What a bizarre spectacle it is when events come full circle in the legal arena.
Under the full glare of national – and one presumes international – media attention, O.J. Simpson has been unanimously granted parole in Nevada.
Held since 2008 at the Lovelock Correctional Center in a rural part of that state, one of the most infamous murder defendants of the 20th century successfully made his case for why he deserved to be granted early release – having served the minimum nine years of a 33-year sentence.
Does it matter why he was in prison?
Only a little bit.
Simpson was convicted in 2008 of armed robbery and kidnapping – among other related charges – after bursting into a Las Vegas hotel room with a band of cohorts. He attempted – through intimidation and implied threat – to retrieve various items of sports memorabilia, what he has repeatedly referred to as “my stuff.”
As an aside, many who have spent their lives in the criminal justice arena have rarely, if ever, seen such a lengthy sentence imposed for what was little more than a pathetic Keystone Cops incident between people who basically all knew one another. Clearly, Simpson was singled out because of his notoriety and the belief that he was a murderer who had escaped justice.
Well, good – and no objection here to that.
The Nevada chapter is undoubtedly interesting but only serves as a footnote in the legal saga of O.J. Simpson and how one trial so divided the United States, and the world, more than 20 years ago.
On Thursday, gone were the army of lawyers at Simpson’s side. There was no ‘Dream Team’ anywhere to be found. Gone also was the perfectly tailored suit, crisp white shirt and smartly-co-ordinated tie that Simpson wore throughout his 1995 double-murder trial in Los Angeles.
There was no courtroom, no judge and even the four parole commissioners weren’t present – instead interacting with Simpson remotely via video from their base in the state capital of Carson City. Simpson never left the prison during the entire process as the hearing room was within the confines of that institution.
Ah, how the infamous have fallen.
The passage of years has failed to bring perspective when one considers the trial of the century – because there is no sane perspective to be acquired. The entire process was intensely felt and followed by millions of spectators and emotion trumped reason in stunning fashion.
The two victims – Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman – may have been the reason for the trial but both were forgotten by the end of the trial. On a strictly human level, one can’t help but feel even now that Goldman is surely one of the unluckiest circumstantial victims in the long history of violent death and domestic violence that has played out in our society.
The trial was never about the victims. That, perhaps, is the most disturbing aspect of the whole sad and sorry sideshow. The trial was about race – pure and simple. It was about how one racial group seized upon a celebrity of colour as a symbol to rally around. They saw his trial as the chance to finally have the power, attention and money to give white America a taste of their own medicine.
That they succeeded – against all sanity and notions of justice – tasted bitter then and still tastes bitter.
But the not-guilty result isn’t what it’s about anymore. That wound may not have healed but it has scarred over with time. Attention is given instead to the inevitable slew of more recent outrages – real and imagined – for all races to ponder, protest, and alternately defend or denounce.
O.J. Simpson is 70 years old. What the world saw at his hearing was a man who once had fame and fortune and legions of hangers-on at his side instead sitting all but alone and pathetically pleading for his freedom.
With his imminent release in October, one wonders if Simpson will resume his search for the “real killers.”
Something tells me they’ll be hard to find.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer and occasional lawyer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.