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Simpson To Testify; Live Coverage of the O.J. Simpson Trial; Controversy in the IRS and Justice Department

Aired May 15, 2013 - 12:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live in Phoenix, Arizona.

An hour from now, the jury that convicted Jodi Arias is set to reconvene on a whole other question, just how cruel was her murder? We're going to have extensive coverage of the so-called aggravation phase of Arias' first degree murder trial in just a few moments.

But our top story comes from a different courtroom in a different state 300 miles away. That's where O.J. Simpson is about to tell a Las Vegas judge, under oath, why he deserves a do-over. A do-over in the trial that sent him to prison for 33 years. In short, he says it's all his former lead attorney's fault. It's his fault for getting him convicted of robbing and kidnapping and assaulting two sports memorabilia dealers in Vegas who O.J. maintains were selling him his own stolen merchandise. CNN's Paul Vercammen joins me live to set the stage.

So, Paul, I know that his attorneys are there. I believe O.J. is even at the courthouse at this time. Set me up as to just exactly what's transpiring and how soon he's going to take that stand.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we think he's going to take the stand momentarily. Don't forget, he's now being held at the Clarke County Jail. He was transferred from the northern Nevada prison down here on Friday. He literally walks underground through a tunnel then into the courthouse through an elevator. And then, as you've seen, he comes through a side door. So I'm glancing down at my monitor as well to see when indeed O.J. comes in..

I did see the attorneys walk in, O.J.'s attorneys. They said that his client is feeling pretty good. They were also, you know, talking about where this is going to go first. And it's all going to be about that relationship between Galanter and O.J. After all, for years they were sidekicks, if you will. Galanter on O.J.'s side constantly representing him in a myriad of different legal ventures. And now basically what O.J. is saying, this is a case of sheer betrayal. Galanter did not serve him well. In fact, loused up his trial so badly that he deserves a new one. And that's where we're going to start this morning, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And Paul was just - you know, just this week, for the first time, he walked through that door on the right hand side of your screen and the headlines were very clear, he is older, he has gained a lot of weight in that jail. But one thing he's not done is talk. He hasn't granted any interviews. We all expected that big interview that, you know, would blow the door off this whole case and where he was - you know, where his head was and what it's like to be sentenced to 33 years. We've heard nothing.

I, for one, tried very hard to get Yale Galanter to grant that interview, help me get that interview with O.J. Simpson and Galanter said specifically to me, no way. We've got appeals that are pending. O.J. will not be speaking without question. And that, I dare say, is very good guidance if you've got appeals that are pending.

And very interestingly, the whole idea that he's taking the stand today was one of his big complaints that he didn't take the stand back in 2008. So it's sort of an ironic situation. He's taking the stand because he didn't take the stand as one of his issues with his request for a new trial today.

I have a terrific panel of experts I want to bring in right now. Defense attorneys Paul Callan, Jose Baez, Danny Cevallos and HLN's legal correspondent Beth Karas as well. She's with me here.

Beth, I want to just begin with you because you and I spent many a day covering this case. Here we are back in this courtroom in Las Vegas. There are a number of claims that O.J. Simpson's making. He is making them to a judge, not a jury. How many of those claims have any kind of merit that this judge wants to hear?

BETH KARAS, HLN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, he made 22 originally. This judge agreed to hear 19. And a lot of the 19 are really kind of legal and specific to the way that charges came down and instructions to the jury at the end. So the three that everyone's talking about regarding ineffective assistance of counsel, that he didn't - he wasn't advised of a plea deal, allegedly, that he didn't testify and that, you know, Galanter advised him it was OK to do what he was doing as long as there was no force used and he wasn't --

BANFIELD: In advance of this sting.

KARAS: In advance. And no trespassing. Right.

BANFIELD: O.J. - just to be clear, O.J. claims, in advance of the sting, his lawyer said go for it, it's OK, just don't trespass and don't be physical.

KARAS: So I really don't know if there's merit to any of them. However, you know, maybe not being informed of a plea offer, which was two to five years, supposedly, and he's done almost five years, he's almost maxed out, it's a good one.

