Bob Shapiro is on a mission from God, F. Lee Bailey joins the Dream Team, and we get in our DeLorean to meet two of the most notorious Florida Men of the '60s: Carl Coppolino and Murph the Surf. Digressions include Linda Evangelista, Patty Hearst, "The Commitments" and the upside of peaking in your 50s.
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Bob Shapiro is on a mission from God, F. Lee Bailey joins the Dream Team, and we get in our DeLorean to meet two of the most notorious Florida Men of the '60s: Carl Coppolino and Murph the Surf. Digressions include Linda Evangelista, Patty Hearst, "The Commitments" and the upside of peaking in your 50s.
Subscribe on Patreon
Donate on Paypal
Buy cute merch
Support the show (http://patreon.com/yourewrongabout)
Sarah: Economically like it was once necessary for some women to become serial killers. I don't think we really want to address that.
Mike: Welcome to You're Wrong About, the podcast that tells the story of F. Lee Bailey, trying to keep his client out of jail-ey. Is that anything?
Sarah: That's something that is truly something.
Mike: That's my worst work on the show.
Sarah: No, that's your best, this is the shining jewel.
Mike: You know what I wanted to do for us introducing ourselves. Okay. Let me see if this works. I’m M. Lynn Hobbes.
Sarah: Oh, nice. I'm S. Ann Marshall.
Sarah: Or as we call the solar system of our programs, why our maintenance wrong.
Mike: Phase dad's about, yes. And today we're talking about F. Lee Bailey. This is where my knowledge ends, literally at his name. So, yeah. Set us off Sarah, what's the story we're telling?
Sarah: What is the story we're telling Mike, why are we here?
Mike: I mean, we're talking in great length and great detail about OJ Simpson who went on trial for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in 1994.
Mike: Oh shit.
Sarah: This is, this is good though. I like to remind people like, by the way, they were in pretrial for 8 million years. The murders happen in mid-June they go to trial late January of 1995.
Mike: Right. Okay. So we are in 1994 now, but the trial begins in 1995.
Sarah: Yeah. Which is why there's so much time for antics.
Mike: Okay. And yes, we've met all of the main players so far. And we're currently in the antics stage of the story where OJ is compiling his legal team.
Sarah: Yes. Who did we talk about last time, Mike? Because these are directly related. We're having kind of a one in, one out scenario here today.
Mike: We talked about Howard Weitzman and Bob Shapiro, and the relay race grabbing of the baton that went from one to the other.
Sarah: Yeah. And how did that happen?
Mike: Basically OJ blamed Howard Weitzman for all of the scrutiny that he was under by the police, even though most of it was actually due to his own incompetence and his own overconfidence that he could sort of talk his way out of suspicion by the cops. And when he started to realize that the cops were actually taking him seriously as a suspect, he transferred a lot of that guilt onto Howard Weitzman, his existing attorney. And then he found this sort of savior figure in Bob Shapiro, his new lawyer, who was going to rescue him from all of this. And he sort of fell for Shapiro's ‘razzle dazzle’ when he came in and had a meeting and “we're going to get you the best forensics and the best people, and I'm going to give you the most gleaming defense of all time”. And OJ was like, yeah, sounds good. And so he kind of ghosted on Weitzman and moved over to Shapiro
Sarah: . Yeah, he really ghosted him. And Weitzman is like calling, being like, “Am I fired? Why isn't anyone taking my calls, what's happening?” It feels like he's blaming Weitzman for the fact that like his ex-wife was murdered and there's blood all over his house. It's like, I don't know, OJ, how is that your lawyer's fault?
Mike: Right. But this is classic abuser behavior. Everything is somebody else's fault.
Sarah: And I feel like a few months ago I would have found this metaphor kind of like cute or trying too hard. But now it feels very real to me that like he's treating his lawyers the way that he also treats women, which is that like, the allure of the unknown is always more exciting than like someone who has served you very well and will probably do, has the bad luck to be known by you. That is the allure. And Bob Shapiro is like this nonentity to OJ in a way that's kind of, it's sort of baffling that he would choose someone who has no history with to not just represent him, but to start assembling this dream team for him as he's up against the wall in this way that he never has been before. But like in that context, it does make sense to me.
Mike: Yeah. And that it's like finding a new mistress when you've been married to somebody for years. It's the same kind of sense of spark and excitement. Yeah.
Sarah: Yeah. Bob Shapiro is Paula Barbieri
Mike: Just with less full hair.
Sarah: Yeah. Yes. And Bob Shapiro, I guess, is also appealing because he brings with him a team, and one of them turns out to be F. Lee Bailey.
Mike: Oh yeah.
Sarah: Do you know about the Shapiro/Bailey connection?
Mike: No. I literally know nothing about F. Lee Bailey. I can't even imagine him from the Ryan Murphy show, who played him?
Sarah: Okay. You're going to be kicking yourself in a second. Nathan Lane.
Mike: Wait, what? Really? Singing ass Nathan Lane.
Sarah: Yeah. He didn't sing in the show, unfortunately. I wish he did.
Mike: I have like the look now, he's like a round short dude.
Sarah: You know, like French bulldogs? But take a moment to just delete that from your mind and I want you to Google “F. Lee Bailey, sixties.” Yeah, because to understand F. Lee Bailey. We must understand how F Lee Bailey sees himself, because it is my understanding that we all see ourselves as we were when we were young and at our peak. And so we need to see his peak.
Mike: Oh, Oh yeah. I've never seen him at this age before.
Sarah: What are you seeing? Tell me.
Mike: He looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman. There's one where he's like smoking a cigarette.
