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OJ Simpson, who will be released from prison this October, has said "my commitment to change is to be a better Christian". Lisa Mainwaring responds to the news
OJ Simpson is arguably the most famous sportsman and felon in the world. And in my view, if there was any justice here on earth, he would be spending the rest of his life behind bars, but not for the armed robbery conviction for which he won parole on Thursday, but for the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson (whose head was cut almost completely off), and her friend Ron Goldman, who was stabbed 30 times in 1994.
Anyone over a certain age would have closely watched the trial and probably recalls where they were the day the disgraced American football legend and retired actor was acquitted in 1995.
I was a young twenty-something working in Manhattan at the time and I remember as clear as yesterday the jubilation and confusion when the verdict came in. As I left the office building I was working in, I saw some black friends celebrating, so I asked them "why are you celebrating OJ's acquittal?" The man in the group said "oh he didn't kill that white bitch!" I stood there stunned as the fault-lines of American race relations were laid bare, right in front of me. At the time, many African-Americans supported OJ, while Caucasians like me were convinced of his guilt.
I thought it was clear. OJ's past suggested that he was a violent man with a temper and poor impulse control. He had a history of domestic violence and from the trial it was clear to me that there was overwhelming evidence that he viciously murdered two people. He was later found civilly liable for their deaths.
But in 2008 OJ was sentenced to 33 years behind bars for the botched robbery he was involved in, stealing sports memorabilia at gunpoint from the occupants of a Las Vegas hotel room. He was charged with 12 criminal counts, including assault, burglary, coercion, kidnapping and robbery - all with the use of a deadly weapon.
Now we know OJ will be released from prison in October having served 9 years. At the parole hearing, he presented himself as a family man who has missed dozens of his children’s birthdays while behind bars and is a devout Christian who has led a conflict-free life. OJ apparently leads a Baptist prayer group in prison, mentors inmates and coaches sports teams.
At the hearing Simpson played the devout Christian, telling the parole board: "If I would have made a better judgment back then, none of this would have happened. And I take full responsibility…I haven’t made any excuses in nine years here, but I should have never allowed these alleged security guys to help me, because it turned out they were only trying to help themselves. I realize in my nine years here, that I was a good guy on the street. I was always a good guy, but I could have been a better Christian".
OJ shows signs of being a classic sociopath, a narcissist, maybe even a psychopath who thinks he can talk himself out of anything
It’s not up to me to judge his faith. I do hope that he has truly found Christ in prison and he has not just used it as a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Of course, Christian faith is all about grace and forgiveness. None of us stand innocent before God - we are all broken people in need of forgiveness and a new start. I do believe people can change and OJ deserves a second chance as much as anybody.
But for a new start you need a new heart. That involves genuinely owning up to what you’ve done, repenting and receiving forgiveness. But I just don’t think we’ve seen that yet from OJ.
I can’t help but feel a true believer would confess and repent. He has never confessed to the murders in 1994, when his ex-wife was killed, while his children slept upstairs in the family home or for stabbing her friend.
He did not appear contrite during his parole board hearing. He was asked by the parole commissioners "did you take the class you were meant to take?" He answered "no". They then asked "Did you take the alcohol counselling you were meant to take?" He answered "no". In my opinion he did not show any remorse for his crimes. He seemed to be saying 'I am sorry this happened, but it wasn't my fault'.
OJ shows signs of being a classic sociopath, a narcissist, maybe even a psychopath who thinks he can talk himself out of anything. He manipulated the public back in 1995, he tried to do it in the civil trial and he did it again on Thursday, only this time there was no cross examination.
It boggles my mind how a man of true faith can live with that. I think he is a risk to public safety and I pray justice prevails. There are rumours that he is reportedly planning to become a televangelist. I can only hope and pray that this is pure conjecture!
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