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posted: 5/17/2013 10:50 AM

Former OJ lawyer testifies on new Vegas trial bid

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  • O.J. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison as a result of his October 2008 conviction for armed robbery and kidnapping charges, is using a writ of habeas corpus, to seek a new trial, claiming he had such bad representation that his conviction should be reversed.

      O.J. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison as a result of his October 2008 conviction for armed robbery and kidnapping charges, is using a writ of habeas corpus, to seek a new trial, claiming he had such bad representation that his conviction should be reversed.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- The attorney who represented O.J. Simpson during his armed robbery trial in Las Vegas has begun testifying at a hearing in which the former football star is seeking a new trial.

Miami attorney Yale Galanter took the stand Friday, the fifth day of the hearing in which witnesses have raised questions about how well Galanter represented Simpson in the trial that led to a conviction and a sentence of nine to 33 years in prison.

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Simpson has said Galanter advised him it was his legal right to retrieve personal items from two memorabilia dealers.

Galanter says when he heard that Simpson had a lead on the whereabouts of the items he told Simpson to call the police.

Galanter, a veteran Florida criminal defense lawyer, is a key state's witness in a hearing that, since Monday, has revolved around his promises, payments and performance in the 2008 trial that sent the 65-year-old former football hero to prison for nine to 33 years for armed robbery and kidnapping.

Galanter faces some uncomfortable questions about his trial preparation, the nearly $700,000 he was paid but allegedly didn't share with the Las Vegas lawyer at his side and why he didn't try to block prosecutors from playing for the jury secret recordings that amounted to a soundtrack of Simpson and his five pals confronting two sports collectibles brokers and a middleman in a cramped casino hotel room.

Jim Barnett, owner of a Las Vegas home where Simpson stayed during trial in September 2008, said he asked Galanter why he wasn't hiring an expert to analyze the recording.

"He said, `If you would give us $250,000, we would have it done. We don't have the money to analyze the tapes,"' Barnett testified.

Galanter later assured the trial judge that the tapes had been analyzed.

He also faces questions about what he knew about Simpson's plan, when he knew it and whether he should have told what he knew to get Simpson off the hook.

"He's a vital witness," said veteran Las Vegas trial lawyer Dayvid Figler. "He has information that no one can share."

Galanter said this week that he wouldn't comment about the hearing until after he testifies.

Las Vegas attorney Michael Cristalli, who has provided television network analysis of the Simpson hearings, said he expected Galanter will say he did his best in Simpson's case.

"He'll say he provided effective representation of Mr. Simpson, that he examined every witness zealously, and that he prepared exhaustively," Cristalli said, "and that there's no evidence to the contrary."

Simpson still maintains that he didn't know anyone in the hotel room had guns, and that he had a right to the items he was after -- football mementos, awards, photos and personal items that he said were stolen from him while he was moving out of his Los Angeles home.

The move followed Simpson's "trial of the century" acquittal in the 1994 the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend, and a 1997 civil judgment that ordered him to pay $33.5 million to the estates of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

"I talked to Yale about it two or three times," Simpson said during his testimony Wednesday. "The overall advice he was giving was, `You have a right to get your stuff."'

Key among Simpson's 19 claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and conflict of interest being considered by District Court Judge Linda Marie Bell is the allegation that Galanter should have provided witness testimony supporting Simpson's contention that he didn't know he was breaking the law.

Simpson says the two even talked about it over dinner the night before the ill-fated confrontation in September 2007, and that Galanter told him that if Simpson recovered the suit he wore the day he was acquitted in Los Angeles, Galanter would like to have it.

Bell has made no indication whether she plans an immediate ruling or will issue a written decision later.

The most damaging testimony about Galanter's performance came from three other lawyers involved in the case: Gabriel Grasso and Malcolm LaVergne, who represented Simpson, and Brent Bryson, who represented a Simpson co-defendant who also was convicted.

Each said Galanter seemed more interested in what he was paid and protecting himself from having to testify than in fully representing his client.

LaVergne, who argued with Galanter when both worked on Simpson's appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, testified Thursday that he believed Galanter's involvement shaped his trial strategy.

But stepping away from the case would have cost Galanter hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees.

"Do you think Mr. Galanter made decisions based on a conflict of interest?" Simpson lawyer Patricia Palm asked.

"From what I know now, absolutely," LaVergne said. "There's no doubt about it."

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