Sarah: He does look like Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Yeah. This is the photo I'm thinking of when I asked you to Google that. Tell me about the cigarette photo.
MikeL Yeah, he just looked like a badass. He looks like he's in a gangster movie or something. He's smoking a cigarette and he's looking off screen and he's got some sort of manly drink in front of him and like manly Ritz crackers.
Sarah: He loves manly drinks, man
Mike: And he's smoking a cigarette with this sort of like, I don't give a fuck kind of attitude.
Sarah: He is a stone Fox in this photo. Like I would like to stick my fork in that tomato. And like, this is just a photo of like a man in command of himself. And like, it is hard to overstate how on top of the world he was for a period. Yeah. Jeffrey Toobin, who does not like him, writes In the Run of his Life, that he “invented the contemporary practice of criminal defense law.”
Mike: Oh wow.
Sarah: He used to commute by helicopter. He, before he turned 40, got a million dollar fee out of a client, which reminds me of that, I think Linda Evangelista quote. About how “we don't get out of bed for less than $10,000”. He was, for a time, like magic.
Mike: There’s something, I feel, like very millennial about these kinds of figures. Where it's them as famous for one thing. And then you're like, oh, they were already famous for this other thing. It's like finding out Ina Garten was a nuclear analyst.
Sarah: A barefoot nuclear analyst, I hope. Her memoir about her early years should be called The Shod Analyst. I also, I don't want to linger too long on how hot F. Lee Bailey is. I feel weird going into this, but like, I guess want to specify he looks like Richard Burton.
Mike: Yeah. Oh, sort of like a burly confidence. Yeah.
Sarah: Yes. So think of that energy and then he can see his time and Newsweek covers. Do you have that?
Mike: Yeah, I was just going to ask you about these he's on the cover of Newsweek and Time at various points.
Sarah: Just like Bruce Springsteen.
Mike: All it says is defense attorney F. Lee Bailey. Oh, and Patty in court. So I guess there's a Patty Hearst angle?
Sarah: Yes. He defended Patty Hearst and that was kind of a turning point for his career because he failed to defend her adequately, basically. What he was known for initially what he made his reputation on, he could defend a man accused of murdering his wife. This was almost his specialty. And like out of these sorts of little ticky-tacky pieces of doubt could amass something that he could use to persuade a jury.
Like he could take cases where the defendant looked very bad and somehow find a way for the jury to, to see the defendant the way Bailey saw him, which was with the true benefit of the doubt, like with true belief and a possible scenario of innocence. And he wasn't able to do that with Patty Hearst, who we've talked about in a different episode or episode on Stockholm syndrome. The way I would put it very simply is that F. Lee Bailey, going into Patty Hearst, had a pretty amazing track record of defending men who looked very bad. And he failed to defend a young woman who looked kind of bad.
Mike: Yeah. That says something about the criminal justice system as well.
Sarah: It says a lot of things about a lot of things, I think. I think it, yeah, it says something about jury, it says something about the system at the time, about media coverage. Because, you know, we know that like certainly the media didn't go very soft on her either. That says maybe something about Bailey.
Mike: It also says something about prestige TV from the late 1990s, because we’ve had a million male antiheroes, and these guys who do terrible things who we find super compelling. But then when we've had narratives of women, like very problematic women also doing terrible things, they fail to land in the same way. Women doing bad things reflects on their character and their worth in a way that men doing bad things doesn't necessarily. We always see it as a deviation from who they are, whereas with women, we see it as revealing.
Sarah: Yeah, that's interesting.
Mike: I mean, I'm just copying what you've told me on this show so many times. This is S. Anne Marshall insights being reflected back to you.
Sarah: It's satisfying to say is F. Lee Bailey. I really, you know, got to work on that, but okay. Let me look at my outline here. So the top item, I deemed this, the most important thing to hit was, once hot. That's my talking point. Then the “invented the contemporary practice of criminal defense law”. That's number two, which basically means that like he made it not a reputable profession, but an exciting one. Like the idea that it was something that you could make a lot of money at. That was also kind of an F. Lee Bailey joint. Like that it was an area in which you might proudly set out your shingle. I don't know. That seems to be one of his significant innovations, or at least something that he reminded people of after they had forgotten about it.
Mike: Well, I mean, as we have more of these media sensation trials, and I suppose especially as trials become more widely televised, we need like a whole ecosystem around them. Right? We need Nancy Grace's, and we need F. Lee Bailey's, and we need all kinds of commentators and entire TV channels dedicated to this. So it makes sense that the sort of rise of the sensational true crime court story would also kick off these media archetypes. Like I guess, iconic classic defense lawyer or something.
Sarah: Yeah. And you're right. And Bailey also like he came about at exactly the right time, he spent his entire professional life in the media. He was born in 1933. So when he rises to prominence in the sixties, he's in his thirties, TV is taking off. It's like, he's perfectly poised to like, have his hotness be known.
And it's interesting, too. Because like he's definitely a showman, like he's known for this like commanding, deep voice. He knows how to be commandingly theatrical in cross-examinations, but he's also like this little terrier for the details. Like he knows how to like find every little inconsistency. Every little area that can cast some testimony into doubt, that's him at his best. And one of the areas where he's proven himself in the past to be quite good, which I find especially exciting I guess, based on how much expert testimony we know to be people playing a little bit fast and loose. Bailey is great at poking those little holes in medical testimony. A tactic that he seems to like to find a way to use, if he can, is to get someone to contradict something that they’ve said in a textbook they wrote.
Mike: That's actually a total nightmare, like a literal nightmare that I've had, of being conflicted with my written work and people being like, do you still agree with this? And I'm like, I would put it differently now.
