OJ Simpson Trial Promises New Spectacle in Las Vegas

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
OJ Simpson

While OJ Simpson's latest trial - related to a Las Vegas hotel armed robbery - is less likely to draw the national attention his first murder trial did in 1995, Sin City will still be taking center stage starting Monday.

Simpson's trial opens Monday in Clark County District Court and, as the New York Times points out, the football Hall of Famer is the only one alleged to have been involved in the robbery who is not a former convict.

In September, 2007, a group of men allegedly entered a room at the Palace Station hotel-casino and took sports memorabilia at gunpoint. Simpson was questioned by police. Simpson admitted to taking the items, which he said had been stolen from him, but denied breaking into the hotel room; he also denied that he or anyone else carried a gun. He was released after questioning.

Two days later, however, Simpson was arrested and initially held without bail. Along with three other men, Simpson was charged with multiple felony counts, including criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, robbery, and using a deadly weapon. If convicted of all charges, he could face more than 60 years imprisonment. The kidnapping charge could land Simpson in prison with a life sentence with parole, and the robbery charges, if convicted, carry mandatory prison time. Bail was then set at US$125,000, with stipulations that Simpson have no contact with the co-defendants and that Simpson must surrender his passport. Simpson did not enter a plea.

By the end of October 2007, all three of Simpson's co-defendants had plea bargained with the Clark County court. Walter Alexander and Charles H. Cashmore accepted plea agreements in exchange for reduced charges and his testimony against Simpson and three other co-defendants, including testifying that guns were used in the alleged robbery. Co-defendant Michael McClinton told a Las Vegas judge that he too would plead guilty to reduced charges and testify against Simpson that guns were used in the robbery. After the hearings, the judge decided to take Simpson to trial for the heist.

Simpson's preliminary hearing, to decide whether he would be tried for the charges, occurred on November 8, 2007. He was held over for trial on all 12 counts. Simpson pleaded not guilty on November 29. Court officers and attorneys announced on May 22, 2008, that long questionnaires with at least 115 queries will be given to a jury pool of 400 or more. Prosecutors and defense counsels disagreed on at least 3 questions, and Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass scheduled arguments on the June 20 hearing on pretrial motions. Trial was reset from April to September 8, 2008.

The case, many legal experts said, is the kind that would have been settled out of court with little fanfare had the defendant not been someone of Mr. Simpson's notoriety.

"O. J. Simpson has no felony convictions, and someone with no felony convictions usually gets treated very favorably in situations like this," said Dayvid Figler, a Las Vegas defense lawyer and a commentator on the case for TruTV, the cable outlet planning live gavel-to-gavel coverage. "In all likelihood, he would have been offered something so favorable at the onset that it would be resolved and he probably would do no jail time."

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