Attorney: OJ Simpson's Defense Operated "on Shoestring" at Robbery, Kidnap Trial

A Nevada court proceeding could go a long way in determining whether OJ Simpson spends the rest of his life in prison

By Jonathan Lloyd and Patrick Healy
|  Tuesday, May 14, 2013  |  Updated 6:05 PM PDT
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A hearing got underway Monday in Las Vegas to decide if O.J. Simpson should be granted a new trial in his 2008 armed robbery case. Simpson claims his lead attorney mishandled the case, and feels he might have avoided a prison sentence with a different attorney. Patrick Healy reports from Las Vegas for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 13, 2013.

Patrick Healy

A hearing got underway Monday in Las Vegas to decide if O.J. Simpson should be granted a new trial in his 2008 armed robbery case. Simpson claims his lead attorney mishandled the case, and feels he might have avoided a prison sentence with a different attorney. Patrick Healy reports from Las Vegas for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 13, 2013.

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A former OJ Simpson defense attorney testified that he wanted to put the former NFL Hall of Fame running back on the stand during a trial that ended with his conviction on robbery and kidnapping charges stemming from a 2007 hotel room raid in Las Vegas.

Timeline: OJ Simpson in Court

But attorney Gabriel Grasso told the court that it was another defense attorney, Yale Galanter, who was obsessed with cutting expenses to the detriment of Simpson's defense during the 2008 trial. During his first day of testimony Monday, Grasso said Galanter "controlled the purse strings."

"I was under the impression that we were operating on a shoestring," Grasso said Tuesday. "There were no experts to be had. We didn't have any money to hire experts."

The court proceeding called a writ of habeas corpus examines how Galanter handled the trial that led to Simpson's robbery and kidnapping conviction. Attorneys for the former USC Trojan are arguing this week in a Las Vegas courtroom that Simpson's conviction should be tossed.

The money spent on Simpson's defense was not Grasso's only criticism of Galanter.

"I had the distinct feeling that OJ had to testify in this case," Grasso said. "That was our only shot."

Simpson is expected to testify later this week, possibly Wednesday. He wants a new trial because he says his longtime lawyer Galanter failed to disclose that he knew about the hotel room raid in advance, told Simpson it was legal and provided bad advice at trial.

"If it really did happen, I would hope that OJ gets a new trial," said attorney Eric Brent Bryson, who represented one of Simpson's co-defendants. "If not, I would really feel sorry for Mr. Galanter getting drug through the mud like this."

Simpson, in prison since his conviction about four years ago, appeared in court wearing blue prison clothes and shackles. Simpson was allowed to have one hand uncuffed Tuesday, allowing him to take drinks of water and write notes on a legal pad.

The 65-year-old former Heisman trophy winner appeared weary as he listened to attorneys argue over issues that could determine whether he spends the remainder of his life in prison. He has already served four years in prison, but must serve nine of the maximum 33-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Simpson's daughter Arnelle and Grasso were among the first witnesses to testify in the proceeding.

Simpson's attorneys must prove that his trial lawyers botched the 2008 trial, stemming from a confrontation at the Palace Station hotel. Simpson has claimed he was not aware two of the five men with him brought guns during the caper, which involved sports memorabilia dealers who Simpson thought had personal belongings he lost following his acquittal in 1995 in the slaying of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

Crowds at the courthouse Monday morning were small, unlike the 1995 murder trial in Los Angeles and the 2008 robbery and kidnapping trials.

The new challenge follows the Nevada Supreme Court's denial of Simpson's 2010 appeal, also handled by Galanter. Simpson's new attorney filed the writ of habeas corpus in May 2012, seeking her client's release from prison and reversal of the conviction.

As for the sports memorabilia that was the subject of the hotel room raid, the items were delivered to Simpson's civil case attorney.

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