The KJ recently reported the passing of celebrated Boston defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey, acknowledging his bold and brilliant courtroom traits (“F. Lee Bailey, renowned criminal defense attorney who lived in Yarmouth, dies at 87,” June 3).

Bailey’s high-profile clients included Dr. Samuel Sheppard, accused of killing his wife. Bailey helped him win an acquittal at a second trial. Bailey also performed a sterling role as part in the successful defense of O. J. Simpson, charged with killing his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1995.

In 1963, Bailey came to Maine, seeking a new trial for Vincent Doyon, convicted in 1959 of killing his ex-wife over a court-ordered increase of child support. My assistant attorney general assignments included defending criminal convictions from defendants’ claims of error.

Bailey contended Doyon’s recorded confession was involuntary, due to his ingestion of an undisclosed amount of alcohol before his arrest. The taped confession, heard by the jury, and later heard by the Maine Supreme Court, supported the conviction. Doyon’s participation in the questioning was found to have been voluntary.

Bailey appealed to the First Circuit Court in Boston. I was beginning my fourth year of lawyering and found myself in court, one-level lower than the U.S. Supreme Court. I was nervous. Even the court room tapestry seemed challenging.

Bailey, went first, representing the appellant. I experienced the reasons he was considered silk-smooth. My hands under the counsel table got fuzzy, followed by fuzzy feet. Blood was rushing to mid body. Baily finished; I got up just before passing out. A comment by one of the three judges, Hartigan, said it well: “Gee, I listened to the tape and he sounds responsive, and decisive.” My armpits eventually dried.

Next, Bailey appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided, basis solely on the parties’ court briefs, Doyon’s conviction was the correct conclusion. Once, AG Jim Erwin introduced me as “the only Maine lawyer to best F. Lee Bailey.”

Bailey became a source of intuition that stuck with me 60 years: “Facts win cases; not lawyers.”

 

John Benoit

Manchester

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