Published November 07, 2008
LAS VEGAS – O.J. Simpson was denied a new trial Friday by the Nevada judge who presided over his conviction in the gunpoint robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room.
Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass said challenges raised by lawyers for Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart did not rise to the level of granting another trial.
"All of the issues have been preserved for the (Nevada) Supreme Court," Glass said, acknowledging her rulings could be appealed to the state's only appellate court.
Simpson and Stewart, who were shackled and in jail garb, did not speak during the 20-minute hearing.
The judge also denied requests to release Simpson and Stewart on bail pending sentencing Dec. 5.
"They face life sentences, mandatory prison," Glass said. "Your motions are being denied."
Simpson, 61, and Stewart, 54, were convicted Oct. 3 of all 12 charges, including kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, in the Sept. 13, 2007, hotel room confrontation.
Each faces five years to life in prison on each of their two kidnapping convictions, and a mandatory sentence of at least two years or up to 30 years on each of the two armed robbery convictions.
During the hearing, Stewart's lawyer, Brent Bryson, raised a new allegation of misconduct by the jury foreman, Paul Connelly.
Bryson said an investigator for Simpson's lawyers found that Connelly was dismissed from a job with a soft drink company after making racially disparaging statements.
"That's problematic for our clients, who are black," Bryson said. He said the jury foreman's opinions would have been clear to the other jurors and asserted that Connelly was "the driving force behind keeping the jury here for approximately 13 hours to make a decision on a Friday night" during deliberations.
"If you have a juror who turns out to be the jury foreman (and who) is racially biased, the prejudice speaks for itself," Stewart's lawyer said.
Bryson previously said Connelly told the media after Simpson's conviction that he thought the former football star should have gotten life in prison for the 1994 slaying of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles.
Connelly did not immediately respond to telephone messages from The Associated Press. He has said his comments were taken out of context.
Simpson lawyer Yale Galanter did not address the jury misconduct issue during the hearing. Outside court, he confirmed Bryson's statements, but declined to provide more information.
"We're still investigating," Galanter said. "At the appropriate time, we'll release what we've learned."
In her ruling, Glass sided with prosecutor Chris Owens, who said defense lawyers "were not under any illusions" about Connelly's opinions after reviewing his 26-page questionnaire and questioning him during voir dire.
"I find that nothing has risen to a level of juror misconduct," Glass said.
The judge granted one request, allowing Robert Lucherini to withdraw as an attorney for Stewart.
The judge denied Simpson's request for a new trial on seven points cited by Galanter and defense lawyer Gabriel Grasso, including challenges to the evidence of kidnapping and to questions used to cull the jury from a pool of 500 prospects.
Another challenge alleged that Glass improperly allowed prosecutors to use pre-emptory challenges to remove two prospective black jurors before the final panel was seated. The jury of nine women and three men included one woman who identified herself as Hispanic, but no blacks.
In another matter, the Nevada state attorney general submitted documents Monday asking the state Supreme Court to uphold Glass' decisions to withhold jury questionnaires from the public until the trial was over and redact the documents when they were released.
"Judge Glass successfully balanced the needs of the defendants and the press," Senior Deputy Attorney General Jill Davis wrote. "Judge Glass determined that the defendants' right to a fair trial before an impartial jury constituted an overriding interest to the media's First Amendment rights pertaining to the immediate access to juror questionnaires."
Lawyer Colby Williams, representing The Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said Friday that case law is clear and jury questioning should be an open process and questionnaires should be made public.
He said the state high court has the option to schedule oral arguments before deciding the issue.