LAS VEGAS — O.J. Simpson won a small victory on Tuesday when he returned to court for Day 2 of his attempt to win a new trial in his robbery case, when a judge said he could have one hand unshackled to drink water and take notes.
Simpson managed a smile and a waist-high wave with his shackled hand as he entered the courtroom and found friends and family members in the audience.
Simpson’s lawyers then convinced Clark County District Court Judge Linda Marie Bell to let the former football star and TV pitchman have his right hand free. Simpson’s left hand was still cuffed to the arm of his chair.
Lawyers for Simpson are claiming that his trial lawyer, Yale Galanter, gave such bad trial advice and had such conflicted interests that Simpson deserves a new trial.
The 65-year-old Simpson is serving nine to 33 years in prison for leading five men in the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2007.
“He looks like a beaten man,” said Thomas Scotto, 51, a close Simpson friend in the audience whose wedding was the reason for Simpson’s fateful trip to Las Vegas.
Since then, Scotto’s marriage has collapsed and he underwent three emergency surgeries for life-threatening intestinal ailments.
“You don’t think about it, but this has taken a toll on a lot of people,” Scotto said.
Galanter’s former friend and co-counsel, Gabriel Grasso, returned to the stand on Tuesday to provide more withering criticism about Galanter’s promises and performance during the 2008 trial and conviction and later appeal.
Grasso testified on Monday that Galanter took money for himself, didn’t pay him and refused to pay for experts to analyze crucial audio recordings that helped convict Simpson.
“Hey Gabe. Wanna be famous?” Grasso recalled Galanter asking as the two embarked on a relationship that later deteriorated into lawsuits over a handshake agreement to represent Simpson and split an expected $750,000 in legal fees — a third for Grasso and two-thirds for Galanter.
Grasso said he was only paid $15,000, even though the weight of pretrial work fell to him.
He said Galanter kept telling him that he didn’t have money to hire investigators or an expert to analyze crucial audio recordings that were later played for the Simpson jury.
Grasso said he reviewed the recordings himself while watching his son’s soccer games.
Galanter was expected to take the witness stand on Friday. He declined comment Monday.
Attorneys for the state, H. Leon Simon and Leah Beverly, were expected to cross-examine Grasso on Tuesday.
Grasso also said Galanter blocked Simpson from testifying, even though Grasso thought Simpson’s best chance at acquittal was to tell his own story to the jury.
Simpson was scheduled to testify for the first time in the case on Wednesday.
Galanter said he would talk with Simpson about a proposed plea deal, but the lawyer never told Grasso why he rejected it, Grasso testified. He didn’t know if Simpson was even told about a possible deal.
Simpson, who will be 70 before he is eligible for parole, maintains that he wasn’t.
Grasso also said he believes Simpson never saw guns in the cramped hotel room where he and five other men confronted two collectibles dealers and a man who arranged the meeting.
Simpson maintained he was trying to recover personal items stolen from him after his acquittal in 1995 in the Los Angeles slaying his wife and her friend.
Simpson was later found liable for damages in a civil wrongful death lawsuit and ordered to pay $33.5 million to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.