O.J. Simpson was charming and affable as he testified Wednesday that his Miami-based lawyer Yale Galanter misadvised, misled and lied to him.
Shackled to the witness stand and dressed in navy blue jail scrubs, the notorious former pro football star testified that Galanter told him he’d represent him for free in his 2007 robbery case.
Simpson said Galanter led him to believe that $500,000 given to the lawyer was being used to provide for a proper defense, which included hiring investigators, experts and other costs.
Testimony has shown Galanter pocketed the money and wouldn’t hire experts or investigators or pay his co-counsel.
Judge Linda Bell will hear from Galanter on Friday, who is being called as a witness by prosecutors.
The judge will then decide whether Simpson deserves a new trial due to Galanter’s financial and legal conflicts in the case, which included that the lawyer advised Simpson he could legally take his property back from two sports memorabilia dealers prior to the robbery.
Simpson, now 65, is serving a nine- to 33-year prison term for the Sept. 13, 2007 robbery. Simpson argued that he was simply recovering his family heirlooms and photographs when he went to the Palace Station hotel room.
After Simpson’s testimony, his lawyers felt the evidence was “overwhelming” that the former Heisman Trophy winner deserves a new trial.
“I feel even more confident,” said lawyer Patricia Palm, who questioned Simpson for hours about the robbery and Galanter’s representation through the trial and appeal.
Palm and co-counsel, Ozzie Fumo, have raised 19 points that they contend could lead to a new trial for Simpson, including that he wasn’t aware that prosecutors had twice discussed a plea deal with Galanter.
During the third day of Simpson’s post-conviction hearing, his testimony established how he was affected by alcohol the day of the robbery and how he had no knowledge that any of his cohorts had guns.
Simpson spent hours testifying that he had discussed with Galanter the plan to take back his property for weeks prior to the robbery, including the night before.
Galanter told him he was within the law to do so, as long as he didn’t use force.
The day of the robbery, Simpson said he had been drinking bourbon with ice and didn’t know or trust several of the men who joined him that night.
When he stormed into the room he became “emotional” upon seeing some of the items, which he hadn’t seen in a decade. He believed the items included photographs of his deceased 18-month-old daughter and parents.
Simpson wanted only to take the items that were his, he said, adding he had no fear they would be used to satisfy a civil judgment against him for the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman.
The robbery was over quickly and his companions were pushing him out of the room, but Simpson wanted to confront the dealers, both of whom he knew.
Simpson chastised his cohorts for taking items that weren’t his, including victim Bruce Fromong’s cellphone.
Most of the items taken turned out to be Simpson’s and were returned to him in a California judge’s ruling, testimony has shown.
Following his arrest, Simpson said he believed Galanter was defending him for free.
Simpson was aware money was going to Galanter, but thought the money was being spent on his co-counsel, local defense lawyer Gabe Grasso, investigators and other costs.
“It was always that Grasso needed the money,” Simpson recalled Galanter telling him.
Simpson had asked how much Galanter would cost to defend him. Simpson recalled the Miami-based lawyer saying, “O.J., when have I charged you?”
As he readied for trial, Simpson said he relied heavily on the advice of Galanter who, he believed, was acting in his best interest. The advice included telling Simpson he shouldn’t testify in his own defense.
“I thought we (Simpson and his co-defendant C.J. Stewart) would both testify. I thought we were the only ones who could explain” what happened at Palace Station, Simpson said.
But Galanter assured Simpson that he would be acquitted because the prosecution’s witnesses were unreliable. Simpson said Wednesday he would have insisted on testifying if he thought he would be convicted.
Galanter also never informed Simpson of a plea deal discussion with prosecutors. Simpson said he “certainly would have considered” the deal — a guilty plea for robbery and a 30-month prison term — if he had known about it.
During his appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, Simpson said Galanter had lied to him.
Simpson had wanted Las Vegas lawyer Malcolm LaVergne to argue on his behalf before the state high court. Later, when he asked how LaVergne performed, Galanter replied good, Simpson recalled.
Simpson found out later Galanter, not LaVergne, argued the appeal.
LaVergne will testify Thursday.
Following the Supreme Court’s rejection of his appeal, Simpson said that Galanter wanted to push the case to federal court.
Federal judges would be more fair Galanter assured, said Simpson.
But “jailhouse lawyers” at Lovelock State Prison warned Simpson that by skipping a post-conviction hearing, he could lose the chance of showing Galanter was ineffective at representing him and a new trial.
Simpson sought advice from LaVergne, who told him that was true.
In retrospect, Simpson said he felt Galanter was moving the case to federal court to conceal the lawyer’s financial and legal conflicts. “If we got to federal court, this (the conflicts) would never be brought up,” he said.
During a brief cross-examination, prosecutor Leon Simon tried to poke holes in Simpson’s testimony.
Simpson agreed with Simon that during the trial he told Judge Jackie Glass he didn’t want to testify.
Simon also pointed out that Simpson took items from the hotel room that weren’t his, including one of the victim’s sunglasses and hat and other autographed items.
Simpson said he didn’t know those items were taken, though video of him from Palace Station showed him clutching an item.
Simon said it was the victim’s hat.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.