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O.J. Simpson Faces Parole Board; O.J. Simpson Granted Parole. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired July 20, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And they will, hopefully, for O.J. Simpson's case, you know, produce those four votes necessary to grant him parole. So we're waiting for that. Again, that could happen any moment now.
Meantime, Areva Martin, CNN legal analyst, here.
We heard two different, you know, testimonies, one, this friend and victim of O.J. Simpson's, but first, we heard from his daughter. We heard from Arnelle Simpson. And what did you make of her words today?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the first thing, Brooke, I made of Arnelle's statements is they reminded me so much of what Senator McCain's daughter has said about her dad, that he's her rock, he's her friend, he's her confidant, so you heard this very compelling testimony from O.J. Simpson's daughter.
BALDWIN: Except one of them has brain cancer and the other convicted of --
MARTIN: Well, I want to address that, Brooke, too, because as I'm listening to Jeffrey and Mark, for me, O.J. has always been about race, class, and justice. And although I didn't agree with everything with everything O.J. Simpson said, and this concept of him being a conflict-free life, of course, that's not true. And, of course, the issues of domestic violence, as they related to his second wife, were very serious, and we should all take them very seriously. But I sat here and counted the times that he said he was sorry, and the time that he expressed remorse. We're not here today to relitigate what he did with respect to his first wife, with respect to domestic violence. We're not here to relitigate the trial where he was charged for killing his ex-wife. And the way to -- we're here about the robbery that happened in that hotel room. And we're here talking about should he be paroled because of his conduct, because he's shown himself to have been rehabilitated. And when you think about what the prison system should be doing and what these hearings should be about, he's a model prisoner. He did what they told him to do. He said he would be conflict free in prison, that he would avoid trouble, that he would not have a disciplinary record, and he did that. And not one of the commentators, and Jeff and Mark, with all due respect, have really given him credit for doing that. And that's the message that this should be sending to other prisoners, is when you to your time and you're conflict free and you avoid disciplinary actions in prison, you should be given an opportunity if you're low risk. And I think the conversations should be focused on that, and not be about what should have happened in that murder trial because that's not relevant today.
BALDWIN: No, I appreciate the variety of opinions.
Areva, stay with me.
Mark, you've been listening to her words, saying let's not relitigate, sort of disagreeing. What would you say?
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANAYST: Well, because, Areva, one of the things that you're supposed to do at the parole hearings -- I do them infrequently, but I have done them over the years -- is you have to have a realization and a confrontation internally about the crime. That's one of the factors that you're supposed to consider. Clearly -- and the reason I said -- I believe I said it before that to me, this is a slam dunk is, he's been there and based on the low-risk assessment, and based on the fact that he's been conflict free while in prison. He doesn't have any of what we, in California, call the 115s or 128s, which are write-ups while in prison. That's what, to me, makes this an easy thing.
But having said that, if this is my client, I'd want to clock him for that opening statement. Because there isn't a self-awareness about what happened. He's running away from it. He's relitigating -- precisely what you're saying. I'm not saying he should relitigate or can relitigating the Goldman and Nicole Simpson case. What I'm saying is he's relitigating and not accepting responsibility or showing remorse for the instant case, which I've also said he got more than his share of punishment for.
GERAGOS: So, I don't know that I necessarily disagree with you. I don't know that I disagree with you. But his statement about the instant case was woefully lacking.
MARTIN: I would agree with you, Mark, that he obviously didn't follow the advice of counsel with respect to that opening statement. But throughout the testimony this morning, we heard him say he made a bad decision. He wished he had made a different decision. He was sorry. He had apologized to both of the victims. He had asked for their forgiveness. And we have to talk about what he has said that does clearly indicate he has thought about what he did. He knows that it was wrong, and he is sorry. And I don't think there's been enough emphasis on that.
GERAGOS: Yeah, but the problem --
MARTIN: The statement that -- I agree with you, the opening statement was problematic. I will give you that.
