Published May 14, 2013
LAS VEGAS – O.J. Simpson became so dependent on his lawyer during his Las Vegas armed robbery trial that the former football star would have done anything Yale Galanter advised -- including passing up the chance to testify, his co-counsel testified Tuesday.
"I could advise O.J. all day long, and he was very respectful of me," Gabriel Grasso told the court. "But if I advised him of something different from what Yale said, he would do what Yale said."
It was Galanter's decision not to have Simpson testify, Grasso said.
Under questioning from prosecutor H. Leon Simon, Grasso acknowledged the trial judge, Jackie Glass, specifically asked Simpson if he wanted to testify.
"O.J. did say he did not want to testify," said Simon, a chief deputy Clark County district attorney.
"Mr. Galanter told him, `This is the way it's going to be,"' Grasso said.
He said Simpson's confidence in Galanter was born of the acquittal he gained for the former Hall of Fame football player in a road rage case after Simpson moved to Florida following his 1995 acquittal on murder charges in the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend.
Galanter, the Florida lawyer who is the focus of Simpson's motion claiming ineffective assistance of counsel has declined to comment until he takes the stand Friday.
Grasso, a prominent Las Vegas criminal lawyer who signed on to help his old friend, Galanter, with Simpson's defense on robbery and kidnap charges, ended two days of sometimes searing attacks on Galanter's promises and performance by softening his assessment of Galanter's skills.
""I feel he's a capable attorney," he said. "Now that I know how things turned out, this wasn't his best case."
"Was Mr. Galanter trying to sell O.J. down the river?" asked Simon.
"No," said Grasso.
Simpson lawyer Ozzie Fumo asked retired Clark County District Attorney David Roger, who prosecuted Simpson, whether investigators ever determined if Galanter helped Simpson plan the 2007 hotel room confrontation with two memorabilia dealers and was in Las Vegas the night before the heist.
"He said he did not advise Mr. Simpson to commit armed robbery," Roger said.
"And he said he wasn't there?" Fumo asked.
"Yes," Roger replied.
Fumo asked Roger to read the transcript where Galanter told Judge Jackie Glass that he "wasn't there," "had nothing to do with it," and learned about it from a cell phone call afterward.
Others have testified that Galanter was in Las Vegas and had dinner with Simpson the night before.
Twice, Roger said, he talked with Galanter about a plea deal for Simpson: once in his office before a preliminary hearing and once during trial.
The first time, "He said, `Unless you're prepared to stipulate to probation for my client, there's nothing to talk about,"' Roger said. "I said, `You're right, there's nothing to talk about."'
The second time, Roger testified, Galanter said that if prosecutors would offer a 24-month sentence, he'd talk with Simpson about it.
Galanter returned, saying Simpson would take no more than 12 months, and Roger said he felt Simpson didn't want a deal.
"There were no further negotiations" he told Fumo.
Galanter's tactics also drew criticism Tuesday from the lawyer who represented Simpson in a Santa Monica, Calif., case that resulted in the celebrity defendant getting back some items he had set out to retrieve in Las Vegas.
Attorney Ronald P. Slates testified by telephone from Los Angeles about his victory in gaining custody of Simpson's neckties and footballs.
"Did you know Yale Galanter?" asked Simpson attorney Patricia Palm.
"Yes," he said. "He would show up in court to take credit for what he didn't do."
Simpson won a small victory Tuesday when District Court Judge Linda Marie Bell granted a defense request to have one of Simpson's hands unshackled to drink water and take notes. Simpson's left hand was still cuffed to his chair.
Simpson managed a smile and a waist-high wave with his shackled hand as he entered the courtroom and found friends and family members in the audience. Among them was Tom Scotto, whose wedding was the reason for Simpson's ill- fated trip to Las Vegas.
"He looks like a beaten man," Scotto said outside court after seeing his old friend clad in a dingy blue prison uniform and orange prison issue slippers, chains clanking around his feet and waist.
The 65-year-old Simpson is serving nine to 33 years in prison for leading five men in the armed robbery-kidnapping of the two sports memorabilia dealers.
Simpson, who will be 70 before he is eligible for parole, has filed a writ of habeas corpus, his last chance under state law to prove that he was wrongly convicted and win a new trial. A federal court appeal is still possible.
After his acquittal on the murder charges, Simpson was found liable for damages in a civil wrongful death lawsuit and ordered to pay $33.5 million to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Palm suggested in questioning Grasso that Glass erred at trial when she allowed prosecutors to mention Goldman in court several times even after she ruled that there would be no mention of the Los Angeles case, which was deemed irrelevant.
Nineteen separate reasons for reversal are being considered in the anticipated weeklong hearing, which was taking place absent the fanfare that surrounded Simpson's "trial of the century" in Los Angeles and his 2008 trial in Las Vegas.
Seats went unfilled in the courtroom gallery.