O.J. Simpson won a small victory Tuesday when he returned to court for Day 2 of his attempt to win a new trial in his robbery case: A judge said he could have one hand unshackled to drink water and take notes.
Simpson managed a smile and a waist-high wave with his shackled hand as he entered the courtroom and found friends and family members in the audience.
Simpson’s lawyers then persuaded Clark County District Court Judge Linda Marie Bell to let the former football star and TV pitchman have his right hand free. His left hand was still cuffed to the arm of his chair.
Lawyers for Simpson are claiming his trial lawyer, Yale Galanter, gave such bad legal advice and had such conflicted interests that Simpson deserves a new trial.
The 65-year-old Simpson is serving nine to 33 years in prison for leading five men in the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2007.
Galanter’s former friend and co-counsel, Gabriel Grasso, returned to the stand Tuesday with criticism about Galanter’s promises and performance during the 2008 trial and conviction, and later appeal.
Galanter needed Grasso as local counsel, because Galanter wasn’t licensed to practice law in Nevada. But Galanter was in charge of the defense, Grasso said.
“I could advise O.J. all day long, and he was very respectful of me,” Grasso testified. “But if I advised him of something different from what Yale said, he would do what Yale said.”
It was Galanter’s decision not to have Simpson testify, Grasso said.
Under questioning by H. Leon Simon, an attorney for the state, Grasso acknowledged the trial judge, Jackie Glass, specifically asked Simpson if he wanted to testify.
“O.J. did say he did not want to testify,” Simon said.
“Mr. Galanter told him, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’” Grasso said
“That was his right. It’s up to the defendant to choose not to testify, isn’t it?” Simon said.
Under additional questioning by Simpson attorney Patricia Palm minutes later, Grasso said, “I didn’t think him not testifying was sound advice.”
Galanter has declined to comment before his expected testimony Friday.
Grasso testified he and Galanter decided to focus their defense on Simpson’s insistence that he didn’t know any of the men with him the night of the confrontation had guns; that Simpson never saw a gun; and that Simpson wanted only to retrieve property he believed had been stolen from him after his acquittal in 1995 in the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend in Los Angeles.
Grasso said he and Galanter considered other strategies, including that Simpson was drunk during the incident. But Grasso said he didn’t think jurors would be convinced due to all the “baggage” Simpson brought to the trial.
He also said he thought Simpson sounded “very focused and direct” in an audio recording of words shouted during the confrontation.
“He didn’t sound like a drunk person,” Grasso testified.
Simpson was scheduled to testify for the first time in the case today.
After his acquittal on the murder charges, Simpson was found liable for damages in a civil wrongful-death lawsuit and ordered to pay $33.5 million to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.