GERAGOS: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Go ahead, Mark. GERAGOS: But the problem is, is when you contrast it -- when you
contrast it with what Jean testified, who was in the case -- and I remember watching it at the time. I've talked to Bruce in the years since and others connected to this incident, and I'm fairly confident that I've got a handle on the facts of the incident. He did not -- he ran away from the facts, I guess, is the most charitable away that I'll put it.
[14:35:06] BALDWIN: Let me hit pause. We have just had Jeffrey Toobin race from a small studio so he can join the rest of our panel here onset.
And so what -- I don't know if you fully heard it all but you know you heard what Mark said when you guys were having the conversation. Areva kind of came in and said -- she made the point of all the times O.J. Simpson did sit up there today and said I'm sorry. She made the point that he has been this model inmate and that this whole -- nothing needs to be relitigated from the past. I hope I'm giving her due, but disagreeing with much of what you said.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right. And that's fine. I'm frequently wrong. But the -- he said the words -- the words "I'm sorry" came out of his mouth, but every description of what he did on the night in question and in Las Vegas was self-justifying and exculpatory. There was no acknowledgment of actual bad conduct. But you know, that's O.J. He never acknowledges anything he did was wrong. And it is true that he was a model inmate. I don't think there's any dispute about that. And it's also true that this is a very long sentence given what he did. I'm just talking about his description of his own contact and his own conduct and his own character, which I found disgraceful and appalling.
BALDWIN: Areva, what do you make of that point, saying I've lived a conflict-free life, just knowing his past.
MARTIN: That's not true. And I'm not here to support that statement. And I'm not really here to support O.J. But I think we have to talk about the racial divide that has been a part of every conversation relevant to O.J. Simpson. And those people that believe O.J. Simpson are guilty of killing his wife and Mr. Goldman, whenever they think of O.J., they think he should be in jail not because of this robbery but because he got away with murder. And that has divided this country. When you go back to the trial in 1994, and when you talk about it today, there's still this element that here was this black man that defied the odds, became a Heisman Trophy winner, this athlete who becomes a personality in television, a movie star, marries a white woman, and his biggest crime was being a black man that made it and married a white woman. And that is a sentiment that we can't get away from when we talk about O.J. Simpson. That's why the country today is riveted on O.J. Simpson. Not because of this robbery but because it brings to light these issues of race and justice and culture in our society and that's pervasive and we can't get away from that.
BALDWIN: Mark Geragos, Jeff Toobin? TOOBIN: Oh, dear. You know, that is certainly true. I mean, look, I
spent two-plus years of my life on this case. And the reason I think it lives on and the reason in 2016 the FX series, the ESPN documentary fascinated so many people is because it illustrated the racial divide at the core of this -- involved in this case.
I want to try to just narrow it a little bit today. And I have to say the thing that I just found so disgraceful about today is that O.J.'s clear, you know, statement that a conflict-free life can include being a wife beater, that domestic violence is something that is not part of his sense of himself. And I think that is a broadly felt statement -- you know, sentiment, and I just think it's such a disgrace. And you know, I'd like to think that even -- that corner of it might be racially neutral.
BALDWIN: But I don't know, Areva, if you wanted to respond to that.
MARTIN: I completely agree that O.J. Simpson has not led a conflict- free life.
Jeffrey, I agree with you. That was an absurd statement and it's not accurate.
BALDWIN: Let me ask, just on a sort of procedural, you know, as you're listening to these commissioners, and I remember one of the commissioners had a stack of papers, letters of opposition from people saying, don't give parole because of the -- what we remember from that famous trial in '94, the acquittal in '95. All of what you are discussing, none of it is included in their decision making, am I correct, Jeff Toobin?
TOOBIN: I'm not sure that's the case. The acquittal is not supposed to be included. But he is a convicted batterer. I mean, there is no doubt about that. And they are allowed to take that into consideration. And they are allowed to take into consideration his demeanor and remorse or lack of remorse. So it is not just a four corners of the case against him that they can consider. They're also supposed to consider his conduct in prison, which as far as I can tell, has been entirely appropriate.
