OJ back in court; Day 4 of bid for new Vegas trial

By Linda Deutsch

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, May 16 2013 4:45 p.m. MDT

Former Clark County District Attorney and O.J. Simpson trial prosecutor David Roger testifies at an evidentiary hearing for Simpson in Clark County District Court on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 in Las Vegas. The hearing is aimed at proving Simpson's trial lawyer, Yale Galanter, had conflicted interests and shouldn't have handled Simpson's case. Simpson is serving nine to 33 years in prison for his 2008 conviction in the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Steve Marcus, Pool, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — A lawyer who represented O.J. Simpson during the appeal of his armed robbery conviction to the Nevada Supreme Court testified Thursday that he's convinced that Simpson's lead trial lawyer made decisions in the case based on his own conflict of interest.

"From what I know now, absolutely. There's no doubt about it," attorney Malcolm LaVergne said under questioning by Simpson lawyer Patricia Palm during a hearing on Simpson's bid for a new trial.

LaVergne took over as Simpson's local counsel for an appeal in 2010, after another Las Vegas lawyer bowed out in a dispute over fees with Simpson's Miami-based attorney, Yale Galanter.

LaVergne said he found Galanter wasn't open to any suggestions in the case.

"Yale was going to have it his way," LaVergne testified in the fourth day of hearing before District Judge Linda Marie Bell, who will determine whether Simpson was improperly represented in 2008 and deserves a new trial.

Simpson is serving a sentence of nine to 33 years in prison.

LaVergne was asked what Simpson's relationship was with Galanter, who allegedly told Simpson he was within his rights to retrieve personal memorabilia from two collectibles dealers in an ill-fated confrontation in a Las Vegas casino hotel room in September 2007.

Simpson testified Wednesday that the items he thought would be in the room were his, and Galanter told him that as long as he didn't trespass or use force, he had a legal right to get them.

"I followed what I thought was the law," the 65-year-old former NFL star and actor said in his first testimony about the Las Vegas incident.

Galanter is scheduled to testify Friday.

The focus since Monday has been on Galanter's promises, payments and performance while representing Simpson at trial and staying with the case through oral arguments in a 2010 appeal that was rejected by the Nevada Supreme Court. Galanter has been cast as more concerned about avoiding the disclosure that he advised Simpson ahead of the incident than he was about Simpson.

"Mr. Simpson was very cordial to Mr. Galanter, and Mr. Galanter ran the show," LaVergne said, recalling his first meeting with the two.

LaVergne said Simpson went along with what Galanter wanted. But he said he later found out that Simpson was unaware of any of the legal issues being raised in his appeal and had not seen copies of the briefs submitted on his behalf.

LaVergne said Simpson wanted him and Galanter to split oral arguments before the state high court, but Galanter rejected that.

Palm entered into evidence about seven pages of June 2010 emails between the attorneys about the issue.

LaVergne recalled that at one point in the exchanges, he told Galanter he was being "disrespectful" to him and Simpson. He said when he reported later to Simpson that Galanter made the oral presentation, Simpson was surprised.

Palm asked LaVergne if Galanter ever discussed "a conflict in his representation" with Simpson, and LaVergne said no.

"I was concerned," LaVergne said. "The biggest concern was that Mr. Simpson's appeals were not going well and another set of eyes could look at his case."

After the appeal was denied, Galanter wanted to skip any other possible state appeals and go directly to federal court, witnesses have asserted.

LaVergne said that was when Simpson broke with Galanter.

On Wednesday, Simpson testified that LaVergne and "jailhouse lawyers" were telling him at the time that he was throwing away his last chance to claim ineffective counsel.

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