OJ Simpson’s Bid for Freedom: It’s My Lawyer’s Fault

OJ Simpson’s fall from fame is well documented. The disgraced football running back’s latest legal woes stem from an altercation in a hotel room in which the Juice was allegedly joined by armed men. That story ended with his incarceration. Now, OJ is back in a Las Vegas courtroom with a new team of attorneys and a novel argument: Simpson’s former attorney is to blame for the 2008 conviction.  In the latest chapter in OJ’s lengthy legal history, the “Juice” claims that poor legal advice is the sole reason he was incarcerated.

Most attorneys are unaccustomed to answering the questions.  But, in the final day of a weeklong hearing in Las Vegas last Friday, Simpson’s former criminal counsel – Yale Galanter – found himself on the other end of a heated cross-examination.  OJ’s newly retained attorneys barraged Galanter with questions about the strategic decisions he made while representing Simpson and his role in the eventual hotel confrontation.  According to reports, Galanter defended Simpson in the infamous hotel incident when Simpson allegedly joined armed men, broke into a room at the Palace Station, and attempted to obtain Simpson’s stolen memorabilia. After an unsuccessful trial, Simpson was found guilty of kidnapping and robbery and sentenced to up to 33 years in prison.

Simpson now claims that this conviction was the result of Galanter’s inadequate representation.  Topping the list of the numerous alleged errors is that Galanter improperly advised OJ to retrieve the stolen items. Thus, the pivotal issue will likely be Gallanter’s alleged conflict of interest. Reportedly, Simpson and Galanter communicated by telephone before the hotel break-in and therefore the attorney may have served as a key witness during trial. Arguably, the attorney may have been conflicted from representing Simpson during the underlying proceedings. Because a conflict of interest may equate to a violation of the constitutional right to counsel, Simpson need only establish Galanter’s conflict in order to successfully obtain a new trial.

For his part, Galanter vehemently denies Simpson’s claims.  In any event, Simpson’s plight for freedom imparts an important lesson for all attorneys in keeping appropriate documentation and avoiding potential conflicts.  To avoid finger-pointing, attorneys should meticulously document their advice.  Further, attorneys should be cognizant of the potential for a conflict if they possess firsthand knowledge of the underlying facts and circumstances in the same proceedings in which they represent the client.

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2 Comments

  1. Will this be precedent setting for attorneys’ future cases? Could there be more liability for them?

  2. Lila M. McKinley

    It is not likely that this decision will expand the scope of an attorney’s duty moving forward. The issues raised by Simpson are not novel in these types of quests. Additionally, criminal attorneys typically have more protections against civil malpractice claims. For example, most states require as an additional element of proof of post-conviction relief and/or innocence as a prerequisite to a successful civil malpractice claim.
    Thank you for your comment!

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