Sarah: That’s F. Lee Bailey, baby.
Mike: I mean, all of this is still less important than the fact that he was once hot, but I'll take it.
Sarah: Don’t you think it's important to know? Because like everyone's hot in their own way, but some people you look at a picture of them when they're young and you're like, “Oh, I see why you've been so cocky for your entire life”, because it worked really well for a while.
Mike: Absolutely! And also people who go through life hot, like in their twenties versus people who go through life hot in like their fifties, I feel like just have different bearings as they go through the world.
Sarah: Yeah. And another thing about F. Lee Bailey is that he was not hot in his fifties. Because he was a very hard drinker. This is one of the things that affected his ability to defend Patty Hearst effectively. He had his hot years early, and that can be hard.
Mike: I'm still waiting for mine.
Sarah: You're going to peek into your fifties, like Stanley Tucci. Okay. So this is from Lawrence Schiller and James Woolworth, American Tragedy. Which as we've talked about before is kind of the defense team’s eye view of the proceedings. And introducing Bailey, we learned that at this stage when he gets his call from Bob Shapiro on June 14th, he has relocated to West Palm Beach. He is trying to get work, but believes that lawyers in Miami are telling people interested in getting his services that he is retired, which he is not. But whether or not he's being conspired against, he feels himself to be. The book tells us “Now Bailey had remarked to more than one listener, “I appear to have lived longer than I should have.”
Mike: Oh, wow.
Sarah: These are the words of a man who is no longer hot.
Mike: So he's kind of washed up.
Sarah: Yeah. And you know, he had this fantastic winning streak and then he has a loss in the Patty Hearst trial. He moves to Florida in 1985, he kind of disappears from the circles that he used to be part of. He's not relevant. Like he was super relevant to the sixties and the sixties are like, so over.
Mike: This is how I feel after every time I do an episode of the show that I'm proud of. I'm like, that was good, I'm obviously never going to do anything that good again.
Sarah: You're like, I'm going to cause Patty Hearst to go to prison next time. And then it'll all be over.
Mike: I'm like, I've lost it. This is like six hours after we publish whatever.
Sarah: Oh, sweetie. And then we go on. “Bob Shapiro had come into Bailey's life in the late seventies, when they worked on a case in Hawaii. He was now a dear friend and they talked regularly. In 1983 Bailey was tried in San Francisco for driving under the influence. He asked Shapiro to be local council and Shapiro could rightly take some credit for the acquittal. Bob called from time to time to seek advice on his cases. When Bailey visited Los Angeles he stayed at Shapiro's home. In fact, Bailey was godfather to one of Bob's children.”
So one of the unsung tragedies of the OJ Simpson trial is that over time it would destroy the great bromance of Bob Shapiro and F. Lee Bailey.
Mike: Yeah. That's fascinating.
Sarah: Why do you find that interesting?
Mike: Well just the extent to which so many of these things, these like historical events, just come back to like personal things. You like to think that there's some sort of robust process behind these major things, but like, no, it's just like, I knew a guy and so I brought him in. It's like how Jennifer Anniston got cast on Friends, because she bumped into the President of NBC at a gas station.
Mike: Yes. I guess they had worked on some project before and after they bumped into each other and chatted, he like went to the casting directors and he's like, “Hey, have you thought about this Jennifer lady?” And they brought her in to audition.
Sarah: Wow. And that's why Leah Remini had to be on King of Queens, the sliding doors.
Mike: Yeah. So bromances are behind everything.
Sarah: Right? Well, and I feel like one of the cultural moments that we're living through is, people who are coming of age now or who are young adults now being like, “Wait, it seems to me like the last century - to say nothing of the preceding ones, let's just talk about the most recent one - was just a bunch of white guys that are friends. Like we shouldn't do that anymore. And then all the white guy friends are like, “But that would put me out of this specific job that I like.”
Mike: And also, as soon as you start talking about affirmative action or deliberate processes to get more minority representation into these rooms, they're like, “Ugh, isn't that a little bit arbitrary? Isn't that unfair?”
Sarah: To the F. Lee Bailey's of the world who are friends with someone who already works there.
Mike: Yeah. Isn't this discrimination against people who can glad hand their way into opportunities for decades on end?
Sarah: Yeah. As someone who has been given more responsibility than I ever earned at any time in my life, I'm all for it.
Okay. Back to Bailey. “Now Bob called. He had been retained to defend OJ Simpson. Would Bailey help? Bob's speech was controlled as always, confident, even a bit snobbish, but Bailey could sense his excitement. He wanted Bailey's reaction to what he had already done.” I like picturing the scene. These are men who have been friends for over a decade. They both work in the same field. Like I just imagine that going into this they had maybe a sense of friendly competitiveness in their relationship that became unfriendly as they were working on this trial. It's interesting. It's like, he's excited about this thing that he has that is special. And then his response is to bring his famous friend onto that. It's an interesting form of ego, I guess.
Mike: Is there a specific reason he's bringing on F. Lee Bailey? Like, do they do specialized things? Is he bringing him on for like a specific task?
Sarah: Arguably, he's bringing him on partly because he's the cross-examination guy. Like that's his area. That's where he really shines. And like, he will bring that to the trial, and it will be pretty effective at times. So, you know, there's definitely objective reasons why he would make up an important part of the team. And like Bob Shapiro is not a big cross-examination guy. He's a settle before trial type of a guy. And he is a team put together-er kind of a guy, he's like Jimmy in the Commitments.
He also has a reputation, which seems like a Shapiro kind of a thing. It's like, I'm going to get you the best. So, but yeah, he pretty much immediately calls F. Lee Bailey and offers him a slice of the case and Bailey's into it because he doesn't want people to think he's retired.
