LAS VEGAS — O.J. Simpson's attorneys appealed the fallen football star's armed robbery and kidnapping conviction to Nevada's highest court Tuesday, arguing that the judge behaved improperly, the largely white jury lacked diversity and the overall trial was "fundamentally unfair."
"Any one of the errors discussed would warrant reversal; taken as a whole they mandate it," Simpson attorneys Yale Galanter and Malcolm LaVergne wrote in their brief to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Simpson, 61, was sentenced in December to up to 33 years in prison for leading a group in robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room. The incident's planning, execution and aftermath were captured in audio recordings that Simpson's cohorts made surreptitiously.
Simpson, who said he was simply trying to get back family heirlooms that a former agent had stolen, is incarcerated in Lovelock Correctional Center in northern Nevada and will be eligible for parole in 2017. The court usually takes about a year to issue a ruling, said spokesman Bill Gang.
"While [the appeal] is certainly his constitutional right, I am confident the guilty verdict from the Clark County jury will stand," said Clark County Dist. Atty. David Roger. "Judge Jackie Glass and the members of the jury did a great job with this trial, during which the jurors saw Mr. Simpson for the criminal he is."
Simpson's attorneys, however, say that the trial was faulty from the get-go and place much of the blame for the outcome on Glass.
The judge, they said, didn't let the defense fully question potential jurors, some of whom said they thought Simpson had killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994. Simpson was acquitted of the slayings in 1995, though a civil jury later found him liable for the deaths.
In Las Vegas, "the District Court gave no deference to the fact that Simpson brought a lot of baggage into the courtroom," his attorneys wrote.
Simpson's team also said that two black potential jurors were improperly kept off the panel, which ended up with 11 white members and one Latina. Simpson codefendant Clarence Stewart, who was sentenced to at least 7 1/2 years behind bars, is also black.
The attorneys sharply criticized Glass' jury instructions and her decisions on what testimony the panel heard. They said she improperly allowed hearsay and questions about witness intimidation and wouldn't let Simpson's team fully cross-examine witnesses.
For example, the defense hoped to undermine the credibility of Simpson associate Walter Alexander, who had taken a plea deal, by asking whether he "earned his living as a pimp and as a golf hustler," their brief said. Glass wouldn't allow it.
Simpson's attorneys said Glass also inappropriately belittled them in front of jurors, which they said might have harmed Simpson's defense.