There was a time in the early 1990s when O. J. Simpson seemed to have it all: fame and fortune as a retired football star, rugged charisma, a beautiful wife, and even a burgeoning movie career, thanks to his role in the popular “Naked Gun” movies. But those heady days must now seem to be part of another man’s life.
First came the “Trial of the Century” in 1995, which saw Simpson acquitted on murder charges relating to the death of ex-wife Nicole and her friend, Ronald Goldman, and then his conviction by a civil jury which found the Hall of Famer liable for their deaths. A $33.5 million damages claim resulting from that unlawful death suit has been largely unpaid.
Now, almost twenty years later, “The Juice” is fighting for his freedom after serving more than four years of a 33 year sentence in a Nevada prison. In October 2008, Simpson was convicted on 12 charges, including kidnapping and armed robbery, for his part in a raid on a room at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino a year earlier.
Simpson had claimed that he was simply trying to recover stolen property which was rightfully his, and that he was unaware that one of his colleagues was carrying a gun.
Although a separate appeal against this conviction was rejected in 2010 by the Nevada Supreme Court, Simpson’s legal team is confident that this latest petition will lead to a retrial. The week-long hearing will consider evidence that Yale Galanter, Simpson’s lead defense in the 2008 trial, mishandled the case. Documents presented to Clark County District Judge Linda Marie Bell allege that Galanter gave Simpson bad advice prior to the casino raid and then prevented him from testifying on his own behalf during the subsequent trial.
Attorney Osmaldo Fumo said on Tuesday that “There are nineteen issues here in our writ and all you need is one of them to be granted and Mr. Simpson gets a new trial.”
Simpson himself appeared on the stand on Wednesday, grey-haired and manacled by the feet and one hand, and told the court that Galanter had failed to mount a reasonable defense due to a conflict of interest in the case. According to Simpson, Galanter knew of the raid in advance, and had told the former footballer that he had a legal right “to get your stuff”. When asked by attorney Patricia Palm if he thought that what he was doing was legal, Simpson replied that “It was my stuff. I followed what I thought the law was. My lawyer told me ‘You can’t break into a guy’s room’ and I didn’t break into the room. I didn’t beat up anybody.”
Simpson also said that a no-guns policy was discussed with his five colleagues before the raid, and that he was unaware that one of the men had brought one.
Thursday saw more twists in the proceedings, with an attorney for Fred Goldman, the father of Ronald, claiming that the goods at the casino did not actually belong to Simpson. David Cook told the court that his client has rights to some of the football memorabilia, if and when it is sold, as part of outstanding damages from 1997’s civil suit. Simpson replied that he had no intention of selling the collectibles, and hoped to give them to his children some day.
The allegations that Galanter had a crucial conflict of interest continued with testimony from Malcolm LaVergne, one of Simpson’s lawyers from the 2010 appeal. LaVergne stated that Galanter had green-lighted the raid on two memorabilia dealers by saying that it was okay for Simpson to take back photos and footballs from a hotel room at the casino, providing he didn’t trespass or use violence.
According to other evidence presented on Thursday, Galanter billed Simpson more than $500,000 for his services.
The appeal continues until Friday, with O. J. Simpson’s hopes of another run at freedom depending on whether Judge Bell decides that he was misrepresented at his trial almost five years ago.