Mike: He's got these Miami lawyers breathing down his neck.
Sarah: Yeah. And so Bailey says ‘yes’. And he immediately starts theorizing what to do on the case. And his first contribution is, you know, what we really need to do is hire an investigator to go to Chicago and talk to anyone who was on the plane with OJ, who saw him after he got off the plane, anyone specifically who can testify to his demeanor. Because we want to show that after he was picked up by a limo at his house the night of the murders, flew to Chicago was there for a few hours, and then flew back to LA the following morning. We want to show that during that time frame he was not exhibiting the demeanor of someone who had just killed two people.
Mie: So you're saying like, this is what he does. He finds sort of, this is not the way that a murderer would act, and juries find this convincing?
Sarah: Or just like things of that size, like discrepancies of that scale, basically. And it almost feels like if you have a jury that is ready to believe your story, then, like, these are the kinds of little bits that can kind of catalyze doubt. Like if you don't have that, it won't do anything. But if you do have that, like somehow it could start to seem bigger and bigger.
Mike: Right. I guess reasonable doubt, you want to just give people these little footholds to find basically an excuse to find somebody not guilty.
Sarah: And now that you're saying it I'm feeling like one of the other reasons that Shapiro delegates to Bailey is I think he grasps that he, Bob Shapiro, is not a very detail oriented guy. Which like you can kind of tell by the fact that he's hired, and then immediately starts hiring other people, and just like creating a headache for himself in the form of a team that he has to manage before he like really knows his way around what's going on. I mean, I don't know how to mount a massive legal defense.
Mike: You go on Mechanical Turk and...
Sarah: And Bailey, he has brought on someone who knows how to construct cases out of like a million little bits of doubt.
Mike: Right. If he did it, then why, and then you want to have as many things to say after that.
Sarah: Yeah. Honestly the OJ truthers today, like people who still argue sincerely that OJ Simpson is innocent, they do bring up some of these Bailey defenses. They do bring up the fact that his demeanor seems normal when he was on the plane. And then he seemed calm that he didn't seem like he just killed anybody. So it like, it's interesting, I think he really traffics in little bits of evidence that makes sense if you kind of want them to make sense.
Mike: Right. And also to a population addled with media stories of murderers and convinced that they know the way that a murderer is “supposed to act”.
Sarah: Because we've seen them in movies. And we know what they are like in movies.
Mike: I hate this stuff because none of us have any idea how we would act after we killed somebody. None of us have any idea how other people would act because we've never met OJ Simpson, so we have no idea what behavior is a deviation from the pattern, versus a pattern. We're talking about somebody who killed someone. And so killing someone is far more extreme than pretending to be chill after killing someone.
Sarah: It's also weird because like this idea that like, you can't be calm after you've killed someone or conversely, that you can't be calm after your wife disappears. Any piece of information that takes multiple days and nights to like metabolizes that it really happened. It's just weird to me. It's like, what? Like, how is he supposed to be acting as a plausible murderer? Like he's supposed to be like, “Hello, I'm checking in, and I'm a murderer”. Like what is he supposed to be doing?
Mike: I feel like it comes from this idea that what you're really doing in these cases is you're counting up the number of pieces of evidence for each side for he's innocent versus he's guilty. Whereas to me, the most convincing evidence that he did it is that this is part of a long, very well-established pattern of abuse. Like that's one piece of evidence in this sort of, ‘he did it’ column. And then in the ‘he didn't do it’ column, it’s like things that are numerous, but not all that significant.
Sarah: But, he seemed fine at the airport. Okay this reminds me of a concept that I think Jeffrey Toobin talks about in The Run of His Life, which is the judo defense. And the idea is that you take what seems to be a really strong argument and use its apparent strength to create weakness. Okay. So I'm going to try and do this with your argument. So if I'm F. Lee Bailey, I can be like the fact that he allegedly abused his wife means that he has no chance at a fair trial because everyone is so prejudiced against him because everyone always assumes based on that history or that alleged history that he must have done it. And so you, the jury, are being bamboozled into thinking that the prosecution has a stronger case than it does.
Mike: You're discriminating against OJ Simpson just because he may or may not have abused his wife before being accused of an extreme act of abuse against his wife.
Sarah: It's a really interesting point that I think this team of men; Shapiro, Bailey, like the top guys, truly didn't understand murder as like the eventual and sometimes inevitable escalation of abuse.
Mike: Right. But it's very much congruent with an existing pattern rather than this sort of serial killer-style, premeditated murder that he was planning for weeks in advance.
Sarah: Yeah. And even the same kind of like, you know, the fact that we have this 911 tape of OJ kicking Nicole’s door in when she lived at Gretna Green, in a rage. And the fact that the murders also take place in this kind of home invasion. You know, this idea that like, if you're bringing an accused wife murderer to trial, there's this idea of like, this is different from hitting your wife, right? Because if that's bad and if that's on a continuum with murder, then like, oh, no.
Mike: Right. Like it's unfair to bring that in.
Sarah: Or like, then we all have to have a big think about our entire gender and what we might be doing as like professional men in the 1960s and what our dads did. Because the whole world that we're living in, we're just like, no one wants to be a murderer. They're like, no, it's inhuman to be a murderer, but like, but brutality is okay. Okay.