BANFIELD: Want to bring Paul Callan in on this.

Paul, I know you're looking at the same screen that we are. To the right is the door that O.J. is about to walk through any moment and ultimately he'll be walking up onto that stand and swearing an oath to tell the truth. On the left hand side of the screen, you can see the attorneys have assembled. What we can't see is the gallery. And there's been a lot of discussion about the gallery. How years ago it was standing room only and you couldn't get a seat unless you had -- maybe waited overnight to get in the courthouse and gone through the throngs of people who were lovers and haters of O.J. Simpson. It is so different now, Paul Callan. Why is that?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's totally different. You know, I was involved in the civil case against him in Santa Monica, and there was literally a tent city outside the courthouse. You would go through a bank of lights and photographers as you entered the courthouse every day. People waited in line. But, you know, his celebrity has faded. I think today's kind of an important event for the public because people forget that he never testified in the criminal trial, which, of course, was televised. In the civil case where he was proven to have committed the murders, he did testify, but the judge banned cameras from that proceeding and issued a gag order. So the public really never got a sense of what his testimony was like. And I think if he does in fact take the stand today, for the first time publicly they'll see what O.J. Simpson is like on the witness stand. So it's going -- it should be an interesting day.

BANFIELD: Yes. And Beth Karas has pointed out that he did actually take the stand back in 2001 when he had a road rage trial in Miami. But, you know, effectively we've not heard him talk about these particular crimes that have now put him behind bars for 33 years.

Jose Baez, I want you to jump in, if you will, for me on this. Look, we all have a responsibility, if we end up at defense table with council to be a part of our defense. It's why we have to be determined competent. We have to be able to assist in our defense. O.J. Simpson ultimately is the boss of his defense. And he had to swear that he was OK not testifying. Why is he now allowed to say, I should have been able to testify?

JOSE BAEZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, the reason there's a colloquy by the judge when a defendant decides to or not to testify is to prevent this specific claim from coming forward. Now, unless there was an issue in the colloquy, which I don't believe there is, what he's probably alleging is that he was pressured into not testifying to the point where his lawyers overcame his will. And when he actually said this was his choice, he really didn't mean it, which is why this makes this such a weak, weak issue on this appeal.

BANFIELD: A big uphill battle.

Danny Cevallos, if you could weigh in for me on this. There is reporting that I believe Gabrielle Grasso, co-counsel, said that there was somewhere around three quarters of a million dollars paid by O.J. Simpson at least partially to his defense. Whether that was the full number, I'm not clear. But that's a lot of money. And there are hundreds of thousands of prisoners in this country who have nowhere near that kind of money, nowhere near that kind of representation, who did not bring up ineffective assistance of counsel. Does it matter that you spend a lot of money and get a lot of lawyers if you're trying to then claim my lawyers weren't good enough?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, first, when it comes to ineffective assistance, whether you're rich or poor, that's a claim that's made all the time. Jose Baez can tell us the same thing. Ineffective assistance is a very commonly made claim. Proving it, however, is another thing. It's very difficult to make that proof.

Now, let's take that - that claim that he wasn't permitted to testify and let's essentially throw that out, because that's not - that's going to be inconsequential. The standard's too high and the colloquy, you literally as a defendant say, I understand that I'm not testifying and I've talked to my attorney and that will -- really prevent that claim from having any merit.

The ones that may have some more are the communication of the offer. Attorneys have an obligation to communicate any plea offer. And if it's shown, if he can establish that that wasn't communicated, he may have a claim there too. And the other thing that makes this a little bit unusual is that O.J. is alleging that Yale was involved well before. Involved in advising him on the heist, involved in maybe possibly, potentially even waiting in a car outside if you read the petition. So if that's the case, then this is a little different than your usual ineffective assistance claim. However, overall, all of these claims, he's got a very high hill to climb. And this is by any analysis something of a long-shot.

