O.J. Simpson's attorneys in his armed robbery case could be fighting long odds to convince an appeals court that he was a victim of racial prejudice and payback for his murder acquittal, legal experts say, but there may be other grounds for a new trial.
The 61-year-old Simpson's future depends, in part, on how successfully his lawyers argue that his 1995 acquittal was allowed to intrude in a Las Vegas courtroom.
Las Vegas defense attorney Al Lasso said that while the former football star's acquittal was the “elephant in the room everyone was trying to ignore,” there were other errors that could bring a reversal of his conviction.
“This court would not hesitate to reverse if they saw cumulative errors that had the effect of prejudicing a defendant,” Lasso said. “But then again, it's O.J. Simpson, and he's unlike any other defendant.”
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Lasso, who watched the trial, said he was shocked at the jury's decision to convict Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart of kidnapping, armed robbery and 10 other charges related to a hotel confrontation Sept. 13, 2007, with two sports memorabilia dealers.
The two face up to life in prison.
The day after the verdict, Simpson attorney Yale Galanter said the jury was “on an agenda” to make up for Simpson's acquittal.
“This was just payback,” Galanter said.
Lasso agreed, saying the conviction “feels like revenge justice.”
The defense also will claim Judge Jackie Glass put such tough limits on defense questions that lying witnesses were shielded from exposure in court.
But the race issue will be the most difficult to prove, according to Sam Sommers, a Tufts University psychology professor whose area of expertise is race and the justice system.
“Short of attorneys admitting that, it's hard to convince an appeals court that it happened,” Sommers said.
Both men are black and their jury included no African Americans. Two blacks were eliminated by the prosecution through peremptory challenges in spite of defense claims that these were race-based actions designed to create an all-white jury.
One of the nine women and three men who convicted Simpson identified herself as Hispanic.
Simpson remains isolated in a 7-foot-by-14-foot cell in a Las Vegas jail, and his attorneys said they were preparing a request for new trial to be filed by week's end.