Like many criminally-minded “gentlemen”, former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL professional football star O.J. Simpson still has swag. This week O.J. was back in court testifying for two days on a writ of habeas corpus requesting a new trial on his 2008 armed- robbery conviction for storming into a Palace Station Hotel and Casino Las Vegas hotel room and forcibly retrieving his beloved sports momentos from two sports memorabilia dealers. Simpson was convicted of armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges and sentenced to nine to 33 years in prison.
According to the Associated Press, it was an older, grayer and bulkier O.J. Simpson who shuffled to the witness stand in the courtroom of Clark County Nevada Judge Linda Marie Bell on Wednesday, his leg shackles rattling. In his testimony, Simpson stated “that he relied on the advice of his trusted attorney when he tried to reclaim mementos from his football glory days.”
“It was my stuff. I followed what I thought was the law,” the 65-year-old former NFL star and actor said. “My lawyer told me I couldn’t break into a guy’s room. I didn’t break into anybody’s room. I didn’t try to muscle the guys. The guys had my stuff, even though they claimed they didn’t steal it.”
Simpson explained that he had followed the advice of his longtime former lawyer, Yale Galanter, which was why he didn’t testify at his Las Vegas trial. He also stated that he was unaware that any of his co-defendant were carrying guns. When defendants do not testify on their own behalf at trial, it typically means one of two things:
Either their attorneys believe that the prosecution’s case is weak, which will lead to acquittal or a mistrial without their defendant testifying, or they believe that their client will not fare well on the witness stand when subjected to cross-examination.
At his hearing on Wednesday, Simpson claimed that he had been poorly represented at his 2008 armed robbery trial because his attorney Galanter had a conflict of interest because he knew in advance that Simpson planned on confronting the two sports memorabilia dealers.
Nevada state attorney H. Leon Simon conducted a brief cross-examination of Simpson that focused on the advice Simpson received from his trial lawyers, Galanter and co-counsel Gabriel Grasso. Simpson acknowledged that he followed Galanter’s advice not to testify rather than co-counsel Grasso’s recommendation.
Simpson did admit that he didn’t have a legal right to take some of the sports memorabilia which included baseballs signed by Pete Rose and Duke Snyder and lithographs of football great Joe Montana. In what might be viewed as a particularly “over the top” rationalization, Simpson said he thought “those items would be returned later. He also said he didn’t remember taking a hat from one of the dealers.”
Under questioning by his current lawyer Patricia Palm, Simpson gave a detailed description “of a weekend that began with plans for a friend’s wedding and ended with him under arrest.”
Simpson explained that he knew the memorabilia dealers, was not afraid of them and certainly didn’t need guns to liberate “his” memorabilia.
“There was no talk of guns at all,” he said. Simpson declared he never even saw guns during the confrontation.
During the 2008 trial, however, two former co-defendants who testified for the prosecution, said they were carrying guns when they barged into the memorabilia dealers’ hotel room.
If Simpson is to have any chance of winning a new trial, he must show that Galanter did have conflicted interests and gave him bad trial and appellate advice.
Interestingly, although the trial prosecutor testified earlier that preliminary discussions about a plea bargain had taken place with Galanter, during his testimony, Simpson testified he never heard anything about a plea bargain being under consideration.
Asked by Palm if he knew he could have gotten as little as 30 months in prison if he pleaded guilty to robbery, Simpson said no, and that he would have considered it if he had known.
In addition, Simpson stated that Galanter told him that “he could not be convicted on the charges.”
The once dapper Simpson, now dressed in drab prison blues, “spoke clearly as he recounted events leading to the hotel room where the dealers had the memorabilia. His voice cracked a bit as he told of recognizing items on the bed, including framed photos that used to hang on the wall of his Los Angeles home.”
“Look at this stuff. Some of the stuff I didn’t really realize was gone. These were things I hadn’t seen in 10 years,” he said. “You know, you get a little emotional about it.”
Yes, so O.J. Simpson gets emotional about his sports momentos. Not to be cruel, but I’m sure a lot of people still get emotional about the hacking deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman in front of Brown’s Brentwood condo in 1994. A brief review of Simpson’s murder trial is in order.
