In 1995, the late Johnnie Cochran introduced a defense at O.J. Simpson’s trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman that famously guaranteed O.J.’s freedom: a black glove found at the crime scene that didn’t fit his hand. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” he warned the jury, which soon set Simpson free. But in a less-remembered 2008 trial, the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer landed in prison anyway for a hotel-room robbery in which he attempted to take back memorabilia that he said had been stolen from him.
The glove was a good enough defense to save Simpson, now 65, from prison the first time, but his more recent defense didn’t succeed the second time. Five years after being sentenced to 9-to-33-years behind bars for armed robbery, for which he will have parole eligibility in 2017, he appeared in a Las Vegas district court room on Monday to request a new trial. He claims that his legal representation was so poor that his conviction should be reversed and that a new trial should be ordered. (A separate appeal was denied in 2010).
Here are five reasons Simpson has offered since the time of his 2008 trial to explain why he’s not guilty:
1. Simpson believed he was taking back what was his.
In the incident that led to a prison sentence, Simpson and five other men confronted two memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel in what he called a “sting operation,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He recognized the men from previous interactions and accused them of stealing from him. He ordered that no one should leave the room, and, as the men with him were collecting the memorabilia, one pulled a gun, according to testimony. Nobody was harmed, but what happened fit kidnapping and robbery charges.
2. His lawyer didn’t tell him that he could be charged with a crime.
Simpson claims that Yale Galanter, who represented him at the 2008 trial, did not advise that an attempt to retrieve the items (which included personal heirlooms like family photos and other mementos) could result in criminal charges, no matter who claimed ownership of the material. Even though he says he was oblivious to the criminal nature of his actions, a hidden recording placed him under scrutiny. Tom Riccio, another memorabilia dealer placed a tape recorder in the hotel room, which helped to convince jurors against Simpson.
3. His lawyer told him that he had a legal right to take the memorabilia.
Simpson claims that his lawyer knew about the plans to get back the memorabilia and told him he was within his rights to retrieve it “so long as there would be no trespass and no physical force used against the persons with the property,” according to Simpson in his case filing. But based on Nevada laws regarding stolen property, Simpson would likely have had to take the dealers to court to prove that the items rightfully belonged to him. In a sworn statement to the court Simpson contends: “He consistently told me the state could not prove its case because I acted within my rights in retaking my own property.”
4. He never knew about a proposed plea-bargain deal.
Simpson contends that Galanter failed to inform him that prosecutors were willing to let him plead guilty to the charges, which would have gotten him out of prison in two years. But trial prosecutors David Roger and Chris Owens have said they never made any such offer, according to ESPN.com. Owens once asked Galanter whether Simpson would accept 30 months in prison, and Galanter spoke of a 12-month sentence, but there was no discussion after that, Owens said.
5. Concussions made him do it.
This actually never made it to trial the first time, and his new attorneys have abandoned it for his attempt at a new trial, but Simpson once claimed that concussions that he experienced during his long professional football career skewed his judgment to the point where he could not discern whether or not what he was doing was a criminal act. His lead attorney Patricia Palm told ESPN.com, “We did not pursue that path [the concussions] and will not present it during the hearing.” But that’s likely because there is little documented evidence that Simpson ever actually suffered a serious head injury, according to Slate.