November 27, 2013

Judge rejects OJ Simpson’s bid for new trial

The former football star argued that he received inadequate counsel during his robbery and kidnapping trial in 2008.

The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — A judge in Las Vegas rejected O.J. Simpson’s bid for a new trial on Tuesday, dashing the former football star’s bid for freedom based on the claim that his original lawyer botched his armed robbery and kidnapping trial in Las Vegas more than five years ago.

click image to enlarge

In this May 16, 2013, file photo, O.J. Simpson listens during an evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court, in Las Vegas. A judge in Las Vegas rejected Simpson’s bid for a new trial on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, dashing the former football star’s bid for freedom based on the claim that his original lawyer botched his armed robbery and kidnapping trial in Las Vegas more than five years ago.

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

“All grounds in the petition lack merit and, consequently, are denied,” Clark County District Judge Linda Marie Bell said.

Simpson lawyer Patricia Palm said she wanted to speak to Simpson before commenting on the decision. Ozzie Fumo, her co-counsel in the effort, said he expected they would appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, whose wife was the judge who presided over the Simpson trial in 2008, called Bell’s ruling “the right decision.”

“I believe Mr. Simpson received a fair trial and had more than competent counsel,” Wolfson said.

If the 66-year-old Simpson loses his appeal to the state high court, he could take the case to federal courts to argue his constitutional right to effective counsel was violated.

Bell’s 101-page ruling came after a Clark County District Court jury found Simpson guilty in 2008 of kidnapping, armed robbery and other charges in what he maintained was an attempt to retrieve memorabilia and personal items from two sports collectibles dealers in a casino hotel room.

It followed a small victory for Simpson in July, when Nevada parole commissioners granted parole on five concurrent sentences. The parole ruling didn’t free Simpson, because he still faces at least four more years for other convictions in the case.

Simpson was handcuffed and jailed following his conviction on Oct. 3, 2008, and sentenced that December to nine to 33 years in Nevada state prison.

His conviction in Las Vegas came 13 years to the day after the former movie and TV star was acquitted in the Los Angeles “trial of the century” in the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Six years later, a jury in Miami acquitted him of all charges in a Florida road rage case.

Simpson’s legal defense in his Las Vegas trial was headed at trial by the same Miami-based attorney, Yale Galanter, who represented him in the 2001 road rage case. Attorney Gabriel Grasso served with Galanter as co-counsel in Simpson’s Las Vegas case.

Galanter did not immediately respond Tuesday to messages seeking comment.

Simpson’s attorneys in his ongoing bid for freedom are Palm, Fumo and Tom Pitaro.

Bell rejected arguments that Simpson received inadequate legal representation during his trial and unsuccessful appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. That appeal was handled by Galanter after Grasso withdrew.

“Mr. Simpson’s convictions stem from serious offenses,” she wrote. The judge noted the involvement of six co-conspirators and “weeks” of advance planning.

“Mr. Simpson specifically asked two of his co-conspirators to bring weapons ... to show the sellers he meant business,” she said. And the two memorabilia dealers were “lured into a small hotel room” where they were surprised by Simpson’s group.

The judge considered a 94-page petition for a new trial and heard five days of testimony in May from 15 witnesses including Simpson, Galanter, Grasso and other lawyers involved in the trial.

Simpson’s new legal team later said they believed they presented overwhelming evidence that Galanter knew in advance of Simpson’s plan, had conflicted interests that shaped the way he handled Simpson’s case, and that as a result Simpson didn’t get a fair trial.

Simpson civil lawyer Malcolm LaVergne said Tuesday that he believed the team provided “compelling evidence that would justify release.”

Palm, Fumo and Pitaro sought to show that Galanter advised Simpson it was OK to take back his items and should have stepped aside so he could be called as a witness for Simpson’s defense.

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