On Thursday, Nevada officials will consider a petition to release O.J. Simpson from the Lovelock Correctional Facility, where he’s spent the last nine years of his life serving time on a sentence that could go as long as 33 years. For complete coverage, including a live stream of Thursday’s hearing, click here.
Simpson remains a fascinating and polarizing figure, the subject of two major television projects in the last year alone, and his parole hearing has attracted 1990s-era media attention. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is Simpson in prison?
After being found not guilty of the murder of his wife and a friend, Simpson spent the next 10-plus years socially adrift, isolated from former friends but surrounded by newcomers. In September 2007, Simpson heard that some of his memorabilia was in the hands of a Las Vegas dealer, and on Sept. 13, Simpson and several other men went to the dealer’s Las Vegas hotel room to confront him. Over the course of a six-minute confrontation, Simpson apparently ordered one of his colleagues to ensure that no one left the room, and at least one other man in Simpson’s party brandished a weapon. Simpson and his crew gathered the memorabilia into bags and left the hotel room, but were arrested soon afterward.
Simpson faced charges of robbery, assault, kidnapping (for the order to keep everyone contained) and use of weapons in commission of a crime. On Oct. 3, 2008, 13 years to the day after Simpson was found not guilty in the double-murder case, the state of Nevada sentenced Simpson to nine to 33 years in prison. Simpson was the only member of the crew to receive a sentence so harsh; most received probation, even the men who displayed the weapons.
In 2013, Simpson sought and received parole for the weapons charges. This hearing is expected to be conducted in a similar fashion, and most observers have indicated they expect Simpson to be released.
What is the format of the hearing?
Simpson will appear via video conference before four members of the Nevada Board of Prisons. Simpson will be at Lovelock, while the board will be at its offices in Carson City. Simpson will have the opportunity for an opening statement, and then the board will ask him a variety of questions about his conduct in prison and his intentions afterward, should he be released.
When will the hearing take place?
The hearing will begin at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, and, again, can be watched live here.
How will the board make its decision?
Simpson will be scored on a sheet measuring his risk to himself and society. The lower the score, the better his opportunity for parole. Simpson received a score of 3 on his 2013 parole hearing for gun-related charges; there have been no indications of bad behavior since then.
The board will follow a sheet similar to this one:
The board will vote on a majority basis either to grant or deny parole. If it splits 2-2, the other two commissioners on the board will have the opportunity to weigh in.
When will the board present its ruling?
Citing the intense media scrutiny on this case, the board will speed up its normal weeks-long deliberation period and render its decision on Thursday. The board has said that most parole cases require only about 20 to 30 minutes of discussion.
When would Simpson be released?
If granted parole, Simpson would be released by Oct. 1.
When could Simpson re-apply for parole?
If the board splits 3-3, Simpson could reapply in January 2018. If he is denied parole entirely, he would have to wait between one and three years.
What impact will the 1995 murder trial have on this case?
Legally, none. Simpson was found not guilty in 1995 of the murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. A later civil trial, where the burden of proof is lower than in a criminal trial, found Simpson guilty. But that case has no bearing on this one, and won’t be used as a factor for approving or denying parole.
What legal issues still remain for Simpson?
There’s the matter of the $33.5 million Simpson was ordered to pay the family of Ron Goldman in a civil trial; with interest, that sum has grown significantly. Simpson has various investments and pensions that aren’t subject to the civil court’s ruling, but every nickel Simpson makes from here on out will be potentially subject to seizure.
Plus, there’s the fact that for a time not all that long ago, Simpson was the most notorious individual on the face of the planet. Wherever he goes, he’ll be watched and judged, whether it’s at a party or on a golf course. Simpson has said he wants to live out his life in privacy, but it’s difficult to see how that could happen without remaining as secluded as he is right now.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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