But I want to talk about a Bailey case from the past. This is a really strange case. F. Lee Bailey defended Dr. Carl Coppolino in the 1960s who was accused of murdering his wife. And that sounds relatively straight forward, but the way it breaks down is that Carl Coppolino was a relatively young doctor who had a bunch of heart attacks, unrelated, but he just kept having heart attacks. And I just, I don't know, I'm just glad people seem to be having fewer heart attacks these days. So that's nice. And who also, like many men, who were in the 20th century, accused in a very headline-getting trial of murdering their wives, like slept around. This also seems to be something that men like to put other men on trial for. Like I sleep around, but not like that. Not like a murderous amount, because the stated motive is often like, and then he killed his wife so he could be with his mistress. And it's like, ask anyone who's had an affair with a married man. Like they're not that eager to end their marriages, typically.
So he gets into hypnosis, which I promise will be relevant later. And eventually he starts having an affair with a woman named Marjorie Farber. And Marge is married to a man who goes by, ‘The Colonel’. And what happens is that at some point after Carl Coppolino and Marge Farber start having an affair, The Colonel dies and what Marge and Carl say at the time is that he had a heart attack and Carl wanted him to go to the hospital and the Colonel didn't want to go to the hospital and then he died. So then they moved to Florida and then Carl makes a mistake apparently, which is that he breaks things off with Marge and he starts seeing some 38-year old floozy.
Mike: These young kids.
Sarah: I just enjoy accusing someone of being 38. So anyway, guess what happens to Carl Coppolino’s wife?
Mike: So does she die also?
Sarah: Yeah. She dies of an apparent heart attack. They're like, yeah, sometimes youngish women just have heart attacks out of nowhere. It's totally a thing.
Mike: So he had his first mistress, and now he has his 38 year old mistress, and his wife dies of a heart attack.
Sarah: Yes. And neither she, nor the Colonel, are initially autopsied. They're just like, that's cool. You know, whatever authorities are minorly involved. And then according to Marge Farber, she's like, “Hey Carl, did you murder your wife?” And he's like, “No”. And then he marries his 38-year old mistress, Mary Gibson, a couple of months later and basically wants to move on. And Marge is kind of the thorn in his side. And what she keeps telling people, like she talks to the doctor who signed Carl's wife, Carmela Coppolinio’s death certificate. And by way of explaining why she has this expertise and why she thinks perhaps that Carl killed his wife, she's like, “I think that Carmela was killed with an injection of a chemical used by anesthesiologists that relaxes the muscles of someone undergoing surgery. And Carl would have access to that because he used to be an anesthesiologist. And I know that that's what he would have used because he gave it to me last year to inject into my husband.”
Mike: No way. This is like an Erin Brockovich movie. It's like the mistress investigating the murder of her lover's wife. Wow.
Sarah: Yeah! Someone write that white lady domestic thriller.
Mike: So what happens?
Sarah: Well, so the chemical that Carl is accused by Marge Farber of using in both of these murders, these alleged murders, is called succinylcholine chloride. And so the rub here is that it is made out of succinic acid. The issue is that if you suspect someone of injecting somebody with this chemical…
Mike: Heart attack juice.
Sarah: In order to determine whether that has happened, what you're looking for is evidence of succinic acid. However, it's already present in the human body anyway. Like it's something that exists, like succinic acid exists inside of us.
Mike: Right. So it's going to test positive no matter what.
Sarah: Right. So what F. Lee Bailey recognizes about this, with his little terrier brain, is that it's much weaker as an argument to say this man was poisoned, this woman was poisoned, because there's more of this thing in her body than there would have been normally. As opposed to this thing exists in her body, and it wouldn't have been there unless she was poisoned.
Mike: It's not like she tested positive for cyanide or something. But in this case, it's like she has 25 milligrams of this thing when she's only supposed to have 15 or something. So it's just a harder case to make.
Sarah: Right. And it's the kind of thing where Bailey can be like, “So really like you can't be sure”. And the doctor can be like, “Well, I'm pretty sure”. And he can be like, “But you're not sure.” And that's like most of his career.
Mike: And so is it the case that the wife and Marge's husband both have higher levels of heart attack juice in their system?
Sarah: Yes. So Carmella Coppolino's organs are examined by a chemist named Dr. Charles Umberger. I am going to be reading to you from F. Lee Bailey's book with Jean Rabe, which is called, When the Husband is the Suspect. “Umberger was not able to detect any succinylcholine chloride in Carmella's organs, so he attempted to compare the amount of succinic acid in them with organs from other embalmed cadavers. Umberger determined that there was succinic acid in some of Carmella's tissue, which he could not detect in the samples from other cadavers. He also said he could not detect it in Carmella's tissue around the injection mark”. Because there's an injection mark in her buttocks, I believe. Right? Like it could be that someone injected her with something that killed her. It could mean she was giving herself B12 injections. So like, it would be nice to find succinic acid in the vicinity of an injection mark. Well, why isn't it there? Wouldn't you think it would be there? Like if your thing is true, why isn't it there?
So I think another of Bailey’s strengths is like, he knows what he does and doesn't have to prove. And he is willing to basically take any discrepancy in the prosecution's case and just fixate on it to the point where it does seem potentially as big as how incredibly bad his client lacks.
Mike: But it's also, it's one of those things where it sounds sort of scientifically proven. But like, I don't know if you would expect an acid to cluster around an infection site, or if it dissipates throughout the body pretty quickly.
Sarah: But if I'm a lay person.
Mike: That’s the thing. So it's like, remember in the Terri Schiavo episode, we talked about like, she hasn't received a gynecological exam in two years. And then her husband points out people in persistent vegetative states do not receive gynecological exams, and it's actually not out of the ordinary at all for her to go two years without a gynecological exam. But like to a lay person you're like, “Gasp, two years!” But like that's to anyone who actually knows the field, that's not out of the ordinary. And it could be the same thing here. Like, I don't understand how injections work. Most people don’t.