BANFIELD: Well, I'll tell you one thing, if I've learned a thing or two about courtrooms, it's that not everything happens on time. And even though we get word that things are going to start at the top of the hour, you can rest assured they just very well may not, as is the case in this Las Vegas courtroom.

And I just want to highlight what you saw on your screen. Council going in, possibly to speak with O.J. Simpson, possibly for another unrelated matter. But at this point, as we continue to watch for O.J. Simpson to make his appearance in this courtroom and break his silence four and a half-year long silence, if not longer, considering he did not testify in the trial. He is now angry. He was misrepresented in (ph). He is going to be talking today. What he will say is anyone's guess. But say with us as we continue to watch this live courtroom. Paul Callan and Danny Cevallos, Beth Karas and Jose Baez are going to stay with us as well to give expert analysis on just what this man will say and whether it will make any difference at all. Will O.J. Simpson ever see the light of day? AROUND THE WORLD starts after this short break.



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company today.

O.J. Simpson is about to do something he has not done before, take the stand publicly in a criminal trial. We just saw him walk into the courtroom.

MALVEAUX: That's right. We're looking at live pictures, testifying on his own behalf in Las Vegas. You see the court - the proceedings there. They're about to get underway. He's - what he is trying to do is get a new trial for the convictions that put him in prison in the first place. That was back in 2008. You see him sitting there upright. They're taking off the handcuffs there. We've seen him for the last couple of days or so looking a lot older, a bit heavier. Not a lot of expression that we've seen on his face. But he is returning today. And this is going to be the first time that we've really seen him speak in years. He is currently serving a 33-year term for armed robbery and kidnapping.

HOLMES: Now what he says is that he got bad legal advice four years ago at the trial from his lead attorney. Now, he never testified back then. That's part of what he's now complaining about too. Going back even further, he never testified in his ex-wife's murder trial, at least in the criminal trial. He did in the civil trial. We're going to be keeping an eye on this and as soon as things get underway, we'll let you know.

MALVEAUX: And, of course, we're going to be looking at his expressions, his demeanor. I mean one of the things that was so unique is that in the civil case against O.J. Simpson, he did speak on his behalf, but there were never any cameras inside the courthouse. He is talking now. Let's - I believe we're trying to see. I think it's just procedural matters that he's answering some questions. He hasn't yet begun to talk about his own case. And his case, essentially, is against the lead attorney. He wants a do-over in his trial.

HOLMES: Yes. He says he got bad advice and all of that. Well, we'll see how he goes. A lot of legal observers say that he doesn't have much of a chance, but, of course, you never know in court proceedings. We're continuing to monitor. We'll let you know if there's any changes.

Meanwhile, we can tell you we're expecting some more fireworks at today's White House briefing scheduled to start shortly. An empty podium at the moment. We're monitoring that and bring you the latest developments.

MALVEAUX: And what we've been watching is the Obama administration getting hammered over controversies, several of them all at once. We're talking about the IRS, as well as the Justice Department. We expect a lot of questions today as well as what we saw yesterday. And really the bigger issue here is whether or not this president and this administration is going to be able to get anything done in a second term in light of the fact that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was pretty short on answers yesterday.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Other than press reports, we have no knowledge, I cannot and he cannot comment. It would be wholly inappropriate for me to have answers thwarted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he concerned at all?

CARNEY: I cannot and he cannot appropriately comment on the specific -

And we can't comment - again, I'm not going to comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe it's possible to strike that balance?

CARNEY: I just can't comment on the specific reports that you cite.


MALVEAUX: And also today Attorney General Eric Holder, he is going to be in the crosshairs over phone records that were seized from the Associated Press.

Now Holder testifies before the House judiciary committee. That's happening next hour, and one of his deputies is defending the subpoena of those phone records.

HOLMES: Yeah, the A.P.'s executive editor says she was shocked by the department's actions. The agency says the feds collected records for more than 20 phone lines, including personal phone numbers of A.P. staff.

