Calling the trial of O.J. Simpson "fundamentally unfair," lawyers for the fallen football star on Tuesday filed the long-promised appeal of his conviction on armed robbery and kidnapping charges.
In court papers submitted to the Nevada Supreme Court, Yale Galanter and Malcolm LaVergne argued that their client deserved a new trial based on a variety of errors during his three-week trial last fall.
"The District Court committed numerous reversible errors, including, inflicting itself into the trial proceedings, chastising the attorneys in the presence of the jury, making rulings from the bench that were not based in the law and wholly without any authority," Simpson’s opening brief says.
A jury convicted Simpson, 61, and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart, 55, in October on kidnapping and armed robbery charges in connection with a hotel room holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers.
District Judge Jackie Glass sentenced Simpson to nine to 33 years in prison. He has been at the Lovelock Correctional Center, a medium-security facility about 90 miles northeast of Reno.
Stewart, who received a slightly shorter sentence, is serving time at High Desert State Prison, 40 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Stewart has yet to file an appeal, but his lawyer, Brent Bryson, has said he will appeal the conviction.
District Attorney David Roger, who personally prosecuted the case alongside Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Owens, said in a statement that he was confident the guilty verdict would stand.
"Judge Jackie Glass and the members of the jury did a great job with this trial during which the jurors saw Mr. Simpson for the criminal he is," Roger said.
The case rose from the September 2007 confrontation at Palace Station between Simpson and his helpers and the memorabilia dealers, Bruce Fromong and Alfred Beardsley. Simpson’s lawyers claimed he set up the meeting with the help of auctioneer Thomas Riccio so that he could recover stolen family photos and heirlooms.
Simpson’s lawyers say problems with the trial started during jury selection.
"Whether one considered Simpson famous or infamous, jury selection was fraught with pitfalls that denied Simpson a right to a fair trial," the brief said.
They said Glass incorrectly limited questioning of potential jurors about their feelings and biases about Simpson and his acquittal on double-murder charges in the death of his ex-wife and her friend.
They also said prosecutors gave inadequate reasons for excusing the last two black potential jurors.
Simpson’s lawyers also pointed to Glass’ conduct during the trial, which included frequent shouting matches with Galanter and his co-counsel, Gabriel Grasso. LaVergne replaced Grasso on the defense team last week.
"Throughout Simpson’s trial the district court repeatedly, however inadvertently and unintentionally, expressed impatience and was discourteous to trial counsel," the lawyers argue in their court papers. "These comments had an adverse impact on Simpson’s trial counsel which in turn may have affected the acceptance of Simpson’s defense."
Other grounds cited by the lawyers for a new trial include errors in jury instructions, a claim of prosecutorial misconduct and a question on whether the kidnapping and robbery convictions were redundant.
Appeals in Nevada can take more than a year. Supreme Court spokesman Bill Gang said there was no way to know when the justices might rule.
"The amount of time it takes depends on the number and complexity of the issues raised," Gang said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.Read the court document for O.J. Simpson’s appeal