Hearst was charged with armed robbery, and remanded in custody to await trial. Hearst’s parents engaged celebrated defence attorney, F Lee Bailey, to argue her case, which commenced in Los Angeles on 15th January 1976. Bailey had represented a number of high profile defendants, including Albert de Salvo (The Boston Strangler) but Hearst claimed later that Bailey proved a bad choice, and he often appeared poorly prepared during the trial and was suspected of being intoxicated on a number of occasions.
The trial lasted more than two months. Despite Bailey hiring some of the best psychological experts to argue the case for the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, as described by Hearst, the jury appeared unconvinced as a number of his experts appeared to contradict one another.
Bailey’s half-hearted, and intoxicated, summation of the defence case as the trial de to a close only added to the doubt sewn by the poor defence effort. The jury returned a guilty verdict, on 20th March 1976, and Hearst received the maximum sentence; 25 years for the robbery, and an additional 10 years for the use of a firearm in the commission of the robbery.
She was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute in Pleasanton, California.
A judicial review of the trial resulted in the reduction of Hearst’s jail sentence to seven years.
On 29th September 1976, Bill and Emily Harris pleaded guilty to the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. They served eight years in prison.
On 1st February 1979, less than two years into her jail sentence, President Jimmy Carter commuted Hearst’s jail sentence, and she was released under strict parole conditions.
After her release from prison, Hearst married her former bodyguard, Bernard Shaw, and they have two children, Gillian and Lydia, together. She became an actress for a time, with cameo roles in a number of John Waters’ films.
She wrote a memoir in 1982, entitled ‘Every Single Thing’, in which she describes her ordeal in detail. This was made into a film called ‘Patty Hearst’ in 1988. The book was then re-released under the title ‘Patty Hearst: Her Own Story’.
Using her family’s political connections, Hearst continued to try to have her name cleared through presidential intercession. Finally, thanks to former president Jimmy Carter’s direct involvement, President Bill Clinton granted her a full pardon on 20th January 2001, on the final day of his presidency.
It is likely that the American public will forever remain divided on whether Patty Hearst was a victim, or willing participant, in the crimes of which she was convicted.