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Simpson trial lawyer learned ropes as defendant

  • Story Highlights
  • E. Brent Bryson represents Simpson co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart
  • He was acquitted of manslaughter during the 1980s, then became a lawyer
  • Bryson says his experience gives him unique insight
  • "I know what if feels like to sit in that chair," he says
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By Paul Vercammen
CNN Senior Producer
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Editor's note: Find live testimony and video excerpts of the Simpson trial on CNN.com Crime or CNN.com Live

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) -- One of the lawyers in the O.J. Simpson and Clarence "C.J." Stewart armed robbery and kidnapping trial knows all about being arrested and locked up.

E. Brent Bryson cross-examines a witness on behalf of O.J. Simpson's co-defendant, Clarence "C.J." Stewart.

E. Brent Bryson was accused of manslaughter in the death of a man in Wyoming in the early 1980s.

"I have a little insight that a lot of guys don't," says Bryson, the third attorney added to the Stewart defense team. "I know what if feels like to sit in that chair."

It was a 45-second fight in a Casper, Wyoming, bar that led Bryson to the defendant's chair as a young man.

Now 51, Bryson said he was a professional musician at the time, playing with a band. While the band was taking a break, Bryson said he was attacked by a bar patron who accused him of taking his seat, which was next to two women.

In the bloody brawl that ensued, the man's neck was cut by a broken wineglass, and he died.

Bryson was arrested, charged with manslaughter and spent four days in jail.

"I was in there with four or five other men, all accused of murder," Bryson said. "It was intimidating. All of them except me were found guilty."

A jury acquitted Bryson, deciding he was acting in self-defense when the man was injured and died. He got a jolt, however, when a court employee read the verdict incorrectly, saying "guilty" at first.

"I knew she was wrong because God had other plans for me, " Bryson said. It was then that he started down the road to becoming a defense attorney.

Today, he cites divine intervention for changing his life, and at times cross-examines witnesses with an almost religious zeal. He said he is taking a "cut rate" to represent Stewart.

When it comes to defending his clients, he said, "hopefully I have a little understanding."

Simpson and Stewart went on trial Monday, charged with a dozen counts of armed robbery, kidnapping and conspiracy in connection with a September 13, 2007 confrontation in a Las Vegas hotel room. Video Watch trial highlights »

Prosecutors allege Simpson set up and robbed two memorabilia dealers. Simpson's lawyers say he was merely trying to recover his own personal property.

Bryson represents co-defendant Stewart, who allegedly posed as a wealthy investor interested in O.J. Simpson memorabilia.

Four other men who were present have entered plea deals and could testify for the prosecution.

Both Stewart and Simpson maintain they did not know guns were brought into Room 1203 of the Palace Station Hotel and Casino.

One of the alleged victims, Bruce Fromong, has testified he saw a gun. Thomas Riccio, who turned over audio recordings of the confrontation and was never charged, began testifying on Thursday.

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Also on Thursday, marshals ejected a woman from the trial gallery after she approached Stewart and tried to talk to the defendants.

Dominick Dunne, a writer for "Vanity Fair" magazine, said the same woman surprised him by hugging him earlier in the day.

All About O.J. SimpsonClarence StewartCriminal Trials

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