Here’s why OJ Simpson was granted parole despite a terrible hearing

“The Juice” in 2013.
“The Juice” in 2013.
Image: Reuters/Ethan Miller
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Update: The Nevada parole board has voted to grant Simpson parole. 

OJ Simpson had one job during his parole hearing: appear apologetic and remorseful for his crime. However, he spent most of the hearing defending his actions through a rambling explanation of the events in question and presenting himself as a “conflict-free” person who has never brandished a weapon in his life, and who generally has always remained problem-free.

Still, after a unanimous decision from the parole board, he will be released from the Nevada prison where he has spent 9 years on a kidnapping and armed robbery conviction on Oct. 1.

His apologies, uttered well into the hearing, largely sounded like avoidances: “I’m sorry it happened. I’m sorry to Nevada … I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it wasn’t worth it.”

His lawyer didn’t appear to be helping Simpson’s case in his convoluted statement, but his oldest daughter Arnelle Simpson made a heartfelt appeal for her “rock” and “best friend.”

Before the hearing, most observers viewed the case to be a near slam-dunk, because of Simpson’s conduct in prison and criminal history. Below is how Quartz explained that he would be likely released based on  the data tool that the parole board used to determine he wouldn’t reoffend. With an ego-filled, messy statement from Simpson, it appeared his low score on the risk assessment was what weighed on their decision heavily:

Former football star Orenthal James Simpson, more commonly known as O.J. Simpson, or simply “The Juice,” could soon be released from prison, where he is serving time on robbery and kidnapping charges. On Thursday, July 20, he is facing “the parole hearing of the century,” dubbed so by Christopher Darden, the prosecutor who was part of the team that failed to get him convicted in the 1995 trial for the murder of his wife Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman.

Most observers say Simpson, 70, has a good chance of getting released on parole. He was already granted parole in 2013 for some of his charges, and during that hearing he portrayed himself as the model inmate—which others’ accounts generally confirm. The parole board will hear what Simpson has to say, review a report on his life in prison, and consult Nevada’s risk assessment point system that aims to determine how likely an inmate is to reoffend.

Simpson was convicted in 2008 after a botched heist at a Las Vegas casino hotel, where along with several associates he barged into a memorabilia collector’s room and left with hundreds of sports artifacts. Simpson claimed he was trying to retrieve personal items that were taken from his home years earlier. He got a nine-to-33 year sentence, which was widely seen as a form of “payback” for his 1995 acquittal. If he is granted parole, he would be able to leave Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Facility as early as October 1.

Simpson will be scored on an 11-point form that Nevada uses for risk assessment. Each category can get you from -1 to 2 points, and the less you score, the less likely you are to reoffend, according to the tool. More than 6 points means the risk is medium, and more than 12 means it’s high. The Associated Press broke down how he would likely fare, and it’s looking good for the former running back and actor. During his previous parole hearing, he scored 3 points, and according to the AP, he is likely to score the same this time around.

He will have points added for the type of offense, his history of alcohol abuse, and his gender. His age is a negative factor—the idea is that you’re more likely to commit crimes when you’re younger. One point will also be subtracted for his reportedly exemplary conduct in prison.

Risk assessment tools have been growing in popularity over the past two decades as part of an effort to to make decisions in the criminal-justice system more data-driven and objective, as well as save money and reduce recidivism in the process. But they are also controversial, in part because of their potential to be biased against the poor, uneducated, and people of color, as reports from the Associated Press and The Marshall Project found in 2015.

Below is the form used by Nevada for parole hearings.

Nevada Parole Risk Assessment Form by Hanna Kozlowska on Scribd

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This post initially misstated Ron Goldman’s last name.