Saturday, February 11, 2017

The OJ Simpson debacle

Many moons ago, when yours truly was just beginning to try his hand at this on-line sports journalism gig (sometimes referred to as a "blog" by the heathen infidels), a supreme being (sometimes called an "editor") sat me down and laid out a few ground rules. Thou shalts and thou shalt nots. One never knows about editors. Like other all-present powers, they may or may not be checking up on you at any point in time. But it's usually a good idea to assume the all-seeing eye is looking over your shoulder -- always. Get out of line and -- WHAM -- off to the woodshed you go for a proper thrashing. Been there, done that, and no thanks, it's not much fun.

Besides the obvious, such as staying away from gross profanity, and most things ethnic, religious, or political, one of the biggies was to credit one's sources if and when one kinda sorta "borrowed" somebody else's work. That said, noted scribes Michael McCann and L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated recently penned an article regarding OJ Simpson's possible release from prison later this year. If any of the following just happens to overlap with their fine product, I indeed give credit to McCann and Wertheim for at the very least inspiration.

Take that, Boss, wherever you are. And you can put that dadburned switch away for another day, thank you very much.

Certainly we all remember the trial Mr. Simpson went through back in 1995. It was hard to miss. Though the majority of the public to this day likely feels he literally got away with murder, I know for at least a legal fact OJ was innocent. How do I know this? Because the jury said so. They heard all the evidence and testimony and rendered a verdict. If one is to believe in the old adage of "innocent until proven guilty", then it follows that a defendant not convicted must still be innocent. But we also know it doesn't quite work that way. One charged, a defendant is never innocent again. At best, they can get an "acquittal" and be considered "not-guilty". Such was the case with OJ. So like it or not -- he walked.

At that point, he pretty much had it made. He could live in sunny Florida, where state statutes protected his residence(s) from forfeiture due to the civil suit he would lose to the families of the victims, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, two years later. Also, his NFL pension, roughly $300,000 a year, couldn't be touched either. I don't know about you, but I dare say most could get by quite comfortably on that amount of money, and Florida's not exactly a bad place to be "grounded" to. Lots of things to do year round.

On the matter of the civil case, it defied logic in a way. How could a jury find him culpable of "wrongful death" when a previous jury had already declared he hadn't killed anybody? True, the burden of proof in a civil trial is lower than that of a criminal trial, but still......

And then he screwed up -- big time. Off to Las Vegas he went with some "friends" to repossess some paraphernalia he thought rightfully belonged to him. In the process, one of his cohorts brandished a gun, the cops were called, and just like that OJ was jammed up again. This time he wasn't so fortunate.

He was found guilty of conspiracy, burglary, robbery, kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon. Heavy duty stuff. To no one's great surprise, the sentencing judge "threw the book" at him, giving him a whopping 33 years in prison. Many perceived this as "payback" for his earlier "non-crime" and were fine with it.

Thing is, nobody was kidnapped and somebody besides OJ had the gun. But the powers that be were on a mission to slam dunk Simpson and they knew the court of public opinion would agree with them. And so it came to pass.

One should note that prior to this, OJ's record was essentially clean. Had another citizen without the pseudo-baggage of the previous high profile trial done the exact same thing at that room in Vegas, he/she likely would have received a much lesser sentence. Maybe a few years, but certainly not 33.

OJ will turn 70 before he goes before the parole board this time around, and will have served 9 years at that time.

It should also be noted that in a prior hearing in 2013, he was already paroled on all other charges but the burglary/robbery aspects. He's also been a model prisoner while on the inside. Nary a violation or "write-up".

From a strictly objective point of view, it could be argued that 9 years in prison is more than enough for a robbery/burglary, which is the only thing keeping him in.

While the parole board certainly possesses the power of discretion, and can pretty much do what it pleases with any prisoner, again, for an ordinary citizen this would seem to be a slam dunk hearing. Of course he should get out. The 33 years was ridiculous in the first place, given the nature of the actual offenses.

But obviously, OJ Simpson is no ordinary case. No doubt, the parole board is acutely aware that if they let him out, there will be a huge public outcry of protest. The media will zero in on it and scream foul. He got away with murder again, they and the masses will claim.

Yet that's not quite right, and never has been, for the factual reasons listed above.

It remains to be seen just what the board will do, but one can bet that as the time for a decision draws near, the drums will get louder and louder and the pressure immense on those poor devils that actually have to make the call.

Will they do what is logically the correct thing? Or will they cave to the outside forces that will be at a fever pitch in protest?

In concluding their article, McCann and Wertheim offered a truism that can not be denied. Even if Orenthal James Simpson is released from custody, he'll never be totally free.

Perhaps somewhere in there, proper justice will wind up being served after all.

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