Criminal Justice

O.J. Will Go to Trial in Armed Robbery Case


Unlike O.J. Simpson’s murder trial in the mid-1990s, it presumably won’t be billed as the trial of the century or become famous for related sideshow features such as a troupe of televised look-alike black-robed dancing trial “judges.”

But the armed robbery case against the former football hero for an alleged attempt to steal items from two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas casino hotel room is going to trial, too. A Nevada judge ruled today that there was probable cause, after four days of testimony at a preliminary hearing. If convicted of multiple felony charges including kidnapping, the 60-year-old Simpson potentially could be imprisoned for life, according to the Los Angeles Times. Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure upheld all 12 counts against Simpson, and set an arraignment for Nov. 28, but the case is not expected to go to trial until next year.

“As the judge read his decision, Simpson slumped in his chair, stone-faced with lips pursed,” the newspaper reports. But, he told the Associated Press as he left the courtroom, “This is what we expected. If I have any disappointment, it’s that I wish a jury was here. As always, I rely on the jury system.”

It served him well the last time around, when he was acquitted in 1995 of the murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and a male companion, despite DNA evidence that some observers viewed as damning. However, a less-than-stellar prosecution effort, many felt—perhaps most famously done down by defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran’s “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” closing argument concerning a courtroom glove demonstration—aided the defense victory. Although O.J. Simpson was subsequently found civilly liable for the crimes in a wrongful-death case, the plaintiffs are still trying to collect the vast majority of the judgment (which is now $38 million, including interest), as discussed in a recent ABAJournal.com post.

This time around, the result of the trial is likely to turn on the jury’s view of the credibility of an arguably dubious group of witnesses, according to ABC News.

“The hearing offered a preview of the prosecution’s case, which will probably rely on a cast of colorful witnesses, some of whom have less than pristine pasts and have not always fared well under cross examination by Simpson’s attorneys,” the television network reports on its Web site. “Three of Simpson’s co-defendants have agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges and testify against him,” ABC notes.

Simpson, who is expected to plead not guilty, has previously said he committed no crime during the Vegas hotel room incident and was simply trying to reclaim his own property. He denies that he was armed or asked anyone else to bring a gun.

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