LAS VEGAS - In the harsh light of the morning after his sentencing, O.J. Simpson was looking yesterday at a stark future. His new home will be a prison cell in the Nevada desert with his door to freedom hinging on an appeal of a trial that his lawyers say was filled with errors.
"This is not a frivolous appeal," Yale Galanter, Simpson's lawyer, said. "There were some grave errors made by Judge [Jackie] Glass, and we think they are strong enough to overturn the conviction. We also think we have a shot at bail."
Galanter has cited six initial issues for appeal. The most significant concern could be the exclusion of black people from the jury selection. The defense also will protest the judge allowing comments about Simpson's 1994 Los Angeles murder case in which he was acquitted of killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.
Yesterday, Simpson remained at the Clark County jail where he has been housed since his conviction on Oct. 3, along with codefendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart. The two men were found guilty of 12 criminal charges, including kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
Simpson was sentenced Friday to 9 to 33 years in prison. Stewart got 71/2 to 27 years.
Michael Shapiro, a New York defense lawyer who has followed the Las Vegas case, said Simpson's case may get extra attention from the Nevada Supreme Court, the state's only appellate court.
"Superimposed over all of it is that he's O.J. He's not Joe Schmo," Shapiro said. The justices also could be influenced by Simpson's murder trial, he said, calling it "the 800-pound gorilla in the room."
Before any appeal winds its way to the Nevada Supreme Court, Simpson faces years in prison for a September 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers over collectibles that Simpson insisted were stolen from him.
"Prison will be very taxing on him," Galanter said. At 61, Simpson is not in great health, he said.
"He'll be treated like every other inmate," said Howard Skolnik, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections. "The only issue might be whether we have to provide a little more protective custody because of his notoriety, at least at the start."
Gabriel Grasso, another Simpson lawyer, anticipated that Simpson would find friends in prison, adding that Simpson had been buying snacks for fellow inmates at the Clark County jail.
"I think when he does meet people in jail, they're going to treat him well because he treats them well," Grasso said.