The jailed former football star, 65, is seeking a new trial in his 2007 armed robbery conviction, saying his previous lawyer shouldn't have handled the case.
O.J. Simpson will head to a Las Vegas courtroom Monday in a bid to have his conviction on armed robbery and kidnapping charges thrown out on the grounds that he did not receive proper legal representation at his 2008 trial.
Simpson, serving 9 to 33 years in prison for his role in a bizarre hotel room robbery in which the former actor and football star argued he was trying to reclaim memorabilia that had been stolen form him, has filed what lawyers call a "Hail Mary motion" seeking freedom. Simpson argues his conviction should be set aside and a new trial ordered because of "ineffective counsel and conflict of interest."
Most defendants lose these writ of habeas corpus motions, but in this case nobody is taking bets on the outcome.
"Nothing is the same when O.J. is involved," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, who observed Simpson's Los Angeles trial. "An O.J. case is never like any other case."
Simpson was famously acquitted on murder charges related to the death of his ex-wife and her friend in a 1995 trial that captivated the nation. When he was sentenced in 2008, Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass, referencing the murder trial, said that her penalty was not intended as "retribution or any payback for anything else."
She made no mention of the two Las Vegas police detectives overheard in a taped conversation saying that if California authorities couldn't "get" Simpson, those in Nevada would. The tape was played at the trial.
Simpson has filed 19 claims of ineffective counsel and attorney conflict of interest in the 2008 case. Simpson contends his trial attorney never told him about a plea bargain that had been offered by prosecutors. He also said in a sworn statement that the same attorney knew about the memorabilia sting before it happened, and "he advised me that I was within my legal rights."
Simpson is expected to testify sometime during the week-long hearing.
Now 65 years old, Simpson has already spent the last four years in prison and must serve at least nine years of his maximum 33-year sentence before he is even eligible for parole. He would be 70 by then. If Simpson doesn't win a new trial, he could conceivably spend the rest of his life locked up.
Sam Mircovich / AFP - Getty Images file
Double murder defendant O.J. Simpson puts on one of the bloody gloves as a Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy looks on during the O.J. Simpson murder trial on June, 15, 1995.
Simpson, according to trial testimony, organized a posse of five friends and acquaintances to accompany him to a hotel where he was told some men were trying to sell his mementos, including family pictures. It was to be a sting of sorts, in which the memorabilia dealers would think an anonymous buyer was coming.
When Simpson walked into the Las Vegas hotel room, he realized he knew the sellers from previous dealings and he accused them of stealing from him. He shouted that no one was to leave the room - an action that would be judged to fit the legal definition of kidnapping. As Simpson's guys began bagging up the memorabilia, one of them pulled a gun, according to trial testimony.
No one was injured, but the sellers called the police - and another Simpson case for another century was launched.
It turned out that Tom Riccio, another memorabilia dealer who played middleman between Simpson and the sellers, had planted a tape recorder in the hotel room and the tape, played for jurors, was powerful evidence.
Simpson's cohorts testified against him, including the man who said he brought a gun. They were an odd assortment of down-on-their luck Vegas characters who received plea deals and were set free on probation.
Simpson's co-defendant at his trial, Clarence "C.J." Stewart, served more than two years in prison before the Nevada Supreme Court overturned his conviction. The justices ruled Simpson's fame tainted the proceedings and that Stewart should have been tried separately. Stewart took a plea deal to avoid a retrial and was released.
Those who try to explain Simpson's fall from grace it come back to one word - hubris, the literary allusion to excessive self-confidence, pride and arrogance. Simpson refused to accept that people didn't idolize him anymore. He boasted about his continuing celebrity status. He was delighted that people still wanted his autograph and wanted to hang out with him at the pool of The Palms hotel in Las Vegas. And that was where the disastrous plan was born.
He had come to Las Vegas that September of 2007 for a happy event. His old friend, Tom Scotto, was getting married and invited Simpson to be his best man. Scotto still sounds anguished when he recalls the weekend.
"If it wasn't for me," Scotto said in an interview, "he wouldn't have been there."