Sarah: Come to think of it, I haven't gone to the gynecologist in two years now, so that's great.
Mike: Yeah. Someone's trying to kill you, Sarah.
Sarah: Yeah, right. And I think this is also the kind of thing again, like I feel like this is like the detail-oriented lawyer toolkit or at least is like, find things that if you do understand the context, you understand that they don't sound bad. But if you don't understand this area than they do sound bad.
Mike: Yeah. So it might be evidence of something, and it might not, because I don't know how injections work.
Sarah: So Coppolino gets two trials. He first goes to trial in New Jersey for the murder of the Colonel. And then his next trial is to be in Florida for the murder of his wife, Carmella. And so in the New Jersey trial, Marge Farber is given immunity. The prosecution has deemed her necessary to tell her side of the story about how she knows Coppolino to be guilty. But unfortunately, in telling that story, she has to talk about how they were having an affair. You know, if her story is true, that Coppolino decided to kill her husband, so he would get out of their way. Then it's also true that she helped him kill her husband. And so it's this weird thing where she's making herself less trustworthy by trying to tell the truth. What she says is that she held her husband's arm while Coppolino injected him with the juice, with the bad juice.
Mike: So it's like, I know he's guilty because I helped him do it.
Sarah: Because I helped him kill him. Yeah. And then she stood by as he smothered her husband. That's what she says happened. This goes to trial, the New Jersey trial happens in 1966. So picture that row of mad me, people, and then like, how do you go after this woman?
Mike: I mean, I would probably use the time honor tactic of implying that she's promiscuous. That either promiscuous or ambitious. One of those two, those are the fastest ways to discredit women of like, maybe you did this because you wanted to get a job. I'd give her the old Meghan Markle.
Sarah: Yeah. Well the old Meghan Markle is deciding to destroy someone's life because they had a drink with you and then met their husband later that night, so. But like this might've been the most helpful thing to him. Marge Farber was like, “And also, I was hypnotized and that's why I helped him murder my husband. I was in a trance the entire time.”
Mike: Oh no, sweetie. Don't throw that in there.
Sarah: And Bailey was like, “Guess what? I'm going to get some experts to say that that's nuts. Because frankly, my dear, it is.”
Mike: That's a bummer.
Sarah: And the jury was like, yeah, that, that doesn't that, you know, like, okay. I believe that these two people who are having an affair, this guy who was interested in hypnosis, this murder that arguably, plausibly took place. I can see him like putting her in a trance. That seems like something a couple would do in the sixties, honestly.
Mike: Yeah. It's a bit like backmasking, this like sort of mystical power of these sort of other worldly tactics or whatever. It's like, I don't think people are amenable to mind control in this like, very direct one-to-one way.
Sarah: And speaking of hypnosis, like it's one of those terms that kind of means a few different things at this point, but the best description I've ever heard of what it is, is that it's like your mind is like highly focused on one thing or a few things, and is able to really forget a lot of other stuff. So like, I mean it's a little bit like meditation. It's a little bit like being high. It is a different way of inhabiting your brain. But like our interest in this kind of like, the concept of hypnosis is like this Manchurian candidate, like sleeper agent conditioning, like that's never really been represented in reality. So, F. Lee Bailey makes mincemeat out of Marge.
Mike: She got out over her skis. That's too bad.
Sarah: Bailey says, “Her convenience is slipping in and out of hypnosis is exceeded only by the convenience of her forgetful memory. Her story is an agony of contradiction.” He says this at trial, at the New Jersey trial and it works. He's acquitted. After four hours of jury deliberations.
Okay. So we have an additional trial that he then has to go through, because then he has to go to trial in Florida for murdering his wife. And this is a really interesting verdict because he's found guilty of second degree murder. Which basically what that means is that there's no premeditation. But what F. Lee Bailey points out is that like there's no such thing as an unpremeditated poisoning murder.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. Like this doesn't make any sense to me because you have to procure the heart attack juice, which presumably is difficult. So that in itself, it's not like you just have this acid sitting around your house. So like, yeah. That makes no sense whatsoever.
Sarah: Yes. And here's what Bailey says about that. He writes, “The jury returned a verdict of murder in the second degree, which under Florida law, and the law of practically every other state, was a legal impossibility. Second degree murder involves an intentional and deliberate killing, but without premeditation. To kill with succinylcholine, one must inject the victim and standby and watch him or her suffocate. If the culprit is a doctor, then he or she would know that artificial respiration could probably save the day. And thus the premeditation must be ongoing and continuous. In the case of an intramuscular, as opposed to intravenous injection, the culprit would have to hang out for 20 minutes waiting for the direct to take hold. Coppolino’s conviction remains today as the only case of second degree poisoning on record. Had he not decided to drop his appeals in the hope of an early release, he served 12 years, an appellate court might have ruled, as the U.S. Supreme Court once had in a second degree arson murder conviction, that since the killing could have only been first degree, the jury had in fact acquitted the defendant by finding him not guilty on that charge.”
Sarah: What does that say to you?
Mike: That feels like some, I don't know, rich people justice-y stuff where it's like, they maybe didn't want to get him life imprisonment or the death penalty. And so they're like, let's knock his charge down one level. That's the only thing I can think of.
Sarah: Yeah. My only guess Is that like in the way that jury’s do sometimes, there was some kind of a compromise. Like it speaks to the fact that if you're a juror, technically the choices you have are, he did it, and, let the punishment fit the crime. First degree murder, you don't get out after 12 years. Or it's like a way of being like, we're really not sure. Like, if he did it, then that's really bad. If he's innocent, then it would suck to send him to prison for life based on the testimony of the scorned hypnosis victim. So, eh?
