I've been writing this legal advice column about small-claims issues for the past two years, and it has been an honor reading and responding to your questions. I've truly enjoyed delving into so many different topics and points of law. But change is inevitable, and I am very excited to begin covering topical legal issues in this space going forward. While I am still eager to hear questions and comments from readers (I'll still address questions here from time to time), I will mainly be covering common legal issues, topics relevant to current events and commenting on high-profile trials.
Recently, O.J. Simpson was back in the news. Back in 2008, I presided over his trial in Las Vegas, in which he was convicted of kidnapping and robbing at gunpoint two sports memorabilia dealers in their Palace Station hotel room. Many people did not understand what he was doing back in court in 2013. Well, I'll tell you.
It is standard operating procedure for convicted felons to use a process called "post-conviction relief" to try to get a new trial. In this case, Mr. Simpson's new attorneys filed a 94-page motion asking the judge to grant their client a new trial because his former friend and attorney, Yale Galanter, did not do his job correctly. They claim that Galanter knew about Simpson's plan to reclaim his sports memorabilia before it was carried out and deemed it legal, thereby creating a conflict of interest that may have jeopardized Simpson's right to counsel. They claim that despite receiving a sizeable retainer, Galanter failed to properly investigate the case and defend his client. They claim he never informed Simpson about a potential plea deal.
So the new judge held a five-day evidentiary hearing. The state of Nevada brought forward their witnesses to rebut Simpson's claims. It is never easy for an attorney to be a witness, and that much was evident when Galanter took the stand. His body language and facial expressions told the whole story; he was visibly angry and upset. Simpson had been his friend and now was in open court calling him incompetent, claiming he was conflicted in the way he handled the case. It is not a good idea to argue with the judge or the attorney questioning you, but that's exactly what Galanter did, pitting his word against Simpson's. For me, it was uncomfortable to watch.
What happens now is completely up to the new judge. When I left the bench, the case was assigned to another department. But in presiding over the original trial, I know what was said and done. It seemed evident to me that Simpson was convicted not because of what his attorney did or did not do but because of the overwhelming evidence that was presented against him. His entire criminal process was audio-taped by Tom Riccio, the middleman who arranged the meeting and knew both sides, from the planning to the actual robbery to the discussion that occurred afterwards.
Being a judge in a high-profile case can be difficult, and it presents a whole range of unique considerations. But I was the same judge that I was in any other case; it's just that this one was on TV. The defense attorneys even claimed that I was "mean" during the proceedings, going so far as to include it as one of their grounds for appeal. Believe me, I wasn't mean -- I was a judge in control.
At the time of this writing, the judge was still deliberating, but it is rare for any judge to grant a motion such as this one. These motions are heard in our courts on a regular basis, and the standard that has to be met is a high one. There is nothing special about this particular instance. The only thing that made this case different is the defendant.
As we all know, O.J. Simpson is more infamous than most. But like I said at his 2008 sentencing, this case, this conviction and now this motion have nothing to do with Simpson's historic 1995 murder trial. This is not retribution or payback or anything of the sort. From my seat in the courtroom, a jury found Simpson guilty of robbery and kidnapping based on the evidence and testimony presented at trial. Case closed.
(Jackie Glass is a lawyer and former district court judge from Las Vegas. You can write to Jackie by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter at @theJudgeGlass. This column is being provided for informational purposes only. It may not be relied upon by you as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.)