LAS VEGAS — Disgraced athlete O.J. Simpson on Tuesday was denied a new trial on his 2008 convictions for robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas, which sent him to prison for up to 33 years.
Clark County District Judge Linda Marie Bell ruled that for now, the 66-year-old will have to remain behind bars. Simpson, who will be 70 before he is eligible for parole, had sought a new trial, claiming incompetent legal counsel.
“We’re obviously very disappointed in the judge’s decision,” said Osvaldo Fumo, one of Simpson’s attorneys. “We plan to appeal the case.”
Attorneys say the case is far from over: Simpson could appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. If he loses that, he could petition the federal courts to argue that his constitutional right to effective counsel was violated.
In her 101-page decision, Bell said Simpson did not prove that he was denied a fair hearing during his trial.
“Mr. Simpson alleges that his attorney labored under an actual conflict, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel from both trial and appellate counsel, and that the state withheld exculpatory evidence,” she wrote. “All grounds in the petition lack meter and, consequently, are denied.”
In May, in his bid for a new trial, the fallen Hall of Fame running back and Heisman Trophy winner from USC sat shackled to his courtroom seat, looking much heavier than his playing days, as witnesses testified about events leading up to the night in 2007 when he and several friends stormed into a $39-a-night hotel room here demanding the return of sports memorabilia that Simpson insisted had been stolen from him.
Defense lawyers argued that he was merely trying to recover property that was rightfully his. Simpson has said he didn’t know that the five men who accompanied him to the Palace Station hotel had guns. But he was convicted in the gunpoint robbery and kidnapping of two sports memorabilia dealers.
“It was my stuff,” Simpson said in court. “I followed what I thought was the law. My lawyer told me I couldn’t break into a guy’s room. I didn’t break into anybody’s room. I didn’t try to muscle the guys. The guys had my stuff, even though they claimed they didn’t steal it.”
Simpson had hoped that Bell would void his convictions and grant him a second chance in court. Simpson’s lawyers say the former NFL star’s attorney in the first trial, Miami-based Yale Galanter, offered shoddy legal counsel that led to the conviction.
But Bell didn’t buy that argument, saying any errors on behalf of Simpson’s attorneys were outweighed by the facts in the case. “Given the overwhelming amount of evidence, neither the errors in this case, nor the errors collectively, cause this court to question the validity of Mr. Simpson’s conviction.”
Simpson’s high-profile trial over the hotel room break-in was not nearly as sensational as his first collision with the justice system. In 1995, he was acquitted in Los Angeles of murdering his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. In a subsequent civil trial, Simpson was found liable for civil damages of $33.5 million.