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O.J. Simpson Back in Court: What's a Habeas Hearing?

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on May 13, 2013 2:13 PM

O.J. Simpson is back in court this week for a habeas hearing, after which a judge may decide whether Simpson's rights were infringed upon during his most recent trial and conviction.

Simpson alleges that he needs a new trial because his lawyer, Yale Galanter, had known about plans to steal Simpson's sports memorabilia from two dealers and had offered poor advice at trial, reports the Associated Press.

As O.J. comes before a judge again, most of America should know the basics of a habeas hearing.

What Is a Habeas Hearing?

All prisoners are entitled to a writ of habeas corpus, the so-called "great writ" which allows prisoners to have a court determine whether their rights were denied by the defendant's trial, conviction, or punishment.

Simpson filed the habeas corpus petition because he alleges that his lawyer in his 2008 trial for robbery was ineffective and had a conflict of interest, allegedly infringing on his Sixth Amendment right to an attorney and entitling Simpson to a new trial.

Unlike a jury trial, only a judge is present at a habeas hearing. After each side presents evidence opposing or supporting the claims of the habeas petition, the judge will make her decision.

Simpson has filed 22 allegations against Galanter, but the judge has agreed to hear only 19 of them. The hearing is set to conclude on Friday, the AP reports.

Will Simpson Take the Stand?

History buffs will remember that O.J. did not even take the stand at his infamously publicized trial for the murder of Nicole Brown-Simpson, or at his 2008 robbery trial which ended in his current conviction and prison sentence.

Simpson is slated to take the stand Wednesday, and is expected to testify about his conversations with his attorney as well as his first-hand account of the heist that led to his arrest, according to the AP.

It's not clear when the judge will issue her ruling. But if Simpson's habeas hearing ends in Judge Bell finding no violation of his rights, any decision by Judge Bell relating to Simpson's constitutional rights may then be appealed to federal court.

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