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Nevada Supreme Court hears O.J. Simpson appeal

An attorney for O.J. Simpson told a Nevada Supreme Court panel Friday that nearly every aspect of the football luminary’s 2008 armed robbery and kidnapping trial was so flawed that his multiple felony convictions should be overturned.

Assuring Simpson a fair trial was already difficult, attorney Yale Galanter argued, because of the lingering notoriety from his acquittal in the 1994 slayings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in California. A civil jury later found Simpson liable in their deaths.

“Because of that, there should have been a heightened sense of responsibility to make sure that you get 12 people who are going to judge what happened here in Nevada strictly by what happened here in Nevada,” Galanter told the three-justice panel. From jury selection to jury instructions, he argued, that didn’t happen.

“This was not a search for truth, but became a search for redemption,” Galanter said.

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Judge Jackie Glass sentenced Simpson, who did not attend Friday’s hearing, to up to 33 years in prison for leading a motley crew in the armed robbery of two memorabilia dealers in a down-market Las Vegas hotel room — an incident that, from setup to aftermath, was mostly captured in audio recordings.

Four of Simpson’s cohorts took plea deals and testified against him. A fifth, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, has also appealed his convictions to the Nevada Supreme Court.

On Friday, Clark County Dist. Atty. David Roger tried to bat down a number of Galanter’s arguments, saying Glass had been tough on both sides during the trial, not just the defense, and that the jury instructions she approved were fair. Galanter said the instructions should have included the option of convicting Simpson on a lesser kidnapping charge and should have allowed the jury to consider one of his team’s chief arguments: that Simpson was merely trying to retrieve items stolen from him.

“That’s not consistent with Nevada law,” Roger said.

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“It is in California,” said Justice Nancy M. Saitta.

“Well, that’s why we’re here in Nevada, not California,” Roger said.

The justices questioned both sides extensively on the selection of the jury, which had no African American members. Simpson’s team zeroed in on two potential black jurors, Nos. 177 and 209, whom prosecutors successfully kept off the panel.

Roger said their exclusion had nothing to do with race. He said that both potential jurors belonged to prison ministries and had said they had relatives wrongfully accused of crimes — factors that might lead them to side with the defense. Galanter brushed off Roger’s reasoning.

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“We believe that smacks of prejudice,” Galanter said. “It was improper; it was not right.”

The panel is not expected to issue a ruling for some time.

ashley.powers@latimes.com


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