LIVE VIDEO — O.J. Simpson testifies midway through a five-day evidentiary hearing. He's serving nine to 33 years in prison for his conviction on armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges in a 2007 gunpoint confrontation.
O.J. Simpson, making a long-shot bid for a new trial, testified Wednesday he had no idea that any of his companions were armed when they went to a Las Vegas hotel room to retrieve memorabilia that he claims was stolen from him.
“I would not have imagined in my wildest dreams that these guys would have guns," Simpson said on the stand during a court hearing that will determine if he gets a new trial.
Simpson is serving nine to 33 years after being convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping for the 2007 confrontation. Among his claims is that he didn't know a weapon was used and he got bad legal representation at his trial.
During his first few hours on the stand, the former football star recounted a boozy day with friends at the Palms hotel, where he was staying for a friend's wedding, capped by a chaotic face-off with the memorabilia dealers at the nearby Palace Station.
He said guns never came up as he and the other men discussed going to the dealers' room to size up the merchandise, that he didn't see anyone pull a gun inside the room, and that his pals later denied a weapon was shown before they left with some items.
"I was kind of stunned," he said of his mental state after he walked into the crowded hotel room and surprised the sellers, who thought they were meeting an anonymous buyer. "I was looking at stuff I hadn't seen in 10 years."
Asked about audiotape on which he is heard saying that the dealers shouldn't be allowed out of the room, Simpson said his intent was legitimate.
"If they don't want to give [the items] to me, I want them arrested," he said.
Earlier, Simpson testified that he had been drinking steadily before the clash and was so tired he missed a golf game and wanted to take a nap.
He said he had been drunk enough the night before that “I wouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel of a car.” He then had “a Bloody Mary or two” at a midday breakfast, and kept drinking by the hotel pool, he testified.
“I had a joke: ‘My doctor says I should never have an empty glass’ is what I would tell the waitress,” he said.
Simpson, 65, appeared grayer and heavier than he did when he was sent to prison. Wearing jailhouse blues and shackles on his legs, he occasionally chuckled as he calmly answered questions from his appeals team.
He famously did not take the stand during the sensational 1995 trial at which he was acquitted of killing his ex-wife and her friend.
He also did not take the stand during the robbery trial five years ago — a decision that will be key in arguments that lawyer Yale Galanter gave him bad advice during the 2008 robbery trial.
Simpson told the court that he wanted to testify in his own defense and always assumed he would, but Galanter wouldn't commit to that strategy.
"Late in the trial he said he didn't think I should testify, that they hadn't proven their case... that there was no way I could be convicted," he said. "I had to trust his judgment on that."
He said Galanter told him that he "could not be convicted" and squelched suggestions from another lawyer that he take the stand and explain what happened that night.
Under cross-examination, Simpson agreed that he had been told by the judge that he had the right to testify on his own behalf.
He also testified that Galanter knew about his plan to got to the Palace Station to see if he could reclaim the memorabilia and that the lawyer said, "You have the right to get your stuff" as long as he wasn't trespassing.
He told Galanter that if he found a suit he wore during the 1995 trial, he planned to "burn it," and the attorney insisted that he bring it to him instead.
Simpson said he wanted to reclaim the memorabilia — including items that vanished after his murder trial — because it belonged to his children and his family, “not some guy selling at a hotel room in Vegas.”
The mementos, he said, included commemorative footballs, old pictures with presidents and a picture of himself with former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, “before we heard about J. Edgar Hoover and the tutus and stuff.”
Galanter is expected to testify during the hearing, which is schedule to continue through the week.
If Simpson doesn’t prevail at this proceeding, which legal experts say is a long shot, he must serve five more years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
This story was originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 1:06 PM EDT