LAS VEGAS — O.J. Simpson asked the full Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday to do what three of its members have already declined to do – overturn his conviction and sentence in a botched Las Vegas hotel room heist.
Las Vegas lawyer Malcolm LaVergne argued in his last-step appeal to the state’s highest court that the jury in Simpson’s 2008 trial in Las Vegas wasn’t fully screened for bias, that blacks were improperly dismissed from the jury and that kidnapping charges weren’t proved.
“Simply stated, having an all-white jury sitting in judgment of an African-American who was at the epicenter of the most racially divisive criminal trial of all time during the mid-1990s is simply unacceptable, regardless of Mr. Simpson’s notoriety,” the 12-page document said.
The appeal was expected after a three-justice panel rejected Simpson’s appeal in October. The panel also denied Simpson a rehearing in February. Simpson is currently serving a 9 to 33 year sentence.
It also might not be the last word in the case if the former college and professional football star, actor, advertising pitchman and celebrity criminal defendant loses and appeals to federal courts.
The appeal was notable for the absence of involvement of Simpson trial attorney Yale Galanter. He represented Simpson before and after his arrest in Las Vegas, but he withdrew from the case in February for unspecified reasons.
Galanter told The Associated Press on Thursday he’s still Simpson’s lawyer, but he declined to say if he would return to the case if Simpson loses the Nevada Supreme Court appeal.
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Galanter has been busy in recent months representing outspoken actor Charlie Sheen, the 45-year-old fired star of the hit CBS show “Two and a Half Men.” Sheen is suing show producers for breach of contract and recently reached a custody agreement with his estranged wife over their twin sons.
In Las Vegas, Clark County District Attorney David Roger was out of the office Thursday and didn’t immediately respond to messages about the Simpson case. Roger has said he believes the state high court thoroughly dealt with Simpson’s appeal.
An attorney who has followed the Simpson case from the start told AP on he didn’t think the seven Nevada high court justices will reach a different conclusion than their three colleagues.
“He most likely will not get a different outcome,” attorney Al Lasso said. “But it’s always good to get a fresh look with new eyes.”
Simpson “sits in prison with a 33-year sentence imposed for a brief confrontation that involved no bodily harm,” LaVergne said in Thursday’s filing, “over a dispute involving Mr. Simpson’s legitimate claim to property stolen from him.”
He called Simpson’s conviction on the most serious charges, kidnapping, flawed and “a mockery of real kidnapping cases and prior precedent.” He also said Simpson was prevented from arguing that the items taken during the hotel room heist belonged to him. He asked for the entire case against Simpson to be thrown out.
The 63-year-old Simpson was convicted with co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, of kidnapping, armed robbery and other charges stemming from a confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers and a middle man in a room in a Las Vegas casino hotel in September 2007. Four other former co-defendants pleaded guilty to lesser charges, testified at trial and received sentences of probation.
Stewart served more than two years in prison before the Nevada Supreme Court granted him a new trial, ruling in October that Simpson’s fame tainted the proceedings.
One of the collectibles peddlers, Bruce Fromong, blames a host of woes on the confrontation, including shoulder and leg injuries, four heart attacks, an inability to work, vandalism at his North Las Vegas home and his need to take prescription medication.
LaVergne said Simpson’s notoriety meant Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass should have allowed more thorough questioning of prospective jurors to identify bias before testimony was presented in Las Vegas.
Glass had 500 potential jurors fill out 26-page questionnaires that included questions about Simpson’s 1995 acquittal in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles. Half the Las Vegas jury pool was eliminated after expressing strong feelings that Simpson was guilty in that case.
Glass also instructed the final panel to put aside opinions about the Los Angeles case.
Through a court clerk, Glass declined comment Thursday.