Why O.J. Simpson was so eager to take stand in new trial (+video)
O.J. Simpson wants a new trial to reconsider his 2008 conviction on charges of armed robbery and kidnapping, saying he was misled by a bad lawyer. It's a common problem, legal experts say.
O.J. Simpson’s current appeal for a new trial has the potential to shed light on an issue that affects countless lesser-known defendants in the US court system: bad lawyering. Along the way, he might get a helping hand from the US Supreme Court.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Simpson is seeking a ruling overturning his conviction of armed robbery and kidnapping of sports memorabilia dealers in 2007. He says his counsel was inadequate and that his lawyer misled co-counsel.
"I had never sold any of my personal memorabilia, ever,'' he testified Wednesday, dressed in prison blues.
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Squabbles between lawyers and their clients and co-counsels are not uncommon, says Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.
“Most clients in this situation are so poor or low on the economic scale that their bad lawyering doesn’t get much attention, and so the issue remains largely unnoticed,” he adds. “Whether Simpson prevails or not, this proceeding has a great chance to put the spotlight on this widespread problem.”
Yet appeals like the one Simpson is bringing only rarely meet with success.
“He actually has a case with merits, but these are extreme, uphill battles because you are asking a court to substitute its own judgment, years later with faded memories, for that of the judge at the time,” says Rene Sandler, of Sandler Law LLC in Rockville, Md., who has two decades of experience in such cases.
Simpson’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel “will predictably devolve into a ‘he said, he said,’ conflicting, fact-based narrative by Simpson and his former attorney,” says Professor Pugsley. Simpson's counsel in the robbery case that went to trial in 2008, Yale Galanter, has refused to comment publicly but is scheduled to testify Friday.
Potentially working in Simpson’s favor is a US Supreme Court ruling last session (Missouri v. Frye) that held that the guarantee of “effective assistance of counsel” extends to the consideration and negotiation of pleas – Simpson’s key complaint.
Co-counsel in the 2008 trial, Gabriel Grasso, said on the stand this week that while Mr. Galanter told him he'd talk with Simpson about a proposed plea deal, Galanter never told Mr. Grasso why he rejected it. Grasso said he didn't know if Simpson was even told.