Mike: It’s also weird because if he did it, it is like a really chilling crime. I mean, it is premeditated. And it is purely for personal gain. Part of me feels like, oh, he's a doctor, can we really blame him for this? Like, I think there's probably some of that going on on juries generally in the 1960s.
Sarah: Yeah. And I feel like this makes the defense harder and may actually make the wife defense harder. Where maybe if he were defending him against a charge of something like, she was strangled, and without saying that he did it, fellows who among us Blah-blah-blah... Like, I feel like that is an undertone that you could have with male jurors at that time. It's a lot harder to be like, who among us hasn't wanted to systematically and with premeditation stand above our dying wife and watch as she dies for life very slowly.
Mike: So do you think that he did it, what's your hunch? What does your gut tell you?
Sarah: You know what, like my position on all of these is that it's not my business. Right. I mean, it's funny because I look at that, I read Bailey's account, and like there's a part of me that's like, “That doesn't look good.” But also, I just feel like it's not my responsibility to form an opinion on these things. Like I like, F. Lee Bailey, do not enjoy building coherent stories as much as I enjoy punching a bunch of tiny holes in one and then looking at what shines through.
Mike: Yeah. And as with so many of these crimes, as we've learned from like responsible, true crime nonfiction, oftentimes no theory of the crime makes any sense. And there's going to be gaping holes in any scenario. And like, we all just have to live with it.
Sarah: And we're like, well, Uh, an owl did it? Or something.
Mike: Or probabilistic. It's like 65% chance he probably murdered his wife, but there's also like a pretty significant chance he didn't murder his wife. That's as good as it's going to get in a lot of these cases.
Sarah: Right. And it's like, men tend to murder their wives, but also most of them don't, so hard to say.
Mike: Not all men, Sarah, you've been listening to those people.
Sarah: Not all husbands. So, okay. I want to take us on a little tangent and journey before we conclude, because this is like a fun little cul de sac for me. And I think it will be for you also.
Mike: Yeah. We're in Edward Scissorhands, suburbia. We're going down a little windy, cul de sac.
Sarah: Love it. So, yeah. So just pretend that I've just taken you on like F. Lee Bailey going down memory lane. And now he's like on the phone with Bob Shapiro and Bob's like, “Lee!” And he's telling him to hire a private investigator in Chicago to figure out, you know, what's OJ’s state of mind. And so we're going back to American Tragedy. The book tells us “Both men assumed the prosecution would produce expert witnesses to explain how a man who had just killed two people might behave. The defense needed to know every detail of Simpson's behavior. Bailey's lead investigator was a former New York city detective named John McNally, famous during his days on the forest for tracking down a jewel thief named ‘Murph the surf’.” So are those words inspiring to you? Because they are, to me.
Mike: I was just going to say, it's such Sarah bait.
Sarah: Just the words ‘Murph the surf’.
Mike: As soon as you find a funky name and a weird obscure case, you're like, I am digging into this.
Sarah: Yes, I did. And I didn't have to dig very far because ‘Murph the surf’ was like the toast of the town in the 1960s. So yeah, he was a surfer and general cool guy about town, and in the sixties he committed the single largest jewel heist in New York City history and stole a bunch of jewels from the American Museum of Natural History.
Mike: Stealing from a museum is a bold move.
Sarah: Yeah. Although significantly less bold at the time, it turns out. And so the New York Times story about him after his death, which was last September, that headline, which I want you to remember is Jack ‘Murph the surf’ Murphy: Heist Mastermind, Dies at 80.
Mike: Okay. Heist mastermind. I am listening.
Sarah: “It was not that the job was so well-planned rather security for the fourth floor hall of gems was just terrible. Burglar alarms had long ago stopped working, windows at night were left a jar for ventilation, and there were only eight guards for the museum's dozens of interconnected buildings.” For the museum, if you were a white guy wearing a nice hat in the sixties, life was just an endless, almost consequence-free, smash and grab and like murder bonanza. I guess that's what people are mourning now.
Mike: This reminds me when thieves stole The Scream, you know, the famous painting, the Home Alone, painting that they stole from this museum in Oslo. And afterwards journalists were like, “Well, why didn't you have an alarm that got tripped when they stole it?” And the museum director was like, “Oh, that would bother the other patrons of the museum. It would be too loud.” So they just went in and they stole this priceless piece of art with like no effort whatsoever.
Sarah: So steal from the Norwegians, hot tip.
Mike: Basically all of Scandinavia is just a “leave a penny, take a penny” trust system.
Sarah: So in the sixties, Murph is surfing around in Miami. He meets Allen Keon, who's a scuba diver, and they begin stealing together. So first they're stealing art from houses on the waterfront, and they get away by boat. Then in 1964, they go to New York City. They threw parties. They just rob people that are at bars. You know, they're doing a lot of small scores. And then here's what the New York Times says, “At the JP Morgan Hall of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History, they noted lack security and gawked at what they found there. The star of India, a 563 karat oval shaped blue Sapphire, 2.5 inches long. A golf ball is 1.68 inches in diameter, a long star Ruby at 100 point 32 karats. And the 116 karat midnight star, one of the world's largest black sapphires.” And so they have another co-conspirator in Clark, he's their lookout. And on the night of October 29th, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Keon, carrying a coil of rope, scale the tall iron fence behind the museum, climbed a fire escape to the fifth floor, and inched along a narrow ledge. And so they get in because they just go in through the window. Yeah, it's great. And these glass cutters on the gem displays and put duct tape over that. And then I guess, smash and grab.
