May 10, 2013

O.J. Simpson to get hearing in quest for new trial

By Ken Ritter / The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — O.J. Simpson will return next week to the Las Vegas courthouse where he was convicted of leading an armed sports memorabilia heist, to ask a judge for a new trial on the grounds that his lawyer botched his case.

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O.J. Simpson, who was convicted of leading five men in an armed sports memorabilia heist, will ask a judge in Las Vegas for a new trial because, he says, his lawyer botched his defense.

2008 Associated Press File Photo

Simpson will take the witness stand to testify that the Florida lawyer who collected nearly $700,000 is to blame for his armed robbery and kidnapping conviction in 2008 and his failed appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court in 2010.

Simpson's testimony in open court will offer a first look at the 65-year-old former football star since he was handcuffed and sent to prison more than four years ago. Simpson didn't testify at his Las Vegas trial or in the historic case that led to his 1995 acquittal in the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend in Los Angeles.

Instead of an expensive suit and tie, Simpson will be dressed in blue Nevada Department of Corrections clothing – grayer, heavier and limping a little more from long-ago knee injuries, friends say. He is now Nevada inmate No. 1027820, a far cry from his playing days when he wore jersey No. 32, won the Heisman Trophy, earned the nickname "The Juice" in the NFL and gained induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Simpson is scheduled to be in Clark County District Court beginning Monday for the entire five-day hearing. He could testify Wednesday before a judge who has agreed to hear 19 separate points, mostly claiming that lawyer Yale Galanter provided such poor representation that Simpson deserves a new trial.

Simpson is serving a nine- to 33-year sentence that makes him first eligible for parole at age 70.

If he wins a new trial, prosecutors would have to decide whether to retry him for an incident that happened in September 2007 or offer a plea deal, sparing the time and expense of another trial.

In a sworn statement outlining his upcoming testimony, Simpson said he told Galanter in advance that he planned to confront two collectibles dealers in Las Vegas and retrieve what he expected would be family photos, heirlooms and personal sports mementoes that he believed had been stolen from him after his "trial of the century" in Los Angeles.

"I fully disclosed my plan to Yale Galanter, and he advised me that I was within my legal rights," he said.

Simpson said the two even had dinner the night before in Las Vegas, and Galanter told him the plan was OK as long as he didn't trespass on private property or use physical force.

Simpson claims that at trial, Galanter told him he didn't need to testify because prosecutors failed to prove their case, and didn't tell him about a plea offer by prosecutors that would have gotten him a minimum of two years in prison.

"Had I understood that there was an actual chance of conviction, I would have accepted such an offer," Simpson said.

Galanter, who is expected to testify Friday, declined to comment ahead of his appearance.

Throwing trial attorneys under the bus on appeals is a common legal tactic for people convicted of crimes – but rarely successful.

The burden of proof in a post-conviction writ of habeas corpus is on the defendant to convince a judge – not a jury – that the trial was tainted and new evidence might yield acquittal. It's not yet clear whether Clark County District Court Judge Linda Marie Bell will make an immediate ruling or issue a written decision later.

Bell didn't handle the trial, and both prosecutors have retired. Most of the colorful cast of characters involved in Simpson's first trial won't be involved in next week's hearing. Attorneys put the number of expected witnesses at 16 – including lawyers, experts, Simpson friends and his 44-year-old daughter, Arnelle.

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