LAS VEGAS — O.J. Simpson’s lawyer told a panel of Nevada Supreme Court justices Friday that the former football star’s conviction in a gunpoint hotel room heist amounted to prejudicial “payback” for Simpson’s 1994 double-murder acquittal.
“This was not a search for truth but became a search for redemption,” attorney Yale Galanter said as he pleaded for the court panel to overturn Simpson’s conviction and grant a new trial in the September 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers in Las Vegas.
Justices Mark Gibbons, Michael Cherry and Nancy Saitta won’t make an immediate ruling. A decision is expected later this year.
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Neither Simpson nor convicted co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart were in court for the crucial oral appeals. Their attorneys previously filed lengthy briefs challenging their 2008 convictions and sentences but lost a bid for the same three justices to let Simpson and Stewart out of prison until the appeal is settled.
Simpson, an NFL hall-of-famer, actor and advertising pitchman who turns 63 next month, is serving nine to 33 years at a state prison in the northern Nevada town of Lovelock.
Stewart, 56, a former Simpson golfing buddy from North Las Vegas, is serving 7½ to 27 years at High Desert State Prison northwest of Las Vegas.
Clark County District Attorney David Roger says Simpson and Stewart’s September 2008 trial was contentious but fair, the sentences were just, and their appeals should be denied.
Galanter argues that Simpson’s fame — and his acquittal in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman in Los Angeles — made the Las Vegas proceedings “a referendum on O.J. Simpson’s life.”
Galanter alleges judicial misconduct, insufficient evidence, a lack of racial diversity on the jury, and errors in sentencing and jury instructions.
“O.J. Simpson brought such baggage into the courtroom that special care had to be taken during jury selection, jury instruction, during testimony and the whole trial,” Galanter said Thursday. “There had to be heightened awareness to ensure that O.J. Simpson received a fair trial.”
Stewart’s lawyer, Brent Bryson, argues that the trial was all about Simpson, that Stewart should have been tried separately, and that the jury foreman hid a bias toward Simpson until after sentencing in December 2008.
Simpson and Stewart were convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery, conspiracy and other crimes. Four other men involved took plea deals and received probation after testifying for the prosecution.
Simpson maintained he went to the hotel room with five other men to retrieve family photos and mementoes that belonged to him, and he had no idea that two of the men brought guns.