LAS VEGAS, Nev. – O.J. Simpson became so dependent on his lawyer during his Las Vegas armed robbery trial that the former football star would have done anything Yale Galanter advised — including passing up the chance to testify, his co-counsel testified Tuesday.
“I could advise O.J. all day long, and he was very respectful of me,” Gabriel Grasso told a court considering Simpson’s bid for a retrial. “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 from H. Leon Simon, attorney for the state, Grasso acknowledged the trial judge, Jackie Glass, specifically asked Simpson if he wanted to testify and he said no.
“Mr. Galanter told him, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’” Grasso said.
He said Simpson’s confidence in Galanter was born of the acquittal he gained for the former Hall of Fame football player in a road rage case in Florida five years after his 1995 acquittal on murder charges in the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife and her friend in Los Angeles.
Galanter is now the focus of Simpson’s motion claiming ineffective assistance of counsel and conflicted interests. He has declined to comment until he takes the stand Friday.
Simpson is due to testify Wednesday — midway through a five-day evidentiary hearing on his effort to get a new trial. Now 65, he’s serving nine to 33 years in prison for his conviction on armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges in a 2007 gunpoint confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas casino hotel.
Grasso ended two days of sometimes searing attacks on Galanter’s promises and performance by softening his assessment of Galanter’s skills.
“”I feel he’s a capable attorney,” he said. “Now that I know how things turned out, this wasn’t his best case.”
“Was Mr. Galanter trying to sell O.J. down the river?” asked Simon.
“No,” said Grasso.
Simpson attorney Ozzie Fumo asked retired Clark County District Attorney David Roger, who prosecuted Simpson, whether investigators ever determined if Galanter helped Simpson plan the hotel room confrontation and was in Las Vegas the night before the heist.
“He said he did not advise Mr. Simpson to commit armed robbery,” Roger said.
“And he said he wasn’t there?” Fumo asked.
“Yes,” Roger replied.
Others have testified that Galanter was in Las Vegas and had dinner with Simpson the night before.
The other prosecutor, Chris Owens, also now retired, came under tough questioning about a representation he made to the court regarding Galanter’s phone calls to Simpson before the heist.
Owens conceded on the stand that he and a police detective who analyzed Simpson’s phone calls agreed to tell the judge they had found no record of calls between Simpson and Galanter, when in fact there were calls.
Fumo led him through phone records of 10 calls between Galanter and Simpson in the days preceding and on Sept. 13, 2007.
Roger also testified that investigators found calls between the two on Sept. 12, the day before the crime.
Both prosecutors described an agreement with the Simpson defence that was read to the jury saying there were no calls.
“So you stipulated to events that weren’t true?” Fumo asked Owens.
“It was in the form of a legal construct,” Owens replied, indicating it was legitimate because the calls weren’t made immediately before the hotel room confrontation.
Owens also suggested that the trial judge wanted it that way, because she didn’t want to confuse the jury with another issue.
Owens and Roger were both asked about plea deals. Roger said he talked with Galanter once in his office before a preliminary hearing and once during trial.
The first time, “He said, ‘Unless you’re prepared to stipulate to probation for my client, there’s nothing to talk about,’” Roger said. “I said, ‘You’re right, there’s nothing to talk about.’”
The second time, Roger testified, Galanter said that if prosecutors would offer a 24-month sentence, he’d talk with Simpson about it.
Galanter returned, saying Simpson would take no more than 12 months, and Roger said he felt Simpson didn’t want a deal.
“There were no further negotiations” he told Fumo.
Galanter’s tactics also drew criticism Tuesday from the lawyer who represented Simpson in a Santa Monica, Calif., case that resulted in the celebrity defendant getting back some items involved in the Las Vegas caper.
Attorney Ronald P. Slates testified by telephone from Los Angeles about gaining custody of Simpson’s neckties and footballs.
“Did you know Yale Galanter?” Fumo asked.
“Yes,” he said. “He would show up in court to take credit for what he didn’t do.”
Simpson won a small victory earlier Tuesday when District Court Judge Linda Marie Bell granted a defence request to have one of Simpson’s hands unshackled to drink water and take notes. Simpson’s left hand was still cuffed to his chair.
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. Among them was Tom Scotto, whose wedding was the reason for Simpson’s ill- fated trip to Las Vegas.
“He looks like a beaten man,” Scotto said outside court after seeing his old friend clad in a dingy blue prison uniform and orange prison issue slippers, chains clanking around his feet and waist.
Simpson, who will be 70 before he is eligible for parole, has filed a writ of habeas corpus, his last chance under state law to prove that he was wrongly convicted and win a new trial. A federal court appeal is still possible.
Nineteen separate reasons for reversal are being considered in the hearing, which was taking place absent the fanfare that surrounded Simpson’s “trial of the century” in Los Angeles and his 2008 trial in Las Vegas. Seats went unfilled in the courtroom gallery.
After his acquittal on the LA 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.
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