`Scourge' comes to OJ's aid

If the legal teams stop wrangling, and the much-delayed trial of OJ Simpson, the former American footballer and film star-turned-murder suspect, gets properly under way this week, it is likely that another man will quickly assume centre stage.

F Lee Bailey is almost as famous as the client whose defence team he joined last summer. Perhaps best known for representing - unsuccessfully - Patty Hearst, the abducted heiress who in 1976 became a terrorist, he is noted for his lavish lifestyle as much as his cross-examination techniques. His wealth - he once owned a Lear jet - also came from book and television deals, and business ventures, including a company manufacturing small helicopters. But it has not all been plain sailing.

As long ago as 1967, the man who won an acquittal for the alleged Boston Strangler had an income estimated at £150,000 a year. The Hearst trial was a triumph for the attorney whom many style a real-life Perry Mason.

After that, his fortunes dipped again. But Mr Bailey is not one for giving in easily. Described by no less a businessman as Gianni Agnelli as by far the finest helicopter salesman he had ever met, the scourge of prosecutors was the first attorney to respond to changes in ethical rules in 1978 by advertising his services on the front page of the New York Times.

If this approach wins him cases, it also gains him enemies. Now in his sixties, the former marine has never been less than combative. He fell out with his fellow defence lawyer in the Hearst trial, and earlier this month clashed with Robert Shapiro, a renowned Californian trial lawyer, in this one. As one law professor put it: "If Bailey can't get Simpson acquitted, no one can."

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