By Timothy Pratt
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - O.J. Simpson, the former football star famously acquitted of murder in 1995, took the witness stand in a Las Vegas courtroom on Wednesday seeking a new trial in an armed-robbery case that sent him to prison five years ago.
Simpson, 65, was called to testify in the third day of a hearing into his claims that the lawyer who served as his defense attorney mishandled the Nevada robbery case.
He was brought to court from a Nevada prison where he is serving a sentence of up to 33 years for the 2007 incident in which he and five other men stormed into a room at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino and took thousands of dollars in memorabilia from a pair of sports collectors at gunpoint.
Defense lawyers argued unsuccessfully that Simpson was only trying to retrieve his own stolen possessions and was not aware that an accomplice had brought a gun along. He was found guilty on 12 charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping.
Under questioning from his new lawyer on Wednesday, Simpson said the items in question were personal property he wanted to retrieve, and believed were exempt from a $33.5 million civil judgment against him from the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend.
Simpson appeared older, grayer and heavier after five years behind bars as he sat in the witness box.
Simpson's current attorneys have asked a judge to throw out his 2008 conviction, saying his trial lawyer, Yale Galanter, had a conflict of interest because he knew in advance that Simpson planned to confront the sports dealers at the hotel.
They also argue that Galanter never told Simpson that prosecutors had offered a plea deal in which he would have been sentenced to two to five years in prison.
Simpson's 43-year-old daughter, Arnelle, took the witness stand on Monday, testifying that her father had been drinking heavily during the weekend of the incident.
A separate appeal by Simpson of his conviction in the case was rejected by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2010.
Simpson, a former star NFL running back turned TV pitchman and actor, was accused of the 1994 stabbing and slashing murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
He was acquitted in 1995 after sensational proceeding dubbed the "Trial of the Century" in the press that was carried live gavel-to-gavel on U.S. television.
But a civil jury later found him liable for the deaths of his former spouse and Goldman in a wrongful death lawsuit, awarding their families $33.5 million in damages.
(Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Chris Reese)