By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, once one of Philadelphia’s most prominent criminal defense attorneys and a former district attorney, has passed away at age 84.

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Fitzpatrick served one term as Philadelphia’s DA — from 1974 until 1978 — but his son, Emmett Fitzpatrick III, says he was a reluctant politician.

“He really didn’t have a desire to get into politics in the first place,” the younger Fitzpatrick told KYW Newsradio today.  “He was recruited to run against (incumbent) Arlen Specter.   And he took the opportunity because he really wanted to make the DA’s office run the way he thought it should run.”

But after losing to fellow Democrat Ed Rendell in the 1977 primary, Fitzpatrick happily returned to private practice.

“All my father ever wanted to be was an attorney, in particular a criminal defense attorney.  He was asked to have some additional roles in politics, but he shied away from it,” Fitzpatrick III said.

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And it was as a criminal defense attorney that Fitzpatrick garnered the most attention, including his defense of some reputed mobsters.

But his son says the press attention didn’t matter to Fitzpatrick.

“He was as happy helping people that no one knew, and that were very low-profile cases and just ordinary people, as he was with high-profile cases,” he recalled.  “He really enjoyed helping people, especially people where the deck was stacked against them.”

Fitzpatrick retired in 2006 because of health issues, ending a legal career that stretched over six decades.


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