O.J.: Did he deserve parole?
A parole board’s decision last week to free O.J. Simpson from prison “was correct and just,” said Dave Zirin in TheNation.com. After serving nine years of a 33-year sentence for stealing his own sports memorabilia from a Las Vegas hotel “while someone with him pulled a gun,” the fallen football hero, now 70, will walk free in October. Simpson’s original sentence was absurdly excessive— and was clearly “a payback” for his 1995 acquittal for the ghastly murders of estranged wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. The parole board expressly said it could not factor in prior cases, said Sara Gordon in the New York Post, and the law dictated that O.J. be granted parole. His age and his clean disciplinary record in prison indicate there’s little chance Simpson “will be a threat to society.”
Yes, Simpson earned parole “like any other well-behaved, 70-year-old convict,” said Jeffrey Toobin in NewYorker.com. But like so many other people who followed his murder trial, “I see the bloodied corpses of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman” whenever I see his “Who, me?” grin. “Simpson belongs in prison, and he should remain there.” In his statement to the parole board, O.J. sure didn’t sound sorry for anything he’s done, said Eric Deggans in NPR.org. He insisted he had a right to take back his trophies, and said, astonishingly, “I’ve basically spent a conflict-free life.” This, from a powerful athlete who repeatedly battered his wife and left her hospitalized in 1989, when he pled no contest to spousal battery. Later, Nicole and Goldman were so savagely murdered that their heads were nearly severed by a killer with a knife. It feels as if Simpson “is the thorn America will never quite extract from its side”— proof of our tangled relationship with celebrity, wealth, media, criminal justice, and race.
Say what you want to about Simpson, said John Diaz in the San Francisco Chronicle, he really did change the country. His sensational arrest and trial began our country’s “24/7 absorption of news,” and revealed the breadth of America’s racial schism, with blacks largely believing he’d been framed by cops. More positively, the trial “brought home the lethal danger of escalating abuse,” contributing to the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, and showcased the science of DNA testing. No “fleeting 1990s obsession,” the Simpson trial “jolted American culture in ways that reverberate today.” ■