Mapping it out
Thirty miles south of Reno, Nev., four members of the Nevada Board of Parole will huddle in the board’s office in Carson City for the hearing. About 120 miles northeast of the board’s offices, Simpson will participate by video conference at Lovelock Correctional Center, the medium-security prison where he has been for almost nine years.
Malcolm LaVergne, Simpson’s attorney from Las Vegas, has said he will be with Simpson in Lovelock. Tom Scotto, a close friend of Simpson, said Scotto, Simpson’s daughter Arnelle and Simpson’s sister Shirley Baker also will be in the room with Simpson.
Quick decision expected
The O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995 lasted eight months. The parole hearing Thursday, by contrast, could be over in less than an hour.
During Simpson’s 2013 hearing, when he was paroled for kidnapping and lesser criminal counts, the proceeding lasted just 15 minutes. The two board members who comprised the panel that day then deliberated, gave a recommendation to the full seven-member board and their decision to grant parole did not reach Simpson for about two weeks. This time, however, four board members will be present, in part because the board wants to issue an immediate decision to minimize distractions it says the intense media interest is causing.
If the four board members in Carson City are not in agreement, two board members in Las Vegas will be patched in by phone or video conference. A simple majority of four needed to grant or deny parole.
The board usually includes seven members, but the person set to fill a recent vacancy will not start until after Simpson’s hearing. If the board is split 3-3, Simpson will have to wait until January 2018 for another hearing.
If granted parole, Simpson will be eligible for release as soon as Oct. 1. If denied parole, he likely will have to wait between one year and three years before getting another hearing.
The hearing consists of several question-and-answer periods and, based on Simpson’s 2013 parole hearing, on Thursday it will unfold like this:
After the panel chairman attends to administrative matters, Simpson will be asked of he’d like to make a statement. He will. In 2013, his statement lasted 3 ½ minutes.
The panel chair then will review the risk-assessment instrument on which inmates are graded from one to 15. The lower the score, the better the inmate’s chances of parole. In 2013 Simpson scored a three – putting him in a low-risk category before he was granted parole.
Simpson was penalized for having indicated he’d been drinking alcohol the day he committed the crime. But he expressed interest in educational programs such has Alcoholics Anonymous that may reduce his score at this hearing.
Simpson had no write-ups for behavioral issues during his first five years, which helped lower his risk-assessment score in 2013, and Jeffrey Felix, a retired corrections officer who worked at Lovelock, said Simpson’s disciplinary record remains clean.
During the final portion of the hearing, Simpson will be asked to address his parole plan that will include where he intends to live if he is released from prison and to discuss other aspects of the almost nine years he has spent at Lovelock.
Simpson is appearing before the parole a second time because Nevada’s criminal sentencing system separately considers sentences that run concurrently and sentences that run consecutively – both of which Simpson had.
The first hearing was for a series of sentences that required at least five years served before eligibility for parole. This hearing is for sentences that required a four-year minimum term before eligibility for parole.
Simpson, who was sentenced in 2008 to a minimum of nine years and a maximum of 33 years for his role in an armed robbery, was convicted of the 12 criminal counts: conspiracy to commit a crime, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit robbery, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, two counts of 1st degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, two counts of robbery with use of a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and two counts of coercion with a deadly weapon.
When Simpson arrives
There will be no black and white stripes for Simpson. He will wear jeans and a state-issued, dark blue collared shirt. He also is expected to look trimmer than in 2013, with the former football star having lost about 70 pounds, according to Scotto.