Patty Hearst was a newspaper heiress, and she committed a lot of armed bank robberies once she was kidnapped by the SLA, and it was one Bailey’s trial defeats. Patty Hearst described his closing argument in her book as disjointed, and that she thought he was imbibing during the argument. During the closing argument, he spilled some water on his pants.
This was a notable trial because it was one of Bailey’s losses. It was also a famous person whom he was defending. It was an all-around loss, and Bailey didn’t like losing it either.
Patty Hearst robbed a bank in San Francisco holding an assault rifle, and she had been kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army a few months before. She was a rich heiress, and people wondered if she was acting in fear of her life. Could she have been brainwashed? There was a lot of speculation about why she did what she did Could she have participated in the robbery because she was a loyal soldier of the revolution they were carrying out? That was the big issue that a California jury had to think about in her 1976 trial. In 1974, three members of the SLA came into her apartment and kidnapped her. She was the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, and started to scream when they assaulted the man who was with her They carried her in a nightgown from her apartment and put in her in the trunk of a car.
The SLA let out a communiqué that said they were serving an arrest warrant on her. They ended with the message that it would be death to the fascists who prey upon the life of the people. They were trying to send some sort of message to them. The SLA sent an audiotape demanding that Hearst do a million dollar food giveaway. The SLA wanted to end capitalism. In the message, Patty Hearst said that she wanted to end the siege the way they wanted to.
He did organize a food giveaway for $2 million, but it was fraught with problems and disasters. Patty Hearst sent a message that he was doing a poor job with the food giveaway.
The public heard the weirdest message ever about 2 months after she was kidnapped. It said that she wanted to stay and fight for freedom. She wanted to fight for the freedom that they were fighting for.
There was a security tape released from the bank robbery that happened a few weeks later after the tape was released, and she is seen ordering customers to the floor and telling them that she is not fooling around. She is one of the main bank robbers in the tape.
A month later, there was another scuffle. She was attempting to steal ammo from a store.
Finally, 100 police officers stormed the house of what they believed to be a SLA hideout. Six members of the SLA were killed when they first opened fire on the police officers. Hearst did not die in the assault though.
The trial started on 1976, and the kidnapping victim had spent more than two months locked in a closet and blindfolded, and repeatedly sexually and verbally abused. She was still charged with armed robbery. She had changed her allegiance to the SLA by the time of her trial. She said that she had been brainwashed, and she said that she thought she would be killed if she was returned to her family.
F. Lee Bailey handled the defense for Patty Hearst, and he chose to use the strategy of trying to show that Hearst had undergone brainwashing and underwent what was called Stockholm Syndrome. He suggested throughout the trial that she did only what she had to do to stay alive during the time.
It’s a syndrome where people who become totally dependent on their captors start becoming sympathetic to them. Under Bailey’s theory, Hearst was never a voluntary member of the SLA or free agent.
The defense strategy of claiming duress and brainwashing, critics said, had many problems. First of all, the statements and actions of Hearst after the robbery seriously suggested that she was acting of her own free will. Jurors wondered why she never fled even though she had ample opportunities to do so. Bailey even got a psychiatrist to testify that Patty Hearst was brainwashed at the time of the robbery.
They went forward with the brainwashing theory, and they rejected every plea bargain deal that the prosecutors offered. Bailey might have thought that he couldn’t lose.
The verdict in the case came out after 12 hours of deliberating. A lot of jurors ended their session with some serious tears. She was convicted of armed robbery.
Hearst was handed down a seven year prison sentence. The President commuted her sentence to just time served. She got her release from prison after about 22 months. On the last day of Clinton’s full presidency, he gave her a full pardon.
One expert said that the case showed a sense of the fragility of the sense of self of the individual. The SLA destroyed Patty Hearst’s sense of self. It was a disturbing and troubling case, and she garnered a lot of sympathy from a lot of people. After all, she didn’t go out on her own and join the SLA of her own accord. She was kidnapped from her home, and then she was put into a closet where she underwent verbal and sexual abuse. She eventually came around to their way of thinking, and she never intended on being such a player in such a big game. However, it was scary to see just how easy it was to turn someone’s sense of self into nothing, or worse yet, something very much like what the kidnapping team were. Being able to kidnap someone, abuse them, and sexually abuse them, and then turn them into whatever they wanted is a scary thought, and it happened to a very high-profile person whom F. Lee Bailey defended in one of his high-profile cases.