O.J. Simpson had a 2013 hearing at which he was granted parole on some of the lesser charges on which he was convicted. (Ethan Miller/Reuters pool)
Sometime Thursday, O.J. Simpson is expected to learn whether the Nevada Board of Parole will vote to free him in the fall or whether he will continue to serve a nine-to-33-year sentence for 12 convictions, including kidnapping and armed robbery, stemming from a 2007 sting operation in which he tried to recover sports memorabilia from two collectors.
The media scrutiny in the hearing will be less intense than it was for the 1995 murder trial in which he was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole, and Ron Goldman, but the possibility that the Hall of Fame running back and former actor soon will be free again is drawing massive attention, including live coverage on multiple networks. (The Washington Post will carry a live feed here, beginning at 1 p.m. EDT.)
Four members of the board will convene in the Carson City, Nev., Probation and Parole Division office and Simpson, inmate No. 1027820, will remain, as he has for almost nine years, in the medium-security Lovelock Correctional Center about 100 miles away. In addition to his legal counsel, Simpson’s representatives may include relatives, but only a handful of media members will have access to that room.
Simpson, 70, will be given the opportunity to make an opening statement, as he did during a 2013 hearing in which he was paroled on five of the lesser charges against him. Testimony is limited to the inmate, a representative of his, victims of the crime (or their direct family members) and one family member or supporter. It is not expected that the two victims or prosecutors will oppose his release. The board also will consider a pre-sentence investigation, a parole hearing report, a risk assessment and letters of support or opposition. Post-parole plans also will be discussed. The board will heavily weigh a points system that considers 11 factors, including criminal history, age and gender, history of alcohol and/or drug abuse, and behavior as an inmate. It will not, however, be limited to considering the points system.
After the hearing, which is not expected to take long, the members of the board will deliberate privately and vote. After that, according to the Nevada parole board website, the public hearing will resume and each member will vote on the record. “A majority of four of the seven members of the Board is required to reach a decision to grant or deny parole. The panel for this hearing consists of four members which constitutes a majority of the Board,” the site says. That means that all four present must be in agreement. “If the panel is unanimous in its decision, it will become the decision of the Board and no additional voting is necessary. If the panel is not unanimous, additional board members will be immediately contacted to review the case and vote until there are four votes to grant or deny parole.”
(The seventh commissioner will not be seated until after the Simpson hearing, so it is conceivable that the board could end up deadlocked at 3-3. That would result in another hearing in six months.)
In a 2013 hearing that lasted 15 minutes, Simpson was granted parole for two of the lesser counts on which he was convicted. That time, the panel consisted of two board members who deliberated and gave their recommendation to the full seven-member board. After about two weeks, the decision was handed down. This time, because the board wants to minimize the media circus and return to its work as quickly as possible, four board members will be present.
If parole is granted, Simpson would be freed “on or after Oct. 1.” If it is denied, a rehearing date will be set by the panel. Denial periods, the board’s website says, “are generally set at periods of one to three years from the eligibility date of the inmate.”
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