014:40:03] BALDWIN: I want to continue this conversation, but let me just pivot quickly over to our correspondent, Sara Sidner, who's actually, as we're talking about these parole board members, deliberating, you just left the parole room. Tell us what's happening behind the scenes.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I will tell you this, I want to talk a little bit to the questions you just asked about all the letters that were sent in. There were letters that were sent in that were for O.J. Simpson. There were dozens of letters that were sent in that were against him. And the commissioners and the chairwoman of the commission was very clear. She said, we got all of these letters and we want to let you know, Mr. Simpson, that we will not be considering these letters in this case, because many of the letters against him were about the 1995 acquittal. She says, that should not come into our consideration. Made that very clear, both for the cameras, the people watching. And she mentioned the media a lot. She mentioned people watching a lot. So we should make that clear that the commissioners themselves have said they are not going to take some of those letters against O.J. Simpson into consideration.
It was an interesting room. There were about 17 chairs that were set up there. A very small room with four commissioners and one staff member who were all looking at a screen. There are two screens, one so that the media can see and also watch the commissioners. One so that the commissioners have a huge screen that they can see O.J. Simpson's mannerisms, listen to him very carefully.
One thing I thought that was very striking is that it was Bruce Fromong's testimony that seemed to be the most touching. His daughter, O.J. Simpson's daughter, eldest daughter, spoke, but it was Fromong's testimony because he was a victim in this case that had a gun put to his head, who talked about the fact that he was always going to be O.J.'s friend, and that if O.J. called him tomorrow and said, I need you to come pick me up, I am being released from prison, that he would be there. And he looked at O.J. and he says, I'm here for you, buddy. I thought that was quite compelling. Of course, there's a lot of evidence that they have to take into consideration. That was just one bit of it.
BALDWIN: The whole victim and now buddy that made the testimony noteworthy, indeed.
Sara, stand by.
I've got additional great voices on the pane. I've got Paul Callan.
Let me begin with you.
I need to tell everyone you represented the estate of Nicole Brown- Simpson in the civil case, which you won. That said, you've been listening to all of this. Your takeaway, sir.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I just think the board has been totally derelict in their duty to evaluate the most important thing you consider when you decide to give somebody parole.
CALLAN: And that is the risk to the community, or as the chairman said when she started questioning O.J., the risk of re-offense. Which is getting back to the point that Jeffrey has raised concerning what he did to his ex-wife. And a lot of our younger viewers maybe don't remember the details of what came out in the criminal trial and in the subsequent civil trial. But he was accused of having beaten her to the point where the police had to respond to the house on nine occasions. She was hospitalized with physical injuries as a result of his beating her. And I'm talking about Nicole Brown-Simpson, his wife, in 1989. She was so terrified of him that she left a note in a locked safe that said -- was left there for the purpose of, if she was killed, that people would know O.J. had killed her. It had her bruised face, and it had a journal that included stories of additional beatings, of his threats to decapitate her ex-boyfriends and innumerable other things.
Now, why were these matters not brought up? Doesn't that have a bearing on whether you might be violent if you got out? What's going to happen when O.J. starts dating women in Nevada or Florida or wherever he winds up after he's had a few drinks. Do you think that he might get violent again as he has for his entire life? And they have the audacity not even to bring that up. Their conduct is a disgrace in terms of the way they have conducted this questioning. And I only hope they redeem themselves by making a correct decision and deny parole.
BALDWIN: Kyra, I see you nodding. I want to --
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN COMMENTATOR: There's so many things going through my mind right now. And Jeff's going to laugh because we were covering this 20 years ago.
PHILLIPS: We did. And the -- my first reaction is, why are we so appalled? This is the O.J. Simpson we saw 20 years ago. He's a liar. He lives with the fairies. He's delusional. He manipulates people. This is not a normal person that you sit down to dinner with and have a civil conversation.
