The Perils of Courtroom Stories

As Janet Malcolm1 tells it, Sheila McGough was a middle-aged single woman living at home with her parents and working as an editor and administrator in the publications department of the Carnegie Institute when she decided to switch careers and go to law school. She applied and was admitted to the then recently accredited law school at George Mason University. After graduation, she began a solo practice in northern Virginia that involved a significant amount of stateappointed criminal defense work. In 1986, approximately four years after her graduation from law school, McGough received a call requesting assistance from an incarcerated arrestee named Bob Bailes. From the very start, McGough’s assistance to Bailes was unorthodox. Immediately upon meeting him at the Fairfax County, Virginia, lockup, she decided that his apparent poor health warranted her taking the unusual step of personally signing as guarantor for his bail.