Did Robert Shaprio & F. Lee Bailey Really Feud? 'American Crime Story' Shows The End Of Their Friendship
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story has been suggesting that Simpson's "Dream Team" was anything but, and that in particular, defense lawyers Robert Shapiro and F. Lee Bailey clashed. But is that simply a way to include more interpersonal drama between the fictionalized versions of the real figures portrayed on the show, or did Robert Shapiro and F. Lee Bailey really feud with one another during the Simpson trial? As it turns out, this wasn't a creation of the writers' room — these two lawyers had a close relationship that quickly turned sour once the "trial of the century" began.
Before the trial, Shapiro and Bailey were personal friends, according to the New York Times. In a look at their conflict, the newspaper described the many connections the two had, from Shapiro naming Bailey the godfather of his oldest son to making the call to bring Bailey onto the case (portrayed in The People v. O.J. Simpson as totally Shapiro's choice). But just before the case was set to begin, an investigator discovered "that for the past several months Mr. Bailey and his associates had engaged in a systematic and elaborate campaign of disclosures to the press." This was a huge blow for the harmony of the team. "The object, [investigator Jake] Pavelic concluded, was to denigrate Mr. Shapiro's legal skills and his ability to keep client confidences, and to enhance Mr. Bailey's modest role in the case," the Times continued. However, other defense team members questioned the accuracy of the investigator's conclusions.
Shapiro told the NY Times, "I felt a lifelong commitment to him ... But recent events have been so painful that we'll never be able to have a relationship again." Shapiro echoed those same words in multiple other interviews, telling Barbara Walters after the verdict was read that the feud was Bailey's responsibility. "This is a man who I had a very close relationship with, and I will never have a relationship with him," Shapiro said. You can watch more of the interview below.
In an interview with KNBC, Bailey responded by saying about Shapiro, "For the past year, he's been looking for someone to interview him who wouldn't ask him if he'd ever tried a murder case before. Finally, he found Barbara Walters." Additionally, Shapiro had told Walters that he only wanted Bailey to consult on the case, not argue it — but Bailey did wind up cross-examining Detective Mark Fuhrman, among others.
Another sticking point between the two men was Bailey's allegation that Shapiro wanted Simpson, who was eventually acquitted, to plead guilty. Bailey told CNN that losing their relationship "doesn't make me feel very badly because Bob has not been behaving very well lately." That might explain why John Travolta's depiction of the man seems so constantly skeptical, but the real Shapiro claimed to CNN that he "never talked at any time with anybody about a plea bargain."
But perhaps the most conclusive statement between the two is another quote from Shapiro's Barbara Walters interview. Despite their years of friendship, when asked by Walters if he'd ever work with Bailey on a case again, Shapiro said, "I will not talk to F. Lee Bailey again." And in the intervening 20 years since the Simpson case, it seems like that still holds true. Obviously, the personal conflict between Shapiro and Bailey didn't stop Simpson's "Dream Team" from arguing a successful case. But it wound up destroying the friendship of two of its members.