TOOBIN: But see, he was.
TOOBIN: That's the thing. He was that.
PHILLIPS: How -- how can you --
TOOBIN: He sat down to dinner with everybody and everybody loved him.
PHILLIPS: Because he knows how to manipulate people.
TOOBIN: That's the thing.
PHILLIPS: He is brilliant at that.
[14:45:00] PHILLIPS: And that's exactly what he's doing right now. And can I tell you, we would not be sitting here watching this parole hearing if it were not for these tapes. These are the Mark Furman tapes, OK? This is what changed history. This is what impacted the verdict. A lot of people say that race trumped justice. You and I have talked a lot about this. You and I have talked a lot about this, OK? The evidence against O.J. Simpson was overwhelming that he murdered Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. And then, Johnny Cochran is handed a landmine, tape recordings. All right, we can now prove this detective was racist and framed O.J. Simpson. We got it. It's over. Now fast forward, and here we are at this parole hearing.
BALDWIN: Areva Martin, I want to hear you jump in as well.
BALDWIN: Oh, stand by. O.J. walking --
BALDWIN: Hang on.
O.J.'s walking back in the room.
Go ahead, Areva, let's listen to you, and let's just hang tight on these pictures and see what's coming up.
MARTIN: Let's talk about this landmine. This landmine is the lead detective in a case using the "N" word. So I guess I'm just flabbergasted at the panel's discussion about the case. And it, again, reflects the racial divide in this country. If you believe O.J. Simpson is guilty and you disrespect the jury verdict in the trial, then you're seeing this, this parole hearing, through those lenses. And you're not capable of seeing them through the lens of what's happening today, what is his prison term been like for the last nine years, and what's relevant to him getting off on parole related to the charges of robbery. Not to the case where he was acquitted. And if we respect the decision of the Nevada jury that he was guilty for this robbery, as we have to call it, then we have to respect the jury in Los Angeles that acquitted him for the murders. We can't have it both ways.
CALLAN: Well, there are two juries, though, weren't there, in California.
CALLAN: There was the civil jury that found he had committed the murder.
MARTIN: But we're talking about the criminal case.
CALLAN: No, I'm talking about the civil case. We had testimony as to his prior conduct with Nicole Brown-Simpson in the civil case. So we can consider everything, can't we? Shouldn't we?
MARTIN: Well, the letters -- Brooke, the letters that the commissioners made reference to, are letters where people who are --
BALDWIN: Actually, Areva, forgive me for cutting you off. I want to hear what you're saying.
But let's pop up the volume and listen to what they're saying in this parole room.
O.J. SIMPSON, INMATE & LOVELOCK CORRECTIONA FACILITY & FORMER PRO FOOTBALL PLAYER & ACTOR: Talking to no one here. I'm talking to no one. I'm talking to space. Jeffery Felix, a complete fraud.
He wrote a book about me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've told all the news networks now for over a year this guy is ridiculous.
SIMPSON: Take it from all the guys telling me I should sue this guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will. They believe what they want to believe, you know?
SIMPSON: They do. Sensationalism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get ice cream.
SIMPSON: Cookies. Cookies. I mean, just infantile.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He saved you, you know? He saved you from having any infractions because you were going to get written up for it, right? And he intervened and he saved you. So he's your savior.
Who would believe anyone with a mullet like that, dyed hair?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope they were cookies.
SIMPSON: Yeah, he's -- he's a one and only. That's for sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's disrespectful to the C.O.s here, the real C.Os who do this job all the time and have done a great job. And Mr. Simpson has always spoken phenomenally well about the conditions here and how he's been treated. And so I just think it's just a disgrace.
SIMPSON: This guy is unbelievable. This guy was never even assigned to my portion of the prison. Ever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wouldn't be able to spot your cell.
SIMPSON: You know, when I would see him is going to the store, we were going to canteen, I guess he'd come out of that area and he'd stand at the fence and tell us these crazy stories. I mean, it's funny. I'll give him that.
