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O.J. Simpson granted parole

I find the penal system in this country highly confusing. When a defendant is sentenced to “life-without-parole,” known by the acronym LWoP it leads one to believe that person will be incarcerated for the rest of their natural life. Yet some inmates do eventually get released after lengthy stays in prison. Advanced age and health problems are cited as compassionate release when a prisoner is freed.

The number of years handed down by a judge and jury would seem to the casual observer to be just a number as in the case of O.J. Simpson.

This Friday a parole hearing in Nevada decided that the nine years of a 33 year sentence served by Simpson satisfied as punishment for an armed robbery and kidnapping crime. The incident was committed by O.J. and a group of friends and acquaintances on Sept. 13, 2007. Simpson and an impromptu posse met with a sports memorabilia dealer who had a cache of Simpson sports items for sale.

Simpson maintained the items the man had for sale were stolen from his home. Instead of notifying police the makeshift crew decided to retrieve the items by force.

After they entered the hotel room at the Palace Station Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, Simpson said to not let anyone leave the room. Simpson was convicted of kidnapping and assault with a firearm and sentenced to 33 years in prison. He is now eligible for parole after serving just nine years.

On ABC Good Morning America, prison officials were quoted as saying that Simpson has been a near model prisoner and could have parole granted based on good behavior behind bars.

Many people including court news personality Nancy Grace has opined Simpson’s sentence for this robbery was payback because he got away with the murder of his wife and her friend in 1995. A check of the cable television programs this month are populated with close to 200 showings of documentaries and docu-dramas about that previous Simpson case.

It was 23 years ago this month that Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were brutally butchered in the front courtyard of Ms. Brown’s condominium in Brentwood a toney suburb of Los Angeles. Brown’s estranged husband, the internationally famous former football super star Orenthal James Simpson known the world over as O.J. Simpson, was arrested and tried for the crimes. The trial began the following year, on Jan. 24, and the not-guilty verdicts delivered on Oct. 3, 1995.

The trial ran on daytime television on the cable channel Court TV and other networks. Dubbed as the “Trial of the Century,” it captured the imagination of the whole country, perhaps the entire world. Simpson’s celebrity and this cadre of high priced attorneys eviscerated the prosecution’s case and ultimately brought in a verdict of not guilty.

Was this one of those watershed moments where people will always remember where they were when they heard the news? I don’t know.

I do remember where I was and how my news outlet learned of trial outcome. As the verdict was about to be announced the television in the Tribune breakroom was on and a group of us stood around waiting for the verdict.

Our then publisher Danny Dean, who had an interesting sense of humor, said he would take bets on the outcome. I said I would take his bet for a “not-guilty” verdict.

According to the website, the jury deliberated for four hours, which included one last lunchbreak. Having spent five years at a local law firm, I believed it impossible for a jury from a nine-month trial would convict a high-profile, once-loved celebrity defendant in less than four hours. How many people realized that during the trial a former Madera resident testified?

About halfway through the trial an executive from Hertz car rental testified he met Simpson’s plane in Chicago just hours after the homicides. That Hertz employee was David Kilduff. We graduated from Madera High School together in 1973. I got a phone call from a mutual friend and fellow classmate who said “D.K.’s on O.J.”

Kilduff, a longtime Hertz executive, testified that when he met Simpson’s plane the actor was calm and upbeat. Theoretically this was before he learned of the murders; unless of course he committed the killings, then he was playacting the role of O.J. Simpson big-short, celebrity spokesperson for Hertz car rental.

Should O.J. have been granted parole after serving less than a third of his sentence?

Have a good weekend.

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