Why Is O.J. Simpson Hearing Taking So Long?

O.J. Simpson isn't even on trial yet, but the decision to determine whether he will be tried on felony charges of kidnapping, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon is expected to come down today after four days of testimony.


Lawyers say pretrial hearings typically take no more than a few minutes to a few hours -- so why all the testimony?

Simpson's criminal trial for murdering ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman lasted 16 months from June 1994 to October 1995, and was the media event of the year, making household names of the lawyers, judge and witnesses.

Playing to the cameras may be one reason the hearing has plodded along, legal experts following the case told ABC NEWS.com, but there is another -- it makes good legal sense to drag the hearing out.

"Obviously, this DA loves the big cases and loves the cameras. There's never been any doubt about that," said Jerry Donahue, a former Las Vegas prosecutor turned defense attorney, referring to District Attorney David Roger. "But it also makes good sense from a prosecutor's point of view."

In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that if a witness has been cross examined in a pretrial hearing and is then unavailable for the actual trial, his testimony can be presented during the trial.

"Generally speaking, these hearings take a matter of hours, but it really depends on the case," said Louis Palazzo, a Las Vegas defense attorney. "Once a defense lawyer has had the opportunity to cross examine a witness, then that testimony can be used in trial if the person is unavailable. The judge is giving the lawyers leeway so they can develop a transcript. … There's always the potential that a witness won't be available and lawyers want as full a transcript as they can get."

Judges at celebrity trials have sometimes come under attack for pandering too much to the media. In Simpson's murder trial, presiding Judge Lance Ito was pilloried by legal professionals and commentators for allowing the trial to become a media circus. In the February trial to settle the custody of the late playmate Anna Nicole Smith's daughter, Florida Judge Larry Seidlin was criticized for making drawn out, emotional speeches from the bench.

Lawyers, however, were willing to give the judge overseeing Simpson's current hearing, Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure, the benefit of the doubt.

"The judge can't just say, 'I've heard enough.' He has to let the lawyers call and cross all their witnesses," said Donahue. "I'm sure he's bored."

Simpson's celebrity may be drawing out the length of the trial, not because of grandstanding but because of the added attention on what experts say is a rather complicated and potentially important case.

"It is a really interesting case from an intellectual and case law point of view," said Christopher Blakesley, a law professor at University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

"It may well clarify Nevada law because of the range of crimes alleged -- regular robbery, potential armed robbery, burglary, aggravated burglary, kidnapping. Add to that Simpon's claim of self-help, which would disappear if a weapon was involved. … All this is interesting, cutting-edge stuff because case law is all over the place. … That all influences the court to make sure and take its time and not screw anything up," he said.

The celebrity factor, however, cannot be discounted, experts said. The media attention, a perception that Simpson was let off the hook in 1995, and the money Simpson can afford to spend, all play a role in the hearing's length.

"To some degree, everyone wants a share of the spotlight. There are sound legal reasons for a lengthy hearing, but the secondary motivation is that the prosecutors, judge and defense lawyers all want to be on TV," said defense lawyer Louis Palazzo.

Bonaventure is expected to rule on whether Simpson will be tried today or Thursday.

Simpson, 60, has maintained that no guns were used when he, Clarence Stewart and Charles Ehrlich confronted two sports memorabilia dealers trying to sell items the aging football star claimed were his.

He has said he intended to retrieve only items that had been stolen from him by a former agent, including the suit he wore the day he was acquitted of murder.