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Simpson lawyers say he's closer to freedom

LAS VEGAS -- The latest high-stakes court hearing for O.J. Simpson in the glitzy capital of big gambles has come to a close with the former football star's defense team feeling confident that their client is closer to getting out of prison.

The last time Simpson was in a Las Vegas courtroom, he was convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery. Now, with new attorneys, he has mounted a cool, methodical case that his former lead lawyer botched the 2008 trial so badly that a new one should be granted.

"He has a very good chance now," said Ozzie Fumo, one of the attorneys who represents Simpson. "I don't think the state was able to counter any of our issues."

Simpson's lawyers presented evidence that showed Miami-based attorney Yale Galanter shared responsibility for the plan for the NFL Hall of Famer and former Hollywood star to take back personal items and mementos from two sports collectible dealers in a Vegas hotel room. They also built a case that he sabotaged Simpson's chances for acquittal and appeal to protect himself and his own interests.

When the weeklong hearing ended Friday there seemed to be little doubt that major mistakes were made when Simpson was sentenced to 9 to 33 years in prison on 12 criminal counts. The question is whether enough was done to meet the standard for District Court Judge Linda Marie Bell to free Simpson from state prison and grant him a new trial.

Simpson's lawyers have a high legal burden to prove their case under a writ of habeas corpus, which relies on showing not only that his lawyer's work was ineffective but that if he had acted differently it would have changed the outcome.

Conflict of interest is another key issue. "An actual conflict is a violation of the right to counsel," said Jennifer Carr, a criminal law professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. If Simpson can show "can succeed in showing that there has been an actual conflict, he need not show that that conflict caused the verdict. Merely showing the conflict is sufficient to show his right to counsel was violated," Carr said.

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