By John M. Glionna Los Angeles Times
LAS VEGAS — A fuller-faced O.J. Simpson walked slowly into a courtroom here Monday wearing wrist shackles and a blue jail jumpsuit as he seeks a new trial in his sports memorabilia robbery and kidnapping conviction that sent him to prison.
The disgraced former all-star NFL running back and Heisman Trophy winner smiled and raised his eyebrows toward several friends and family members as marshals led him into a crowded courtroom before Clark County District Court Judge Linda Marie Bell.
Simpson, 65, has filed court papers claiming that shoddy legal representation from defense lawyer Yale Galanter led to his conviction in the gunpoint robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2007. Simpson’s defense argued he was merely trying to recover property that was rightly his.
Simpson received a sentence of nine to 33 years.
In the sworn statements, Simpson alleges that Galanter never told him that prosecutors had offered him a plea bargain. He says Galanter also had a conflict of interest in the case because he approved of Simpson’s plan to retrieve the family photos, footballs, trophies and other personal belongings as long as no one trespassed and no force was used.
Simpson has testified that he didn’t know that the five men who had accompanied him to the Palace Station hotel brought guns.
Simpson and Galanter are expected to take the stand in the retrial hearing, which is expected to last a week. Simpson will be 70 before being eligible for parole.
Simpson appeared decidedly heavier and grayer than he was when convicted in 2008, and a far cry from his playing days. But he was still a celebrity, prompting a marshal to admonish supporters and journalists against calling out or trying to get Simpson’s attention as he walked into the courtroom.
During Monday’s proceedings, Simpson watched in silence, occasionally conferring with his two lawyers as several witnesses took the stand, including his daughter, Amelle.
Bell has agreed to hear 19 of 22 allegations of conflict of interest alleged by Simpson’s lawyers.
In the past two decades, Simpson has become a regular in highly publicized court trials. In 1995, he was acquitted in a Los Angeles courtroom of the murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman. In a subsequent civil trial, Simpson was found liable for civil damages of $33.5 million.
That case was the only time that Simpson has testified in open court.
On Monday, a Las Vegas psychiatrist testified that on the night of the 2007 confrontation in the Palace Station, Simpson might have been affected by stress as well as from drinking for much of the day.
Eric Bryson, a defense attorney who represented one of Simpson’s co-defendants in the 2008 trial, also testified Monday that he questioned the rationale of several legal decisions made by Galanter, including not challenging several questionable audiotapes presented as evidence on which Simpson made “prejudicial statements.” The recordings had been made by a Simpson associate.
“FBI agents said at the time that they couldn’t verify that the tapes had not been tampered with and that there was no chain of custody,” Bryson said. “Without those tapes, there would have been no evidence of any kind of conspiracy.”
Amelle Simpson testified that she was in Las Vegas working as a wedding planner at the time of the 2007 robbery and said that her father had been drinking the night before and the day of the hotel room confrontation.
She said she had dinner with her father and several others on the night before the robbery. And while the move to retrieve the mementos was discussed by her father and others, there was no mention of guns or weapons, she testified.