Mike: So less sophisticated than the first five minutes of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Sarah: Yeah. Much less. And so they get 22 pieces and they go back out the window. And this is my favorite part, “They climbed down and walked away, encountering several police officers on their beat. “Good evening, officer”, Mr. Murphy said. They gave him a nod and continue walking.”
Mike: Clink, clink, clink.
Sarah: I don't know. I guess like the world that this depicts, I mean, this is like now we have all agreed to live in a general state of surveillance is the main difference.
So they get caught almost immediately, because they're staying in a hotel, a clerk tips off the police because this of course makes news everywhere because we don't get a ton of jewel heists. And here's another quote, “In the penthouse, investigators found a museum floor plan, brochures on its gem collections, and sneakers with glass shards in the souls. Their search was interrupted when Marshall Clark walked in, he admitted the theft and said, “Mr. Murphy and Mr. Keon had taken the gems to Miami.” A day later, all three were in custody. They all spend about two years at Rikers, and then they are released.
And then what happens after that is that Murph, as the press knows him, ‘Murph the Surf’, continues basically trying to find angles, trying to find ways to steal. And so he and a guy named Jack Griffith embark on a plan to conspire with two young women named Terry Ray Frank and Annalee Moan, who are secretaries who have stolen the equivalent of $500,000 worth of stocks and bonds from the brokerage where they work in Southern California.
Mike: White collar stuff.
Sarah: Yeah. They're getting into white collar stuff.
Mike: Much more lucrative.
Sarah: What happens next is that Terry Ray Frank and Annalee Moan take their stolen goods to Florida to divvy up. They go out on the water with Murph and his new co-conspirator this time. They apparently argue about how big of shares everybody is going to get, and Murph and Griffith killed them both.
Mike: Oh, wow, what? Oh yeah. That's bad.
Sarah: It's bad. And there's something about how when ‘Murph the surf’, you know, dies many years later, he and Griffith both basically accuse each other of the murders. They both go to prison. Murph is, like Coppolino, is also released after less time than he would serve if he were sentenced today, I think. And actually something that he said near the end of his life in a Sports Illustrated article about the murders is, “It's a nightmare. I remember everything”.
Mike: Oh, wow. I mean, is that a statement of remorse?
Sarah: I think you could take it either way. I feel like what I like about it is that it feels to me like there's an honesty of, like, I feel like when someone is asked to describe a murder that they committed, you could very easily be like, “I regret it every day”, which I'm sure is true. But like, that's kind of a given, there's a lot of kind of dead language that is sort of reassuring people that you regret murdering someone.
I feel like a lot of my initial interest in kind of people who end up in true crime stories comes from the fact that like, the worst thing I can think of is like hurting someone or killing someone and then having to live with yourself after, or like being dangerous and not being able to help it. That seems awful to me. I guess I like that he's like, “I killed people and I remember it and it's awful.”
Mike: I made a girl cry at the bus stop in seventh grade, and I probably think about it once a month. I mean, not that like my primary sympathy is with him rather than her obviously, but like these things that you do sort of echo in your mind for decades.
Sarah: Yeah. Like the greater sympathy belongs to the person who didn't deserve to be murdered. As no one does. And like, okay, what I find most interesting here and as a parallel to OJ is like, ‘Murph the Surf’ is not that well-known, but people do know that name. Like he was big for this burglary and people who remember him, I think tend to remember him fondly. Like, if there's name recognition, then I think it's along the lines of like’ Murph the Surf’, fun guy who stole all those jewels. As opposed to like the guy who, if he didn't kill anybody, he helped kill people. It feels like we have just not metabolized that at all. And like, he's not that big of a part of culture. You know, he hasn't been since 1965, but like the fact that he can sort of like, that his legacy is sort of secure as like a fun-loving jewel thief, who like also maybe committed a double homicide, but that's, but it's like, there's no room for that. Cause the jewel thief part is so fun and we really want to keep that alive. It feels relevant.
Mike: Because OJ is the same thing that we want to keep this happy go lucky football player in our minds.
Sarah: Yeah. And just like when you have a prior idea of somebody, it's like weirdly easy to ignore someone having committed a murder, I guess. Like, if we're incentivized to do so, we can kind of accept that and move on, apparently. At least with the public.
Mike: Yeah. I wonder if this is how people who knew her as a nuclear analyst feel about Ina Garten. I can't metabolize this new information.
Sarah: Ah, and you brought us home. So we have covered a single phone call. You're welcome.
Mike: I think that's a new record of like slowness for this series.
Sarah: Maybe. F. Lee Bailey got a phone call, and at the end of this episode, he is on the phone still.
Mike: And I guess he's joined the team, right? Like he's now part of the Dream Team.
Sarah: Yeah. He's into it. He's like, Oh yeah. He basically like starts working on the phone call about hiring him. Yeah. Cause Shapiro's like, “Do you want to work on this trial?” And he's like, “Yes. Why don't we hire an investigator to go to Chicago? How about the ‘Murph the Surf’ guy?” That is a single sentence that we, we managed to get through.
Mike: We covered, what does that- seven words? We covered seven words.
Sarah: Very proud of myself.
Mike: So, uh, yeah, I guess. That's it. That's this episode.
Sarah: So what did we learn, Mike?
Mike: That F. Lee Bailey used to be hot. I haven't moved on from that piece of information, I’m sorry.
Sarah: No me either. So coming up, we are going to talk a little bit more about some of F. Lee Bailey's past triumphs, because I want to, and because it's also going to leave us nicely poised to talk about some forensic junk science history.
Mike Yay! That's my favorite kind of junk science history.
Sarah: So yeah, just live your life with the confidence of someone who looked like Richard Burton, not so long ago.
Mike: And if you need to steal anything, do it in Norway.