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Nevada justices cool to O.J. Simpson's request for bail

Lawyers for the former football great appear before a panel of the state Supreme Court to seek Simpson's release while he appeals his armed-robbery and kidnapping conviction.

August 04, 2009|Ashley Powers

LAS VEGAS — Nevada Supreme Court justices appeared cool Monday to arguments from O.J. Simpson's attorneys that the former football star be granted bail while he appeals his armed-robbery and kidnapping convictions.

Simpson's attorney, Yale Galanter, said the notoriety of the NFL Hall of Fame running back -- who was famously acquitted in Los Angeles of the 1994 double murder of his ex-wife and her friend -- made it impossible for him to flee if he were to be released on bail.

"Mr. Simpson is the perfect candidate for bail," Galanter said. "He's got nowhere to go, nowhere to hide."

But the three-member panel -- Mark Gibbons, Michael A. Cherry and Nancy M. Saitta -- noted that granting bail to someone convicted of violent crimes would be highly unusual in both the state and federal court systems.

When Galanter said that Simpson had traveled without incident between Nevada and his Florida home during other court proceedings, Saitta raised her eyebrows. "Everyone believes they have a valid appeal," she later told Galanter.

Simpson, 62, was sentenced in December to up to 33 years in prison for spearheading the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room -- an incident captured in surreptitious audio recordings made by a Simpson associate.

The Heisman Trophy winner and former sportscaster is incarcerated at Lovelock Correctional Center in northern Nevada. He will be eligible for parole in 2017.

"Considering the term of Simpson's sentence, combined with his current age, Simpson is realistically looking at a possible life sentence," Clark County Dist. Atty. David Roger said in court briefs. "Therefore, a flight to avoid a lengthy sentence has to be considered tempting."

Roger also argued in briefs that Simpson had shown a "severe disregard" for the courts. For example, before his Nevada trial, Simpson asked his bail bondsman to give a co-defendant a message, despite a judge's order to have no contact with anyone involved in the case.

It's unclear when the justices will issue their ruling. It's extremely unusual for them to hear a bail request from an appellant, and also extremely rare to grant one.

Galanter and co-counsel Malcolm LaVergne have appealed Simpson's conviction, contending that the trial judge, Jackie Glass, made a litany of errors, including blocking the defense from fully questioning potential jurors and witnesses, and that the largely white jury lacked diversity.

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ashley.powers@latimes.com

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