Nevada High Court Denies OJ Bid for Prison Release

Published September 7, 2009

The Nevada Supreme Court denied O.J. Simpson's request Friday to be let out of prison pending a decision on the appeal of his conviction in a gunpoint heist in a Las Vegas hotel room.

A three-judge panel that heard oral arguments Aug. 3 concluded Simpson and convicted co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart didn't meet what the court called the "heavy burden" required to be allowed to post bail.

"Here, appellant was convicted of serious, nonprobationable, violent offenses committed with the use of a firearm," justices Michael Cherry, Nancy Saitta and Mark Gibbons said, using identical language in their separate unanimous rulings.

The justices also pointed to Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass' finding that both men posed a flight risk if released.

Simpson, 62, and Stewart, 55, were tried together and found guilty last year of kidnapping and robbing two sports memorabilia dealers in September 2007. Neither testified at the trial. Four other men involved in the escapade took plea deals and received probation after testifying for the prosecution.

Simpson's lawyers maintained he was trying to retrieve personal items that had been stolen from him and didn't know guns were involved. Stewart's lawyers said he went with Simpson to the Palace Station casino-hotel to help retrieve belongings and had no knowledge a crime would be committed.

Simpson lawyer Malcolm LaVergne in Las Vegas said he was disappointed with the high court ruling Friday. He said he had not yet been able to notify the former NFL star of the decision.

Clark County District Attorney David Roger called the ruling good news and said he was glad the court recognized "the magnitude of their decision and concurred with Judge Glass that these defendants pose a flight risk."

Stewart's lawyer, Brent Bryson, conceded that convincing the court to let his client go free on bond was "a long shot from the beginning."

Bryson said he doesn't believe the court's ruling "is in any way indicative of the strength of Mr. Stewart's appeal."

"We remain very hopeful in our quest for the ultimate appeal," he said.

Simpson is serving nine to 33 years at Lovelock Correctional Center, 90 miles northeast of Reno.

Stewart is serving 7 1/2 to 27 years at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The Nevada Supreme Court can take two years to decide appeals. Lawyers for both men said they had not decided whether to seek a rehearing on the bond issue before the full seven-member court.

Some observers in Nevada legal circles had seen the court's decision to hear unusual oral arguments on bail as a signal that justices saw merit in broader issues that lawyers raised in the appeals filed in May.

Stewart, a former Simpson golfing buddy, alleged he suffered "spillover prejudice" from being tried alongside Simpson. He also challenged the admission of crucial audio recordings as evidence, and alleged the jury foreman failed to disclose a personal bias toward Simpson until after the pair were convicted and sentenced.

Simpson's defense team maintained his celebrity so tainted the proceedings that he didn't get a fair trial. They claimed judicial misconduct, insufficient evidence, lack of racial diversity on the jury and errors in sentencing and jury instructions.

Simpson's lawyers claimed the trial judge barred them from asking prospective jurors about their opinions about Simpson's acquittal in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, in Los Angeles.

Simpson was later found liable for the deaths in a Los Angeles civil lawsuit.

 

Written by Associated Press

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