He’s not black, he’s OJ… and he’s heading home

On Thursday July 20th, 2017, there was a feeling of nostalgia as former icon and NFL star O.J. Simpson plead for his freedom at his…

On Thursday July 20th, 2017, there was a feeling of nostalgia as former icon and NFL star O.J. Simpson plead for his freedom at his parole hearing at Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada. 13 million people watched a Nevada parole board, via video teleconference, unanimously grant Simpson parole after serving nine of a 33–year sentence for his role in a 2007-armed robbery. He was part of a group that stole sports memorabilia including personal items that he claimed were stolen from him. People say that the time served was associated to the crime that has led to him living in infamy.

In June 1994, millions witnessed Simpson lead police on a low-speed Los Angeles freeway chase in his notorious White Ford Bronco driven by his friend, Al Cowlings. Cowlings refused to pull over, telling police over his cell phone that O.J. was suicidal. The epic journey finally stopped that evening when Cowlings pulled into O.J.’s Rockingham estate. After an hour of negotiation, Simpson surrendered and was later arrested for the double murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown-Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

During its 9-month span, Simpson’s trial became a media event of staggering proportions and was later labeled the “trial of the century.” Television cameras illustrated the proceedings lead by the Simpson’s “Dream Team” of lawyers including the late, great Johnnie Cochran. The trial took place during a tumultuous time in LA. A time when many were still recovering from the civil unrest that took place two years before, due to the acquittal of the four cops who beat Rodney King. It was clear that race was a factor when defense lawyers portrayed Simpson as another African- American victim of the white judicial system, targeting Blacks. The racial boundary was further separated throughout the nation on October 3, 1995 when O.J. Simpson was acquitted for the double murder. However, in 1997, he was found “liable” in a civil case for the wrongful deaths of Goldman and Nicole. He was subsequently  ordered to pay $33.5 million to the families of both victims. Still, how did Simpson land in front of a parole board this year?

In September 2007, Simpson and six other men took hundreds of items from 2 sports memorabilia dealers at the Palace Station Hotel in Las Vegas. They were arrested three days later at the Palms Hotel and he was then released on bail. In November, Simpson was ordered to stand trial on 12 charges including kidnapping and robbery. The trial began in September 2008 and ended on October 1st. On October 3rd, 2008, 13 years to the day California jurors found him not guilty of murder, Nevada jurors him guilty on all 12 counts. He was sentenced to 33 years. Some felt that the 33-year sentence coincided with the $33 million dollars he had to pay the Goldman and Brown families.

Fast forward to nine years later- this summer’s parole board hearing. Seven networks aired the parole hearing, interrupting scheduled programming. Many believed they would be tuning in to a typical parole hearing; however, this was not the case. For those who watched Simpson over the years, they expected to see groveling and humility towards the same board members who had denied his parole five years earlier, this was almost the total opposite. He was alert, engaged and almost displayed a level of arrogance. The parole board didn’t help matters as one member was wearing a NFL team tie. Parole board chairman Connie Bisbee mistakenly said Simpson was 90 years old when he is 70, causing the room to laugh. The following day, ESPN’s First Take reporter Stephen A. Smith went as far as saying it was the first barbecue he ever witnessed in Nevada because of the relaxed setting of the hearing. Bruce Fromong, one of the two men Simpson robbed, accepted an apology and further endorsed Simpson’s character, even appearing to have become friends- referring to him by his beloved nickname, “Juice.” After an hour and 20 minutes of testimony, laughs, defensiveness but later an apologetic attitude, O.J. Simpson was granted parole by the board. He’s scheduled to be released as early as October 1st of this year.

A renewed interest in O.J.’s story has arisen from the production of the award-winning documentary “O.J.: Made in America”, FX’s true-crime drama “The People v. O.J. Simpson” and even in music with a track on rapper Jay-Z’s latest album “4:44” titled, “The Story of O.J.” While he holds a place in the memories of older individuals, he is becoming a new and interesting figure for younger generations. When he is released, what will be next for a man who was once loved by so many, but has become an infamous individual?

 Only time will tell once the Juice finally gets loose.

By: Jamal Clarke

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