OJ seeks new trial in Las Vegas

A weary-looking O.J. Simpson weighed down by shackles and four

years in prison shuffled into a Las Vegas courtroom Monday hoping

to eventually walk out a free man.

His arrival in court to ask for a new trial in the armed robbery

case that sent him to prison in 2008 could be heard before he was

seen – as a loud rattling of the chains that bound his hands to his

waist and kept his feet together.

His lawyers had argued to forego the restraints but were

overruled. After the 65-year-old Simpson was seated, a guard

removed his handcuffs and clicked them onto the chair arms next to

him.

The once glamorous sports hero, who is more than four years into

a minimum nine-year prison sentence, was subdued as the hearing

began. Grayer and heavier, he flashed a smile and tried to mouth a

greeting to people he recognized before being stopped by a bailiff

who had cautioned against any communications.

Wearing a dingy blue prison uniform, Simpson listened intently

to testimony presented as his lawyers contend he had poor legal

representation in the trial involving the gunpoint robbery of two

sports memorabilia dealers in 2007 in a Las Vegas hotel room.

The attorney, Yale Galanter, had rejected appropriate defense

moves and even met with Simpson the night before the disastrous

heist to bless the plan as long as no one trespassed and no force

was used, Simpson has said.

Galanter was paid nearly $700,000 for Simpson’s defense but had

a personal interest in preventing himself from being identified as

a witness to the crimes and misled Simpson so much that he deserves

a new trial, lawyers for Simpson claim.

Simpson is scheduled to testify on Wednesday and say Galanter

advised him he was within his rights to retrieve the items.

Galanter is scheduled to testify on Friday and has declined

comment before his court appearance.

A lawyer for Simpson co-defendant Clarence “C.J” Stewart

testified Monday that a plea deal was offered to Simpson and

Stewart in the midst of trial.

Witness Brent Bryson said prosecutors told him the offer called

for a two- to five-year sentence for each defendant in return for

guilty pleas. Prosecutors said they were presenting it to Simpson’s

lawyer and later came back to tell him there was no deal, Bryson

said.

Bryson didn’t know if Simpson had ever been told about the deal

by his lawyer. Simpson claims he was not.

Under questioning by defense lawyers Patricia Palm and Ozzie

Fumo, Bryson and Simpson friend James Barnett, a wealthy

businessman, said Galanter’s biggest mistake was not challenging

the admission of a tape recording of the hotel room incident.

Barnett said he asked Galanter why he wasn’t hiring an expert to

analyze the recording for alterations.

“He said, `If you would give us $250,000, we would have it done.

We don’t have the money to analyze the tapes,,” Barnett

testified.

“Did you give it to him?” Palm asked.

“No. I had no confidence that he had any interest in the tapes

at all,” Barnett said.

Barnett said he was later told by Galanter’s co-counsel, Gabriel

Grasso, that Grasso had his 15-year-old son help him analyze the

tapes.

Bryson said there was a chain of custody issue because the tapes

had been sold to a tabloid news outlet that had them for eight days

before they were turned over to the court.

“The tapes were untrustworthy,” Bryson said. “Files had been

uploaded. Experts could not testify to their authenticity.”

Galanter allegedly insisted the tapes on which Simpson was heard

telling people that nobody was to leave the hotel room would help

his case rather than harm it.

Bryson said jurors later saw the tapes as evidence of a

conspiracy.

“The jury specifically stated they convicted on the tapes

because they considered the witnesses to be less than credible,” he

said. “They could have filed a motion to suppress the recordings

and they didn’t.”

Bryson ridiculed the idea that it would cost $250,000 to analyze

tapes, saying he could have had it done for $5,000 “and maybe a

case of beer.”

Simpson has said Galanter also discouraged him from

testifying.

“He consistently told me the state could not prove its case

because I acted within my rights in retaking my own property,”

Simpson said in a sworn statement.

Barnett and Simpson’s 43-year-old daughter, Arnelle, testified

about the ill-fated weekend that began with plans for a wedding at

which Simpson was to be best man.

Arnelle Simpson said her father was drinking all weekend and

seemed “tipsy” when she saw him at the Palms Hotel pool talking

with men who would later accompany him on his mission to retrieve

family pictures and footballs being peddled by memorabilia

dealers.

Simpson, with eyeglasses perched on his nose, took notes and

listened intently. His expression was flat and he showed no

reactions.

When it came time to leave the courtroom for lunch, bailiffs

hooked up his handcuffs to the heavy shackles again and he had

trouble lifting himself from the chair.

Still, a close friend saw a flash of the old, magnetic Simpson

personality.

“Not much muscle tone,” observed Sherman White, a former NFL

defensive lineman, teammate and friend of Simpson since they both

played for the Buffalo Bills. “But you saw a little of the O.J.

pizazz when he came in.”

White joined a family row in the courtroom that included two

Simpson cousins who had flown in to give him support.

Simpson’s drab appearance contrasted with the fancy clothing he

wore during his acquittal in his historic, high-profile 1995 murder

trial in Los Angeles in which he was acquittal of slaying of 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.

In contrast to the national swirl surrounding his “trial of the

century” in Los Angeles and the circus-like atmosphere during his

trial in Las Vegas, Monday’s proceedings attracted none of the

fans, protesters or attention-seekers typically drawn to celebrity

cases.

Except for an extra television truck or two, it was business as

usual outside the courthouse.

When the hearing opened the courtroom was partly empty and an

overflow room with closed-circuit hookups wasn’t needed.

Of the 22 allegations of conflict-of-interest and ineffective

counsel that Palm raised, Clark County District Court Judge Linda

Marie Bell has agreed to hear 19.

Simpson is expected to testify that to this day, he doesn’t know

there were guns in the room.

Simpson has testified just once in open court before – during

the wrongful death lawsuit.