After more than 20 years in the national consciousness, the long legal saga of O.J. Simpson continues this week, with the former Buffalo Bills running back facing a parole hearing on Thursday. It's parole not for the double murder case that gripped the nation in the mid-1990s, for which he was famously and controversially acquitted, but rather for a 2007 armed robbery charge that put him in jail. Nevertheless, one of the main prosecutors in the 1995 murder trial, Christopher Darden, gave his thoughts on Simpson getting parole.
"I imagine he will be granted parole, unfortunately," Darden told the TODAY Show's Savannah Guthrie on Thursday morning. "He's not in jail for murder, he's in jail for robbery. It's an amazing thing that we can get a 33-year sentence and only do 9 years. That's just incredible to me — you can do 25 percent, 22 percent of your sentence and the state of Nevada releases you."
Decades after the two fought in the court room, Darden remains vocal about the defendant he failed to put away with the whole country watching. "I like the photographs of O.J. in handcuffs more than I like the photographs of O.J. with a golf club in his hand," he told Guthrie. "I think he has a lot to account for, and we have yet to extract from him the punishment that he deserves."
During the trial in 1995, Darden was noted by some for seeming to have an emotional investment in the case, and a personal vendetta against Simpson. He wrote in his 1996 book about the trial, In Contempt, that a judge told him early in his career, "Sometimes you look like you have a chip on your shoulder or some personal animosity toward the defendant. Calm down and make sure never to appear angry or confrontational." Also in that book, Darden writes that Simpson himself once said to him, "Man, you need to learn to control your temper."
Whatever feelings Darden had towards Simpson during the trial, he seems to still harbor them. He said on the TODAY Show, about having watched Simpson's previous parole hearing, "I thought that he was the same old guy I met in 1994 and 1995. A very manipulative person, a narcissist. I think that he was saying what he needed to say and doing what he needed to do to get out of prison."
Since Simpson's imprisonment is for his 2007 armed robbery — not the murders he was accused of in 1994 — questions by the parole board assessing his fitness to be released aren't supposed to touch on the crimes he was found innocent of by the jury in 1995. But for Darden, they still play a central role in Simpson's character. When asked what the parole board should ask Simpson, Darden answered, "Did you kill Ron and Nicole?", knowing that it wouldn't be allowed to do so. But he nevertheless thinks it still matters. "I think everybody ought to call up the Nevada parole board," Darden said on the TODAY Show. "Tell them, 'Hey! Ask him!'"