O.J. Simpson details the events leading up to a 2007 Las Vegas hotel room raid that led to his robbery and kidnapping conviction. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Wednesday May 15, 2013.
O.J. Simpson testified Wednesday in court -- something he did not do during his 1995 murder trial or 2008 robbery-kidnapping case -- that guns were never "a subject" during discussions leading up to a Las Vegas hotel room raid that led to the former NFL Hall of Famer's conviction and prison sentence.
Simpson testified Wednesday about the 2007 raid and his relationship with the trial attorney Yale Galanter, who is the key figure in this week's hearing that might go a long way in determining whether Simpson spends the rest of his life in prison. Simpson wants a new trial because he says his longtime lawyer failed to disclose that he knew about the hotel room raid in advance, told Simpson it was legal and provided bad advice at trial.
Simpson, 65, repeated his assertion Wednesday that he was not aware two of the men who accompanied him on a mission to retrieve the sports memorabilia at the Palace Station hotel had guns. He testified that he just needed "a couple of big guys" to help carry items from the hotel.
"I don't need security," Simpson said he told others involved in the conversation.
He was asked by his co-counsel whether he ever asked the men to bring weapons.
"No, never was a subject," he replied.
Several of the questions from Simpson co-counsel Patricia Palm addressed his consumption of alcohol on the night before and day of the raid. Simpson was in Las Vegas for a wedding and the memorabilia dealers were "essentially, down the street," he said.
"I wouldn't have gotten behind the wheel of a car," Simpson said of his activities the night before the raid. "I'm in Las Vegas with a lot of friends. We were in a very celebrative mood."
He started drinking alcohol again the next day at the Palms hotel, Simpson said. That's when plans to retrieve the memorabilia were discussed, he said.
Galanter gained an acquittal for Simpson in a 2000 Florida road rage case, but Simpson testified Wednesday that he socialized with Galanter, such as going out to dinner. It was at one of those dinners that Galanter and Simpson discussed the recovery of the sports memorabilia, including autographed footballs and framed photos.
The former USC Trojans star and Heisman trophy winner said the items went missing after his acquittal in the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Simpson testified Wednesday that once he learned the collection included family photos, he wanted them back.
"That's when I got interested," Simpson said.
Simspon was asked why he thought his actions to retrieve the items were legal.
"It was my stuff," he responded.
Crowds at the courthouse had been small, unlike the 1995 murder trial in Los Angeles and the 2008 robbery and kidnapping trials, until Wednesday. A court marshal turned people away, sending more than 15 people to an overflow room where video was streamed live.
During Tuesday's testimony, attorney Gabriel Grasso said he was contacted to work on the robbery-kidnap case and believed Galanter did not spend enough money to win an acquittal.
"I was under the impression that we were operating on a shoestring," Grasso said Tuesday. "There were no experts to be had. We didn't have any money to hire experts."
He also told the court he thought Simpson should have testified at trial.
"I had the distinct feeling that O.J. had to testify in this case," Grasso said. "That was our only shot."
The sports memorabilia dealer in the hotel room during the raid told NBC4 he believes Simpson was a "pawn." Bruce Fromong said one of the men pointed a gun to his head and told him he would be shot if he did not cooperate.
"O.J. was stupid that night," said Fromong. "In many ways, O.J. Simpson was a pawn just as I was."
The new challenge follows the Nevada Supreme Court's denial of Simpson's 2010 appeal, also handled by Galanter. Simpson's new attorney filed the writ of habeas corpus in May 2012, seeking her client's release from prison and reversal of the conviction.
He has already served four years in prison, but must serve nine of the maximum 33-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Simpson has appeared in court in blue prison clothes and shackles, although the judge Tuesday allowed him to uncuff his right hand so he could take notes during testimony.
Four Simpson co-defendants pleaded guilty to felonies and testified for the prosecution. A fifth defendant, Clarence "C.J.'' Stewart, was convicted and served more than two years in prison before the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Simpson's fame tainted Stewart's conviction.
A judge eventually ruled that the items should be delivered to Simpson's civil case attorney.