Now, the fallout over the phone records, you've got the IRS targeting conservative groups, all of this has the Obama administration on the defensive. And some say almost passive, really, in letting it all unfold outside their little realm.

MALVEAUX: And the big question, you know, you've got Republicans who are now drawing comparisons to these scandals during the Nixon years. They are pushing some of these investigation.

And then first on CNN, here, our Dana Bash, she has just learned we have all 45 Republican senators sending a letter to the president, essentially saying you need to cooperate with the IRS investigations.

HOLMES: Demanding it.

And also today the House Speaker John Boehner said what the agency did was criminal.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The IRS has admitted to targeting conservatives, even if the White House continues to be stuck on the word "if."

Now, my question isn't about who's going to resign. My question is, who's going to jail over this scandal?


MALVEAUX: So we want to get a sense of how the White House is responding to this. Want to bring in Jessica Yellin and Gloria Borger.

And, Jess, yesterday's briefing kind of reminiscent of the kind of briefings you and I used to have under President Bush when we pummeled Ari Fleischer at times, Scott McClelland over faulty intelligence in Iraq.

So let's put the partisanship aside and really delve into what does this mean for the president, for his administration. Is he going to be able to get anything done in his second term?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, look, I think this president's administration seems, as you guys had said, passive, on the defensive.

Their agenda definitely you have to worry if it's going to run aground over this. The president loves to say Congress is inflicting self- inflicted wounds and you know that they are feeling the sting of some of their own right now.

But if you pull back and look at the big picture, we are not at the point yet where his agenda is actually stalled. This is one story going on where you have a lot of questions and very serious concerns over these controversies, but on the other hand he does have legislation moving on Capitol Hill on immigration reform that continues to move and that would be a huge legacy accomplishment.

We also got news last night that the deficit is shrinking at a faster than expected rate, that is very positive not just politically for the White House, but good news for the nation.

So those are two substantive areas where there could be progress for the administration at the same time there is this swirl of trouble they're dealing with at the same time, Suzanne.

HOLMES: Yeah, Gloria, I want to bring you in on the conversation here. It is clear that the Republicans -- we just mentioned Dana Bash's reporting that all 45 senators are demanding the Obama administration fully comply with congressional investigation.

We have live pictures there by the way showing you ...

MALVEAUX: At the capitol.

HOLMES: Yeah, at the capitol there. Yeah, on Capitol Hill.

But, Gloria, the Republicans driving these investigations and scandals, using it to their advantage. There's a new web video out that the RNC put out demanding transparency, as we said.

What is the end game? What do you think they want to do here? There's been a lot of criticism that the president's sort of standing on the sidelines and not actually diving in.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, first of all, regarding that letter today, nobody's defending the IRS.

You heard what the president said. He said these allegations are outrageous, et cetera, et cetera.

So what the Republicans were doing was pushing on an open door, essentially, sending a letter to the president saying we demand your cooperation, you can't stonewall, knowing full well, of course, that he wants the IRS to cooperate because this happened on his watch. And he's distancing himself from the IRS as much as the Republicans are.

The big question, I think, in terms of overreach, is the question of Benghazi. I think on that particular story it's different. And Republicans, some, have been prone to saying this could lead to impeachment. This is worse than Watergate. This is worse than Iran Contra.

That kind of hyperbole, I think, does not help Republicans make their case. On Benghazi, they should let the facts get out there and let the public decide because, as we learned during the Lewinsky scandal, there is a point which you reach at which the public starts pushing back and saying enough already.

So I think they have to be a little bit more delicate here. And hearing chairman Darrell Issa talk about Benghazi, you can see that he's pulled back. He said, this isn't about President Obama. This isn't about Hillary Clinton. This is about getting to the bottom of things. So he's not out there saying this is Watergate or Iran Contra.

HOLMES: Gloria Borger, thanks so much. And, also, Jessica Yellin.

Hyperbole in a partisan Congress? Surely not.

BORGER: Never.

MALVEAUX: One of the things I noticed as well is that really you have a press corps that is engaged. There was tension in that room, and perhaps a loss of some support there, you know?