But about how he got kicked out of the son's baseball game and how he was refereeing. And, I mean, he was -- I mean, the guy's funny. You know? But outside of that, I don't know. He says I got a shrine in the room and he walks with me in the yard. Shameless.
[14:40:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like the fact that when it seems like he's running out of material and they have no more interest in him, he has new things that he can explain about you, that you were doing. I think the ice cream's new.
SIMPSON: What, there's an ice cream story?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is an ice cream story. I wasn't able to read all of it but there's some kind of ice cream story he's thrown in now. Kind of like President Trump, you know? Trump gets two scoops, everyone else gets one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something like that. Something ridiculous.
SIMPSON: I swear I wanted to say that, and I'm talking to space again. But just cutting in line that I get all the guys -- man, have I taken some stuff from all the guys about that. Mike Tyson couldn't cut in line in prison. Seriously, who cuts the line in prison, man? You find yourself six feet under.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to be red-faced laughing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I may say something publicly after that, but I'm glad I have you on here.
SUSAN JACKSON, CHAIRMAN, NEVARA BOARD OF PAROLE: OK, this parole hearing on Orenthal James Simpson back into order.
Are we ready to roll, folks?
TONY CORDA, COMMISSIONER, NEVADA BOARD OF PAROLE: Chairman, I'll start off.
Mr. Simpson, you organized this crime in which two victims were robbed at gunpoint. It was a serious crime and there was no excuse for it. You deserved to be sent to prison. You have been in prison now almost nine years, the minimum amount imposed by the court. You have complied with the rules of the prison. You have programmed in an acceptable manner. You have no prior conviction of criminal activity. You are a low risk to reoffend on our guidelines. You have community support and stable release plans. We've heard from you and from your victim. The question here, as with all parole hearings, is whether or not you have served enough time in prison on this case. Considering all these factors, my vote is to grant your parole effective when eligible.
SIMPSON: Thank you.
JACKSON: And I concur with Commissioner Corda and grant parole. And in addition, our decision, although difficult, is fair and just.
UNIDENTIFIED COMMISSIONER, NEVADA BOARD OF PAROLE: I concur with Commissioner Corda and agree to grant parole.
CONNIE BISBEE, COMMISSIONER, NEVADA BOARD OF PAROLE: Mr. Simpson, before I cast my vote, I want to let you know that we believe that we're a fair board. We believe that we're a consistent board. I will let you know that consistency also goes to parole, and we do not look kindly upon parole violations. And if I cast my vote to grant and it concludes the hearing, our expectation would be that you not violate even the simplest condition of parole. Having said that, I am prepared to cast a vote. I am prepared to ask the commissioners to set conditions if that happens. We will produce an order sometime in the next 15 to 20 minutes that will be faxed to you or presented to you at the institution, and it will become a public record. So, based on all of that, Mr. Simpson, I do vote to grant parole when eligible.
And that will conclude this hearing.
SIMPSON: Thank you.
SIMPSON: Thank you. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.
SIMPSON: Thank you. You're holding up good too, man. All these years.
BALDWIN: There you have it. Four for four of those parole board commissioners all unanimous in their decision to grant O.J. Simpson parole. So he will be a free man as early as October.
Just a quick note before, Jeffrey Toobin, we get your two cents. What you were listening to before then was O.J. Simpson getting picked up on a hot mic over at Lovelock Correctional Facility talking about mullets and Mike Tyson and Donald Trump. So if you're wondering what that as about, he was live, and I don't know if they realized they were live.
That said, Jeffrey Toobin, free man.
[14:55:28] TOOBIN: Well, I mean, I can't say I think the board was wrong, given the standards they had to apply. I just think that O.J. Simpson gave us some really good insights into his character or lack thereof today. And you know, it's just part of our continuing education, I think, in particular, about the way people view domestic violence and the way many people, including especially Simpson, simply ignore it and treat it as if it is not a real problem. But I can't say that the board was wrong in what it did. You know, he served nine years. He was a good prisoner. That's what parole is supposed to be.
