Wearing a blue prison uniform, O.J. Simpson testified Wednesday in a Las Vegas courtroom that his former attorney advised he could use some force to reclaim personal items from sports memorabilia dealers as long as he didn’t trespass.
Simpson took the witness stand in an effort to get a new trial on his armed robbery, assault and kidnapping convictions stemming from the confrontation in 2007. He insists that his attorney in that case, Yale Galanter, didn’t adequately represent him during the trial a year later.
Simpson said he trusted Galanter’s advice on how to get the items back. He said he believed the items were stolen and he wanted to give them to his children someday.
“The overall advice that he gave me is that you have a right to get your stuff. He gave me an example that if you’re walking the street and you see your laptop in a car, you can use force to break the window of the car,” Simpson told the court.
The 65-year-old former football star was convicted of leading a group of associates into a room at the Palace Station hotel and casino and using threats, guns and force to take back items from the two dealers.
Simpson testified that Galanter advised him that he could demand his property back from the dealers, and if they refused to return it, he could use some force, but he could not trespass.
Simpson didn’t discuss with his attorney, however, about whether any weapons would be used in the incident. Simpson and co-defendants would later be accused of using a weapon.
Wednesday, Simpson testified that he didn’t know of any weapons being present when he and five co-defendants confronted the memorabilia dealers in the hotel room.
“But I suspect” there were, he testified.
Of the five men who went with Simpson to the room, four pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony at trial, but Clarence “C.J.” Stewart faced a jury conviction alongside Simpson.
Stewart later won a court order for a new trial. In 2011, Stewart was sentenced to three years’ probation after entering an Alford plea to robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, meaning he didn’t admit guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors could prove their case, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported then.
A deputy escorted Simpson to the stand Wednesday and unlocked the manacles binding his hands to his waist. His feet were also shackled. The former NFL player was heavier and had more gray hair than when he gained notoriety in the mid-1990s in his trial on charges of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. A jury acquitted him in that case.
In court Wednesday, Simpson recounted his working relationship with Galanter, who he said had a conflict of interest in the case and failed to mount an effective defense.
“Yale had a relationship with the media and he would go on various shows to refute the tabloid stories,” Simpson said. “He had a good relationship with the media and consequently I was in the media a lot, and that gave him an opportunity to go on TV.”
Under questioning by his attorney, Simpson seemed relaxed, alert and attentive to each question. He voice was low and at times raspy. His left wrist was handcuffed to the witness stand, creating an image of a one-armed man as he gestured only with his right hand in animated moments.
The courtroom gallery is small, occupied mainly by journalists, and the hearing lacked the big media spectacle of prior Simpson court appearances.
In documents filed requesting the new trial, Simpson argued that Galanter prevented him from testifying on his own behalf, leaving nothing to challenge evidence put forward by prosecutors of criminal intent and other issues.
Because Simpson didn’t testify in the 2008 trial, he now “wants to tell his story,” attorney Osmaldo Fumo said Tuesday, the second day of the hearing.
Simpson is serving a 33-year prison term and is eligible for parole in 2017.
Simpson lost an appeal of his verdict in 2010 in Nevada Supreme Court. Prosecutors say there is no evidence of conflict of interest and Simpson’s claims are “without merit.”
Simpson, who played in the NFL from 1969 to 1979, was acquitted in a criminal trial in the 1994 deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. A civil jury later slapped him with a $33 million wrongful-death judgment.
CNN’s Paul Vercammen contributed to this report from Las Vegas. Matt Smith also contributed to this report.
Michael Martinez | CNN