Ernest Medina was an interesting military case that F. Lee Bailey had. It was in the midst of the Vietnam War, in 1971, that he took on the case. F. Lee Bailey was known to take on high-profile cases, and his case involving an Army Captain who might have had responsibility in a massacre during the Vietnam War was one such prestigious case. It was for a court-martial for his part in the massacre at My Lai.
F. Lee Bailey was already a serious figure in criminal defense at the time he defended Ernest Medina in the court martial. He had achieved a lot of fame and success for his work in the retrial of Samuel Sheppard, and he had successfully proven that there was someone else at the scene, and that Samuel Sheppard could not have murdered his wife. This man had spent ten years in prison, and he had gotten out based on the work of F. Lee Bailey. He had also garnered fame with the case of “The Boston Strangler”. In these huge trials, along with other huge trials, he had attained a ton of fame. He used the media much more than other attorneys. He was considered to be a self-admirer that liked the spotlight. He successfully defended the captain.
The investigation of Media turned up some interesting tidbits. First of all, he told his men that all of the residents in the village could be Viet Cong sympathizers. Many of the soldiers thought that they would only find armed enemies, and that added to the killing of civilians. He supervised, ordered, and planned the execution of an operation outside the law in the village, and he burned houses, killed livestock, destroyed crops, closed the wells, and he killed any people in the village by implication. He might have personally killed three noncombatants in the village. He then suppressed information about the killing of people who were noncombatants in the village. It looked pretty grim for Ernest Medina, but F. Lee Bailey successfully defended him. F. Lee Bailey got him an acquittal. This only added to his resume and his powerful attorney skills.
He got court-martialed in 1971 for knowingly allowing his men to kill the noncombatants in the village. He denied every one of the charges, and he claimed that he had never given any orders to kill any noncombatants. His defense team, led by esteemed and prestigious, and successfully credentialed, attorney, F. Lee Bailey said that his men killed the noncombatants of their own free will and not under the orders of Medina. Media also said that he didn’t become aware of his troops’ behavior in the village until it was too late.
Media also denied murdering any village noncombatants, with the exception of one woman who a couple of soldiers testified that they discovered hiding out in a ditch. When she came out of the ditch with her hands in the air, Medina shot her because he thought she had a grenade. She was unarmed in reality. The defense lawyers brought up a lot of things during war of Viet Cong sympathizers faking surrender in order to use grenades or pistols that were hidden to kill Americans.
In 1971, he was found not guilty on all the charges relating to more than 500 dead in the massacre, most of them civilians. The deliberations of the trial lasted just one hour. His military career was over after that, and he resigned from the Army afterward.
A lieutenant was serving under Medina, and who said he was following orders from Media, was found guilty of several crimes. He served 3.5 years in house arrest in his military quarters, and he was released in 1974 by a judge.
F. Lee Bailey is famous for serious, high-profile acquittals, and he is very good at what he does. He’s a master at getting juries to acquit, and he’s used his skills over several decades to prove time and time again that he’s still got it when it comes to getting people out of jail.
Ernest Medina was maligned by several pro-peace groups for his massacre, and they still believed that it was he that was responsible for the massacre, because they believed that there were a lot of massacres going on during the Vietnam War, and that it wouldn’t have been anything unusual for another massacre to have occurred. The fact that F. Lee Bailey would have taken this case on shows how much courage he had to defend someone that was in such a culturally significant position, but in a negative way. Ernest Medina went on to live a normal life afterward, and it was all thanks to F. Lee Bailey. We’ll never the truth of what really happened at that village that day, but Medina very well could have been sent to prison if things had gone differently with another attorney, and an innocent man might have been sent away for a long time.
The case of Ernest Medina was hotly contested, at least in the public arena. The Vietnam War was a hot issue for many people during that time, and the trial was a hot button for people who were saying that the Army was murdering innocent civilians. This added a lot of fuel to the fire, and it was also at a time when the Vietnam War was particularly unpopular. This trial highlighted an important part of American history, and F. Lee Bailey was famous for being involved in things important to American history. First, there was the James Earl Ray case, then there was the O.J. Simpson case, and before that, there was this. There are so many interesting cases that F. Lee Bailey made his mark on, and he also wrote over 17 books, and has constantly been seen in the media. He’s a historic American icon, and his work in cases like these only serves to illustrate his connection to the American cultural landscape.