More than four years after he choked back tears at his sentencing, O.J. Simpson addressed a Las Vegas court today sounding cheerful and confident in his bid to a win a new trial.
He bantered with bailiffs during breaks, making them laugh, and chuckled at himself at times during testimony when discussing his drinking at the time.
Simpson, 65, was called to the stand on the third day of the hearing, much of which has focused on claims his former attorney, Yale Galanter, gave him bad legal advice in the 2008 armed robbery and kidnapping trial that led to his conviction.
The football legend, who never testified in his 1995 murder trial, often called the "trial of the century," or in the 2008 trial when he was convicted, took the stand for his first time today.
The once-strapping athlete was weighed down by shackles as he talked about the hours leading up to the Sept. 13, 2007 sports memorabilia robbery that sent him to prison for nine-to-33 years.
When asked about the memorabilia he went to retrieve that day, Simpson said he wanted it back because it belonged to him and his children.
"It was my stuff," Simpson said. "I followed what I thought was the law. I didn't break into the room. I didn't beat up anyone. I didn't try to muscle anyone."
Simpson said he had trouble keeping track of boxes because he had moved frequently, but said he was tipped off about the items from a friend. He said he asked the friend to find out if the collectors had a photograph of Simpson with former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
"When he told me they did, I knew this was the real deal," Simpson said.
He said there was never any talk of retrieving the items by force.
"There was no talk of guns at all," Simpson said.
Simpson's attorney asked about his drinking in the hours leading up to the confrontation. After rousing himself from bed after a night of heavy drinking, Simpson said he went down to the pool where he ordered Bloody Marys with friends before switching to other alcoholic drinks.
"I had a joke: 'My doctor says I should never have an empty glass,'" Simpson said. "We were celebrating."
Simpson also talked about his relationship with Galanter, who he said would go on television defending him against tabloid claims, even years before the hotel room altercation.
"I was in the media a lot. He was able to refute many of the tabloid stories," Simpson. "He sort of liked doing it; he told me he did."
Simpson's team said Galanter had advised Simpson it was acceptable to confront the collectors as long as he did not trespass or use physical force, making his representation of Simpson in his later criminal trial a conflict of interest.
They also said Galanter failed to tell Simpson of a plea deal that would have gotten him two years in prison.
Galanter, who is based in Florida, is expected to testify on Friday.
If Simpson's bid for a new trial is denied, his next shot at freedom will be in 2017, when he is eligible for parole.