Judges consider bail for OJ Simpson
Published 04/08/2009 | 07:04
Three Nevada Supreme Court justices discussed whether jailed ex-football star OJ Simpson and a former golfing friend received a fair trial for an armed hotel room robbery and whether they should be freed while their appeals were considered.
It is unusual for the Nevada Supreme Court, the state's only appeals court, to hear oral arguments about bail, and it would be even more unusual for Simpson or Clarence "CJ" Stewart to be released.
The last such high-profile appellant to get such a chance in Nevada fled after posting 100,000 dollars (£59,000) in 1978.
The judges are considering whether Simpson or Stewart might flee, whether they pose a danger to the community, and if they have a good chance of winning their appeals.
Simpson, 62, was acquitted on murder charges over the 1994 killing of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in Los Angeles. After the sensational criminal trial he was found liable for the deaths in civil court.
Now Simpson is serving nine to 33 years for kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon in the September 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas casino hotel room. Stewart, 55, is serving seven and a half to 27 years.
Neither was in court in Las Vegas yesterday while their lawyers argued that neither had received a fair trial.
The question of their appeal's possible success was the key point of the hearing and inquiries from the justices shed light on the issues they were considering.
"This is post-conviction. That's what concerns me," Justice Michael Cherry declared during the rare oral arguments by lawyers about whether Simpson and Stewart should be allowed to post bail while their appeals are pending.
Justice Cherry, the chairman of the three-judge panel considering the bail request, did not say how long he and justices Mark Gibbons and Nancy Saitta might take to decide.
It appeared unlikely a ruling would come before an August 12 deadline for Clark County district attorney David Roger to file a written answer to Simpson's appeal.
Mr Roger, who prosecuted Simpson and Stewart, argued that the men got a fair trial, a Nevada jury had spoken, and the pair should continue to serve their sentences for kidnapping and armed robbery.
The justices asked each defence lawyer what was different about this case to warrant bail on convictions that carried mandatory prison time with no option of probation.
"I've been waiting for you to use the word severance!" Justice Cherry declared, interrupting Stewart's lawyer Brent Bryson when he said his client "should have never been tried with Mr Simpson".
Mr Bryson asked the court to consider the many times before and during trial when he asked Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass to separate Stewart's trial from Simpson's.
"Her response was, 'Severance is dead'," Mr Bryson said.
Simpson's lawyer Yale Galanter said Simpson would abide by any conditions the court set for his release, and that the National Football League hall-of-famer, actor and celebrity criminal defendant could not possibly disappear.
Mr Galanter also spoke of Simpson's uniqueness in "American jurisprudence".
"He is probably the one individual on the planet who's got no place to go and no place to hide," he said.
Mr Galanter, who told the court he had been making arrangements for Simpson to live in Nevada and seek state residency, said later that he was optimistic the court would free Simpson pending his appeal.
"The trial, in all due respect to Judge Glass, was erroneous and just a sham," he said. "If ever there's someone who deserves release it's OJ Simpson and CJ Stewart."