BALDWIN: Let's get everyone's reaction.
Areva Martin, your reaction.
MARTIN: Not surprised. This is what happened in the earlier parole hearing, and he was deemed a low risk offender. And it's not likely, given his age and given the other factors that they had to consider, that he will reoffend. So I think this was the outcome that everyone expected. If you were willing to look at this case solely for what this case was about, and not bring into it the murder trial, the criminal murder trial that happened in Los Angeles.
BALDWIN: Paul Callan, your response. And why isn't he able to walk free today?
CALLAN: Well, a lot of people have asked that question because it kind of feels like an acquittal. You're supposed to leave the courtroom when you get acquitted.
BALDWIN: Why not?
CALLAN: This is not an acquittal. What they have found, basically, is that he's subject to parole, but he has to continue to serve his sentence until October, and then he will be released in October. So it's different from a finding of not guilty in a normal courtroom.
And I just want to get my two cents on it. I think the -- the problem I have with the board is, number one, I think they fail to consider the danger that he poses to other women in the community upon his release, given his prior history of domestic violence. And forget about the killing. Even if you believed the jury verdict in the first case, there was unquestionably uncontradicted evidence about prior domestic abuse.
The second thing that didn't really come up, which surprised me, he took an appeal for this conviction, and he said in the appeal that he didn't know anything about the guns that were being carried by other people.
CALLAN: His own attorney -- he then criticized his own attorney for not allowing him to present that defense. His own attorney testified that O.J. told him on two occasions that O.J. knew about the guns before the robbery. So, he essentially committed perjury, if you believe his own attorney, with respect to the appeal. And I think that doesn't show remorse. That shows deliberately and illegally trying to cover something up. They didn't even mention that.
BALDWIN: Mark Geragos, your reaction.
GERAGOS: The parole board, I think I had said a little while ago --
BALDWIN: You said slam dunk, I believe, was the word you used.
GERAGOS: Yeah, that was the word I used, even though that's a basketball and not football. And harkening back to the discussion you've had there in the studio, you know, the criminal jury got it right. The civil jury got it right. They had different standards of proof. They did what they had to do. You've seen three instances where he's gone through the system, so to speak, and the system has worked. I mean, there's -- anybody who observed that criminal trial, who knew what the criminal courts building was like back in the day, knows that when you have the lead detective committing perjury, basically, that it was over. And the civil jury, likewise, they got it right because they had a lower standard of proof. And I think the parole board got it right. So, you know, it's a trifecta.
TOOBIN: It's all beautiful, Mark.
BALDWIN: Why are you laughing?
TOOBIN: Everything is beautiful.
BALDWIN: You're guilty, you're not guilty.
MARTIN: Glad you're agreeing with me, Mark.
TOOBIN: It's like, Mark, no, no.
BALDWIN: You're a killer, you're not a killer.
TOOBIN: I mean, I just, like, the idea that, you know, the evidence against O.J., what you could slip between proof beyond a reasonable doubt and more probable than not, you know, guilty under the civil standard but not under the criminal standard, I think that's nuts. I think he was guilty under any standard.
MARTIN: But, Jeffrey, the state didn't prove its case --
MARTIN: And you have to be willing to accept the jury's verdict.
GERAGOS: You need to go back to Harvard because there's two different standards, number one, and number two, he didn't testify in the criminal trial and he had to testify in the civil. That's a major, major difference. So, yes, you can toggle between it. And that's why we're fighting over money, it's a different standard of proof than when we're fighting over liberty.
(CROSSTALK) MARTIN: The lead detective --
TOOBIN: I'm sorry. Go ahead, Areva. I didn't mean to interrupt you.
MARTIN: If the lead detective is proven to be a racist, that means something. And it should mean a whole lot, and it did mean a whole lot, and --