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OJ Simpson in Las Vegas courtroom to ask for new trial

An older and grayer O.J. Simpson was back in a Las Vegas courtroom to appeal his 2008 armed robbery conviction, claiming that he had such bad representation that he deserves a new trial. NBC News' Leanne Gregg reports.

Wearing a blue prison jumpsuit, O.J. Simpson appeared Monday in a Las Vegas courtroom where he is trying to get his 2008 robbery conviction tossed on the grounds he did not have proper legal representation.

The former football star — noticeably grayer and heavier than the last time he appeared in public — is serving 9 to 33 years after a jury found him guilty of orchestrating the gunpoint seizure of memorabilia he claimed was stolen from him.

A previous appeal was rejected in 2010. In the latest bid for a new trial, Simpson is arguing that his ex-lawyer, Yale Galanter, gave him bad advice, knew about the attempt to reclaim the memorabilia in advance, and told him it was legal.

Julie Jacobson/AP

O.J. Simpson, right, sits in Clark County District Court on Monday with his attorney, Patricia Palm. Simpson, who is serving nine to 33 years as a result of his 2008 conviction on armed robbery and kidnapping charges, is seeking a new trial on grounds of ineffective counsel.

Simpson — who did not take the stand during the explosive 1995 trial for the murder of his wife and her friend, which ended in his acquittal — is expected to testify midway through the five-day hearing. Galanter is also slated to take the stand.

If he doesn't prevail at this proceeding, known as a writ of habeas corpus, Simpson, 65, must serve five more years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

On the stand for the hearing, a friend of Simpson described Galanter as "somewhat dismissive" of any concerns his client voiced about the way the trial was going.

“Mr. Simpson was ...somewhat intimidated by Mr. Galanter. He was dominated by him. He tended not to question what he told him,” said James Barnett, a Las Vegas businessman.

“If Mr. Simpson would ask about some specific point in court, he would say, 'That’s not important' or 'Don’t worry about it.'”


Barnett said he was told by Galanter's co-counsel, Gabriel Grasso, that Grasso had his 15-year-old son perform analysis of audiotapes that were a key piece of evidence in the trial because they couldn't afford to hire experts.

The appeals team also questioned Dr. Norman Roitman, a psychiatrist who specializes in the effects of alcohol on perception.

The lawyers asked Roitman whether someone who fit Simpson's physical description, who had been "drinking all day" and the night before and was sleep-deprived and stressed-out, might experience poor perception in a crowded hotel room where he expected to find personal items he had not seen for 15 years.

Speaking hypothetically, Roitman said that person would.

A lawyer for Simpson's co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart testified Monday that prosecutors in the midst of the trial offered a plea deal -- a two- to five-year sentence for each defendant in return for guilty pleas. Prosecutors said they were presenting it to Simpson's lawyers but later said there was no deal, Bryson said. 

Bryson said he didn't know if Simpson had ever been told about the deal. Simpson claims he was not. 

Simpson's co-counsel in the 2008 trial, Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Grasso, testified that Galanter told him he would give Simpson the news of the plea deal and that day went off to talk to Simpson privately.

When Galanter came back, he said, "We're not taking a deal," Grasso said. Grasso, however, admitted he never talked to Simpson about the guilty-plea offer and did not know what Galanter had told Simpson at that time.

Grasso testified that Galanter made the key decision for the defense team. He said Grasso rarely even involved his co-counsel in discussions with Simpson.

"Yale was O.J.’s lawyer. I was just the odd man out, the third wheel," Grasso said.

Grasso said he wanted to file a motion to suppress the tapes from being entered into evidence at the trial because they made Simpson look bad, and because it could be argued the tapes were recorded secretly. Galanter, however, did not want to challenge the tape evidence, Grasso said.

The defense also did not have the benefit of experts to challenge the tapes in  the courtroom because Galanter said there was no money to pay for them, Grasso said. 

“In a case of this magnitude, we don’t have any help?" Grasso asked, noting the state had hired a jury consultant.

Grasso also said he favored letting Simpson take the stand and told the former football player that, but Galanter rejected that notion, telling him "don't advise O.J."

Grasso was expected to continue his testimony in the hearing on Tuesday.

Jeff Black of NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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