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Unflattering Portrait of O.J. Lawyer Emerges

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photo: Ricardo Silvi/GettyImages

photo: Ricardo Silvi/GettyImages

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Las Vegas CBS KXNT- Witnesses on the first day of O.J. Simpson’s bid for a new trial have portrayed the lawyer who represented him in 2008 as opportunistic, cavalier about preparing for case, and unwilling to spend money on necessary defense experts.

Simpson’s claim is that Florida attorney Yale Galanter did not provide effective counsel. Among other things, he says Galanter was aware of Simpson’s plan to go to a Las Vegas hotel room and demand items of stolen personal property from sports memorabilia collectors who were holding them, and he approved it. Galanter also failed to report an offer for a plea agreement from the prosecution, according to the petition.

The planned meeting devolved into an armed confrontation that was secretly recorded, and helped land Simpson behind bars for 9-33 years at Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center. The recording, which proved persuasive to the jury, was a central focus in the testimony of several witnesses. Two attorneys who were involved in the 2008 trial testified that the taped evidence should not have been admitted, for a variety of reasons.

Witness and Simpson friend Jim Barnett testified on Monday that he raised concerns during the 2008 trial about the integrity of audio tapes from the meeting at the Palace Station. Barnett, who is an engineer, said he advised Galanter at the time that the recordings should be analyzed to determine whether they’d tampered with.

Barnett said Galanter asked him for $250,000 to hire someone to do the analysis, which be believed could have been accomplished for about $5,000. Barnett declined to provide the money, concluding that Galanter was just a “slick attorney”.

Simpson attorney Patricia Palm suggested that Galanter misrepresented the facts to Judge Jackie Glass in 2008 when he told her that he’d had experts going through every one of the tapes.

Local co-counsel Gabriel Grasso said he also asked Galanter to hire an audio expert to ensure that the recordings hadn’t been altered, and Galanter said it wasn’t necessary. Grasso noted on the stand that there were other things necessary for a proper defense that Galanter was unwilling to authorize, or to pay for. Grasso testified that he ultimately hired an investigator to do background checks on some of the witnesses, even though he himself had not been paid for weeks of work on the case, and there didn’t seem to be any money forthcoming from Galanter, who had promised him $250,000 in return for his help.

Grasso had been engaged by Galanter on a handshake deal. The two had been acquainted since Grasso was a third-year law student in Florida and Galanter was working for then-Dade County prosecutor Janet Reno. They did not strictly define Grasso’s duties as Nevada co-counsel, but he was primarily hired because he was licensed to practice in the state, and Galanter was not, he said.

Grasso confirmed that he sued Galanter after the trial was over, because he was never paid. Grasso said he received $15,000 for operational expenses, including a larger office he’d leased at the urging of Galanter, who needed a place to hold press briefings, and for the Simpson entourage to gather. Grasso said he did significant trial preparation, and bore the lion’s share of trial expenses.

Galanter and Grasso had one major disagreement: whether Simpson should testify. Grasso said that based on his criminal trial experience, he believed Simpson should take the stand, and told him “hell, yes” when Simpson asked about it. But Galanter rebuked him for advising Simpson, and said he wouldn’t allow the defendant to testify. Grasso characterized Galanter’s demeanor toward Simpson as “dismissive”.

To this day, Grasso said, he believes O.J. Simpson had no intention of having an armed confrontation, and that Simpson was not aware that some of his companions were armed.

Simpson’s daughter Arnelle took the stand to describe her role as the coordinator of the wedding her father had come to Las Vegas to attend. She said she was present at the dinner where O.J. Simpson discussed with Galanter his plan to take back his possessions.

Arnelle Simpson said she also overheard other phone calls by some of the parties who intended to accompany her father to the hotel room at the Palace Station. She was asked repeatedly whether she ever heard anyone mention guns. She said she did not.

Galanter is expected to testify later in the week. Simpson will take the stand on Wednesday, according to his team.

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