The ground rules for O.J. Simpson's trial on kidnapping and armed robbery charges will be on the line Friday when a Nevada judge decides whether to drop any charges and whether two co-defendants should be tried separately.
Defense lawyers and prosecutors have filed 16 motions, including requests to delay the trial, throw out half of the 12 charges against Simpson and specify what evidence might be admitted.
"What's at stake is whether or not they will face all the charges that have been levied against them," said Michael Sommermeyer, Clark County District Court spokesman. "Also, whether they'll be tried together."
Simpson and co-defendants Charles Ehrlich and Clarence "C.J." Stewart aren't due in court for the hearing before District Court Judge Jackie Glass.
They are accused of kidnapping and robbing two sports collectibles dealers peddling Simpson memorabilia at a Las Vegas hotel-casino in September.
The judge told defense lawyers and prosecutors last week that she planned to decide pretrial motions Friday, and intends to adhere to an April 7 trial date she set in November.
Simpson, Ehrlich and Stewart have pleaded not guilty to all charges, including kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
Convictions could bring life prison sentences with the possibility of parole.
"Our goal is to carry the day on the robbery charge and have the case dismissed," said Simpson's lawyer, Yale Galanter. "If not, the second most important issue is how we are going to select a jury."
A spokesman for District Attorney David Roger declined comment Thursday.
Roger has characterized efforts to delay the trial as an attempt to sever Simpson's trial from those of his co-defendants.
Galanter said he has asked for a written questionnaire to be filled out by jury prospects, and wants prospective jurors questioned individually to prevent them from hearing each other's answers.
"I don't think you can question jurors as a group," he said.
"If one person says he thinks O.J. is a murderer, then you have to dismiss the whole panel."
Stewart's lawyer, Robert Lucherini, and Ehrlich's lawyer, John Moran Jr., have argued that they need more time to prepare for a trial that could include as many as 78 prosecution witnesses.
They said they might appeal to the state Supreme Court if Glass rules
that their clients should be tried with Simpson.