O.J. Simpson hearing was not a slam dunk

O.J. Simpson granted parole
O.J. Simpson granted parole

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  • Danny Cevallos: After 9 years in prison, Simpson's court performance showed that he still doesn't understand the consequences of his actions
  • By relitigating his guilt, Simpson could have single-handedly ruined his chances of parole, he writes

Danny Cevallos is a CNN legal analyst who practices in the areas of personal injury, wrongful conviction and criminal defense in Pennsylvania, New York, and the US Virgin Islands, at the law firms of Cevallos & Wong in Philadelphia, and Edelman & Edelman in New York, where he is Of Counsel. Follow him on Twitter @CevallosLaw. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)A Nevada parole board has granted O.J. Simpson parole after hearing the former NFL star (sort of) show remorse for his role in an armed robbery back in 2007.

Despite his poor performance during his hearing, Simpson's good behavior in prison and his low risk factors for recidivism were enough to persuade the board that he should be released early.
In fact, the four-member board unanimously voted to grant parole.
    Still, I wouldn't have called his hearing a slam dunk, particularly after hearing Simpson's answers to questions posed by the board.
    The first question asked by a board member was: "What were you thinking (when you committed this crime)?" Simpson's attorneys surely prepped him for this one. The answer should have been short, but just long enough to identify the error of his ways.
    Instead, he decided to relitigate his guilt. This happens a lot, not just at parole hearings, but at guilty pleas or sentencings. Defendants see these hearings as an opportunity to tell their version and dispute the evidence against them.
    And Simpson stumbled often during his answers. When questions called for him to discuss his remorse, he cited all the weddings he missed while incarcerated. Answers like that just demonstrate that the inmate is sorry for his own losses -- not the consequences of his actions or the others he hurt.
    Then there were the statements that bordered on delusional. Simpson said he had lived a "conflict-free life" and that "nobody ever accused me of pulling any weapon on them." Well, nobody, except the State of California, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Goldman family, and ... well, you get it. They all accused him of pulling a weapon on people. That's what that big trial was all about in the 1990s.
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    Unlike her father, Simpson's daughter performed well in speaking on his behalf. But the reality is that parole boards -- like judges -- hear those speeches from family members so often that they are usually numb to them.
    After all, these speeches are all pretty much the same. They're some variation of "he's a good guy; he made a mistake; he's learned his lesson." It's the format Simpson himself should have followed.
    But there were a variety of factors operating in his favor. Under Nevada Parole Recidivism Risk and Crime Severity Guidelines, Simpson is a low risk felon. The risk factors that weighed in his favor included his age, his retirement and good behavior in prison. The risk factors that weighed against him included his alcohol use and his gender.
    I calculated his total risk score under the Guidelines as a 1, which puts him at the lowest of the low, using Nevada's parole risk assessment form.
    But the analysis does not end there.
    The Board also used another form, the Discretionary Release Parole Guideline Worksheet, to weigh the severity of his offense. The Board deemed the severity of Simpson's crimes to be at the highest level.
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    From there, the Board used a chart that plots the guideline recommendation given the severity and the risk points. Depending on those two factors, the chart makes recommendations, including presumptive denial or granting of parole. In Simpson's case, the recommendation resembled the answer of a magic 8-ball: "Consider Factors." Translation: Everything is fair game for consideration, and nothing is guaranteed.
    Simpson was ultimately paroled, after the Board questioned him and took a variety of factors into account.
    But it was closer than many thought. Even though Simpson was an eligible parolee on paper, he almost ruined his chances by taking matters into his own hands.
    In the end, it worked for him. Just like it has in the past.