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Traffic accident claims life of longtime, successful lawyer

Well-known Las Vegas attorney James “Bucky” Buchanan died in a traffic accident Saturday night after he crashed a Ferrari into a wall, Las Vegas police said.

The accident occurred just before 6 p.m. at Linden Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, near Bonanza Road and Hollywood Boulevard, Las Vegas police Lt. Steve Herpolsheimer said.

He said Buchanan was the only person in the vehicle. Herpolsheimer had no further details on the crash, which he said occurred near Buchanan’s home.

Police said in a news release late Saturday night — which did not specifically identify Buchanan — that the 74-year-old driver was attempting to back into his driveway when he suffered a "medical episode."

"This caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle and strike a concrete block wall with the rear of the vehicle," the release said.

The driver was taken to University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Buchanan spent most of his law practice as a defense attorney. He had a list of high profile clients and a quick wit.

In an April 2005 interview with the Review-Journal, asked why he came to Las Vegas nearly four decades ago, Buchanan said it was mostly for the strippers. Asked why he went into criminal defense work, Buchanan replied: “A funny thing happened on the way to the church.”

Buchanan was widely recognized as one of the most successful and talented lawyers in Las Vegas. He spent five years as a prosecutor in Las Vegas before going into defense work.

Michael Cherry, a Nevada Supreme Court Justice, said in the 2005 profile on Buchanan that he had an uncanny ability to entertain anyone he meets, including jurors.

“Even the people who say negative things about him like him,” Cherry said.

“People underestimate him,” Cherry said. “They think, `Oh, it’s Bucky,’ and then he comes into court and he is very, very good. He is one of the better trial lawyers.”

Buchanan played a part in the notorious Ted Binion murder case. His client, David Mattsen, was a felon accused of being in possession of a firearm, and the case was receiving significant media attention because Mattsen was one of a group of men originally arrested in the theft of $7 million from a vault belonging to Binion.

Jurors acquitted Mattsen at trial.

"I believe in God and Buchanan," Mattsen told the Review-Journal afterward.

Buchanan had his defeats, too. He lost a high-profile prosecution of Las Vegas teen Steven Gazlay, arrested in the 311 Boyz case and later convicted of beating a teen with a crowbar.

Buchanan’s law practice and some savvy business deals are believed to have netted him millions. He also starred for a time in a Court TV reality show called “Las Vegas Law.”

Buchanan, a native of Pennsylvania, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., and he worked for several years building bombs for the military.

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