Interviewing experts like the defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey, Mr. Graham functioned in the courtroom the way color commentators did at sporting events, covering the 1991 acquittal of William Kennedy Smith in a Florida rape case and the 1992 acquittals of four Los Angeles police officers videotaped in the beating of Rodney King, a black man. Ensuing riots left more than 50 people dead and 2,000 injured.
“Although fans of courtroom dramas may miss the big revelations, the surprise witnesses, the tricky tactics, the climactic confessions that make such shows what they are, the real stuff has a fascination of its own, especially when principles are at stake,” Walter Goodman said in a review in The Times. “Along with the legal issues, the program offers character sketches, moments of emotion and even entertaining interludes.”
Mr. Graham’s best-known Court TV coverage unfolded in Los Angeles in 1995 as O.J. Simpson, the former football and Hollywood star, was acquitted in the 1994 killings of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald L. Goldman. Besides legal analysis, Mr. Graham offered running interpretations of lawyers’ body language, witnesses’ facial expressions and other little dramas.
“Bailey’s gripping the podium very, very tightly,” Mr. Graham reported during crucial testimony by Detective Mark Fuhrman, a star prosecution witness, while at the prosecutor’s table, “Marcia Clark and Chris Darden look very relaxed and happy with this witness.”
Mr. Graham, who became Court TV’s managing editor and retired in 2008, insisted that cameras in courtrooms did no harm. “I have covered hundreds of televised trials,” he wrote in The Times in 1995, “and there was no hint that the camera adversely affected any of them.”
Fred Patterson Graham was born in Little Rock, Ark., on Oct. 6, 1931, one of four children of Otis and Lois Patterson Graham. He attended schools in Texarkana, Ark., and graduated from West End High School in Nashville, where his father was a Presbyterian minister.
He received a bachelor’s degree from Yale in 1953. In his three years in the Marine Corps, he served in Korea and Japan as an infantry and intelligence officer. He received a law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1959, and another from Oxford University in England in 1960. He then practiced law in Nashville for three years.
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