O.J. Simpson has lost his bid for a new trial, a Clark County district judge ruled Tuesday.
The Review-Journal has learned that Judge Linda Bell rejected the notorious former football player’s contention that his trial lawyer in his 2007 robbery case, Yale Galanter, was ineffective, had financial and legal conflicts and misadvised the 66-year-old inmate.
Bell’s ruling comes six months after a week-long hearing where Simpson testified Galanter told him he could legally take his property back and would represent him for free.
Simpson is in the midst of serving a nine- to 33-year prison term after he was convicted of 10 charges for robbing two men of sports memorabilia in September 2007. He argued he was simply recovering his own property, including photographs, when he went to the Palace Station hotel room.
In a 100 page decision, Bell said, “All grounds in the petition lack merit and, consequently are denied.”
Bell ruled Simpson “failed to demonstrate that counsel experienced an actual conflict of interest that substantially impacted counsel’s performance at trial … that the State withheld exculpatory evidence … that appellate and trial counsel were ineffective or that any deficient performance by counsel resulted in prejudice,” the ruling stated.
In her ruling, Bell said the evidence was overwhelming against Simpson and there was no indication that it was close verdict.
“Mr. Simpson has failed to pinpoint significant errors that either alone or combined would have changed the outcome of his case,” Bell said.
The judge added, “Given the overwhelming amount of evidence, neither the errors in this case, nor the errors collectively, cause this court to question the validity of Mr. Simpson’s conviction.”
Simpson’s post conviction petition for a new trial made 22 separate arguments.
“We’re definitely going to appeal,” said Simpson’s lawyer Patricia Palm. “We will appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court and seek federal relief.”
Palm said she spoke briefly with Simpson late Tuesday. Simpson, who is imprisoned at Lovelock Correctional Center, which is about 130 miles north of Carson City, called her after learning about the decision.
“He wants us to go ahead with an appeal,” Palm said.
Palm, who was still reviewing the lengthy ruling, remained confident Simpson would be vindicated.
“This decision is going to be overturned once we get to the right court,” Palm said.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson, whose wife, former Judge Jackie Glass, presided over the robbery trial, told the Review-Journal, “I think the judge was conscientious and thorough in her review of the record. And her decision was appropriate in taking into account all the facts and circumstances of the case.”
During the May hearing, Simpson said he began to question Galanter’s motivation for representing him following his 2008 conviction and rejected appeal in the Las Vegas robbery.
According to testimony, Galanter pocketed $572,000 from Simpson while representing him in the robbery case. The lawyer was supposed to use part of the money to provide for a proper defense, which included hiring investigators and experts.
Testimony has shown that Galanter didn’t hire experts or investigators or fully pay his Las Vegas-based co-counsel, Gabe Grasso, who is suing Galanter in federal court over nonpayment for his work in the case.
Simpson testified that Galanter had told him he’d work for free in the case.
Galanter, who won an acquittal for Simpson in a 2001 road rage incident in Florida, denied that.
“No, I don’t do anything for free,” he testified.
Grasso wanted to work for free, Galanter said, but he insisted on paying him $25,000 plus costs. Grasso testified that he was only paid $15,000.
Galanter said that there was no need to hire investigators to profile witnesses because he had cross-examined them during a preliminary hearing.
An intoxication defense wasn’t considered because “Mr. Simpson wasn’t intoxicated,” Galanter said.
Simpson testified that he had consumed enough alcohol before the incident that he wouldn’t consider driving a car.
He also said Galanter never informed him of plea deal discussions with prosecutors. Simpson said he would have considered those deals.
But Galanter refuted that claim, explaining that Simpson was fully aware of the discussions with prosecutors.
Galanter testified that he never told Simpson that he could legally take his property back. Instead, Galanter said, he advised Simpson to call the police.
The Miami-based defense attorney added that Simpson knew his cohorts were armed when they went to Palace Station to recover his family heirlooms and sports memorabilia.
Meanwhile, Simpson is in the midst of serving one to six years on a weapons enhancement for the kidnapping count. He has four to 18 years left on his prison term on the remaining counts.
In July, Simpson won parole on one of the 10 counts he was convicted of in 2008.
Inmate #1027820 has had a “positive record,” the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners said in July, which included his participation in parole programs.
Following his Hall of Fame professional football career, Simpson became one of the most popular former athletes in America, regularly hawking products in humorous TV commercials or starring in movies, such as The Naked Gun.
That is, until Simpson was acquitted by a Los Angeles jury in 1995 of the 1994 deaths of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman in what was dubbed “the trial of the century.”
Testimony at the May hearing revealed that most of the items taken in the 2007 robbery were found to be the football player’s. The items were returned to Simpson and, unless sold, were not subject to satisfy a $33.5 million civil judgment against him for the deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039.