that unfairly influenced or prejudiced the jury.

Cleveland authorities could not recharge Sheppard with first-degree murder under the double jeopardy prohibition in the Constitution. Double jeopardy means a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Instead they brought second-degree murder charges against him. Sheppard found himself, once again, in court. Bailey Attorney F. Lee Bailey. (The Library of Congress)
provided an aggressive defense beginning on November 1, 1966. It ended with a not-guilty verdict after only eighteen days of testimony. Bailey's strategy was to raise reasonable doubt in the jurors' minds and propose other suspects in the murder case.

Over his long career Bailey used his skills as a criminal defense attorney to defend several high profile cases including the Albert DeSalvo (1931–1973; also known as the "Boston Strangler"), Patty Hearst (1954–), and O.J. Simpson (1947–). Bailey was a master at cross-examination and was among the first to use a jury consultant to help him select jurors at trial. He was known to hold press conferences to discuss the progress of his cases, which added to his notoriety.

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