O.J. Simpson’s 1994 Murder Trial:
O.J. Simpson was arrested in November of 1994 for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend Ronald Lyle Goldman. He was finally acquitted (not a mistrial — an outright acquittal) after a dramatic eight month trial in October of 1995. In a later civil hearing, Simpson was convicted under the preponderance of the evidence standard of the wrongful death of Goldman and for the battery of Brown. It is noted that although Simpson’s murder trial, which is undoubtedly one of the most famous in the history of American jurisprudence, garnered tremendous interest, it did not even begin to rise to the circus-like atmosphere that marred, and to a large degree made a mockery of our justice system, in Jodi Arias’ recent murder trial.
As many recall, Simpson hired a super-team of noted defense attorneys initially led by Robert Shapiro. His defense team claimed that LAPD police officer Mark Fuhrman — whose credibility was tainted in the eyes of the mostly African-American jury by accusations of racism — had planted inculpatory evidence against Simpson.
Simpson’s defense team’s success in largely discrediting Fuhrman was key to the acquittal. Perhaps equally important was the fact that Simpson’s team managed to convince the jury to ignore what was initially thought to be strong DNA evidence implicating Simpson.
The DNA Evidence:
Samples collected from bloody shoeprints leading away from the bodies and the back gate of the condominium were tested to see if they matched Simpson’s DNA. The initial polymerase chain reaction testing did not rule out Simpson as a suspect. More precise fragment length polymorphism tests matches were found between Simpson’s blood and blood samples taken from the crime scene (both the shoeprints in blood and the gate samples).
At the trial, police criminalist Dennis Fung testified that based on the DNA evidence, Simpson was present at Nicole Brown’s townhouse at the time of the murders. But in an eight-day cross-examination by Barry Scheck (now a leading attorney at The Innocence Project), most of the DNA evidence was questioned. Dr. Robin Cotton, of the Cellmark Diagnostics testing lab, testified for another six days. It was revealed that the blood evidence had been tested at two separate laboratories, each of whom conducted different tests.
Despite that safeguard, it emerged during the cross-examination of Fung and the other laboratory scientists that the police scientist Andrea Mazzola (who collected blood samples from Simpson to compare with evidence from the crime scene) was a trainee who carried the vial of Simpson’s blood around in her lab coat pocket for nearly a day before handing it over as an exhibit. Cellmark had a history of blood testing errors, one of which occurred in 1988. In the 1988 test, one of the companies hired by Simpson’s defense team for DNA consulting also made the same error. In any event, what should have been the prosecution’s strong point became their weak link amid accusations that bungling police technicians handled the blood samples with such a degree of incompetence as to render the delivery of accurate and reliable DNA results almost impossible.
Although Simpson was ultimately acquitted of the murder charges, many Americans believe to this day that he was actually guilty and blame his acquittal on his status as a former professional athlete and/or the ethnic and racial make-up of the jury. The jury consisted of 9 African-Americans, 1 Hispanic, and 2 Caucasians. 9 of the jury members stated that they thought Simpson was less likely to be guilty of the murder charges because he was a professional athlete. Because the acquittal left a bad taste in the mouth of so many, there was little support for Simpson at his Las Vegas armed robbery trial in 2008.
Does O.J. Simpson Have Any Chance of Winning a New Trial?
Las Vegas Judge Jackie Glass presided over O.J. Simpson’s armed robbery and kidnapping trial in 2008. She was asked this week by Christina McLarty, an “ong! Insider” for her opinion on whether Simpson has any chance of winning a new trial.
“A jury found him guilty of many serious charges and when you are convicted of those charges the only option, as a judge, was to send him to prison,” Glass states. “Because of the jury’s verdict, O.J. deserves to be in prison.”
“I watched that trial because I was the judge that presided over it and I saw the legal work that was done,” explains Glass. “Yale Galanter is a fine lawyer and did an outstanding job. The evidence in that case was overwhelming.”
In my opinion, the deck is stacked against O.J. Simpson being granted a new trial. Beating the odds, however, was his specialty until his luck ran out in the Las Vegas trial in 2008. We’ll see what happens this time around. Love him or hate him, and at this point I suspect the “haters” far outnumber those still willing to give him a pass, one thing is undeniable. The man still has his swag on.
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