I mean, there's a relationship always between the press corps, the president and the administration. A lot of tension there, it looks like there's a real turning point.

HOLMES: And you think a lot of that anger is about the A.P. thing, too?

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. Absolutely.

HOLMES: Yeah, there's a lot more to talk about with these, that's for sure.

MALVEAUX: So the question, of course, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, how would he actually handle some of this stuff? The controversies involving Benghazi, the IRS, the Justice Department?

Well, Piers Morgan is going to find out tonight on "Piers Morgan Tonight," live, 9:00 Eastern. You're not going to want to miss that.

HOLMES: That will be interesting to hear.

All right, now here's more of what we're working on this hour for "Around the World."

She was buried under rubble for 17 days, survived on four biscuits and a little bit of water.

MALVEAUX: But now the young woman rescued in Bangladesh shares her amazing story with us.


HOLMES: Welcome back everyone to "Around the World," and we are keeping our eyes on a courtroom in Las Vegas right now.

Let's have a look at some live pictures.

MALVEAUX: Of course, that is O.J. Simpson on the stand. And this is his attorney. He's being questioned by his attorney, Patricia Palm, about some of the items that were taken.

And he is essentially saying that he wants a do-over, a new trial, and taking issue with the job that his lead attorney did back in that case.

Let's listen in.


PATRICIA PALM, O.J. SIMPSON'S ATTORNEY: The items that you're trying to get, were they anything that you would have ever sold?


PALM: And would you have given them away to people?

SIMPSON: No. My kids.


SIMPSON: I've given a few things, but pictures and stuff. Not any of these things. Not any of these awards. I have never sold any of my personal memorabilia ever.

PALM: All right. Excuse me.

Discuss what your understanding was in August/September of 2007 regarding your judgment creditor's ability to seize that type of property to satisfy a judgment?

SIMPSON: Well, I knew all of this was outside the scope of that. I knew that stuff had to have an unusual value.

Of course, in my case, as I was explaining to a guy over here the other day, everything has an unusual price and appearance, you know, but I knew that the judge says, if I wasn't selling it for this unusual price, it was mine.

If I sold it for over some unusual price, then they can, you know, garnish the money.

PALM: OK. And your understanding that the property would be exempt from judgment, did that come from advice of any counsel?

SIMPSON: It came from my knowledge of -- I'd gone through it a lot.

PALM: And did Ron Slates give you any advice about what was exempt, what was not exempt?

SIMPSON: Yes. Yes.

PALM: Do you recall the references to turnover orders during your trial?


PALM: Explain your understanding of what that evidence pertained to.

SIMPSON: As far as this case is concerned, I knew that (inaudible) had been issued turnover orders. In all cases claimed they had nothing that belonged to me.

PALM: OK, and so when you're saying they have turnover orders, that means they shouldn't have your property.

SIMPSON: They shouldn't have my property.

PALM: OK. And what should they have done if they had it?

SIMPSON: Well, if the sheriff's department served them turnover orders and they never turned it over, so I was hoping that they would turn it over even when I had no issues with these guys because then I would be able to get it if they had.


So after you're contacted by Riccio, is the plan to get the property evolving over the couple or three weeks before you come out to Las Vegas?

SIMPSON: No. No, it's pretty much the same. You get it; I'll come and get it. But I'm not coming out there to chase it.

PALM: All right.

And Riccio contacted law enforcement?


PALM: And he told you about that?



And so what was your understanding about their willingness to help you?

SIMPSON: Oh, I knew they wouldn't. PALM: Why did you not try and pursue civil action against the sellers?

SIMPSON: OK, you mean before?

PALM: When Mr. Riccio told you these guys have your property, did you know exactly who had your property?



And then why did you not try to find that out and then pursue a civil action?

SIMPSON: Well, the civil action was already in effect. They has been given turnover orders by the state of California, and they claimed they didn't have it.


When did the plan become "we're going to have a fake fire" be involved?

SIMPSON: The weekend before I came to Vegas.