By Talia Dennis

O.J. Simpson was released from prison early Oct. 1 after serving nine years for robbery. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison in 2008 and came up for parole this year. It was granted in July.

Ronke Usman, a sophomore public health science major, and Tese Inegbeneborg, a junior finance and operation management double major, both said they did not support Simpson’s release, but know they cannot do anything about it.

While the former football player was serving time for a robbery, he was the center of a 1995 murder trial that has had documentaries created about it through last year. His release from prison brings his story revolving around crime to an end.

Simpson was found guilty of robbery ’s guilty verdict came Oct. 3, 2008, exactly 13 years after his not guilty criminal trial verdict.

He was arrested for robbery in Las Vegas in 2007. The New York Times reported Simpson told The Associated Press the items he took initially had been stolen from him.  The items had significant value and could have gone towards the money he owed following a 1997 civil suit.

Simpson was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages to Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman’s families after being found liable for wrongful death.

The suit was filed by Goldman’s father after Simpson was found not guilty for murder of his ex-wife and her friend in 1995.

Despite the contradictory verdicts in the criminal and civil cases, the outcome of the civil case does not convict Simpson of murder. The verdict of the civil case means the unlawful actions of Simpson resulted in the deaths of Brown and Goldman.

“I find the whole thing ridiculous,” said junior sociology major Meiling Liu. “It shows loopholes in the justice system. An American core value is justice for all. It’s not fair to the people who have less money or power. People who have minor offenses end up in jail or get big fines. ”

The jury of the civil case was predominantly white, while the jury for the criminal case was majority black.

Simpson’s “Dream Team” was accused of playing the “race card” during the criminal trial. The lawyers denied this claim, but race was a factor in the case.

Three years before Simpson’s trial, Rodney King was beaten by L.A. police officers. It was caught on video and the department was acquitted of excessive force for arrest charges. This led to violent riots that resulted in over 50 deaths.

The United States was divided after Simpson’s not guilty verdict, especially in Los Angeles. Many thought it was an open-and-shut case, due to the DNA evidence against Simpson.

Tensions between the black community and the Los Angeles Police Department were tense by the time of Simpson’s trial. While Simpson was not beaten like King, his defense team made a case demonstrating the abuse of power within the force.

Inegbeneborg said a small percentage of the evidence “didn’t work against him and he had status.” Despite the not guilty verdict, she and many others think Simpson still did it.

The Simpson case demonstrated continuous racial issues within the Los Angeles community and police department.

Mark Fuhrman, the lead detective on Simpson’s case, was called to testify. He was asked if he had ever used the “n-word” within the last 10 years. He denied the claim, but was later charged with perjury after tapes played of him using the racially charged word in the ‘80s.

Racial tensions are still high, decades after the trial. More reported cases of police brutality are brought to the public’s attention. While it is not every cop or every department, abuse of power towards minorities exists now.

Simpson’s lawyers created a case that was not centered on racial tensions, but took place in a city where the relationship between the police and minorities were strained.  

The robbery trial was not based on any racial issues, but it is just one part of the fascinating Simpson case.

At 70 years old, Simpson is free again and will stay in the Las Vegas area and likely out of the public eye according to ESPN.

If he lives a more private life, this could be the end of the captivating story about the former football player many believe got away with murder. America has tuned in and out for the O.J. Simpson story for 22 years. Now it is time to tune out and focus on current issues.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Charles LeBlanc’s Flickr account.

Talia is a sophomore journalism major and history major and can be reached at tdennis1@terpmail.umd.edu.

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