For 10 and a half months, Lionel Cryer served on the jury in the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson, and what transpired in those months stayed with him long after he returned home.
On Oct. 3, 1995, Cryer and his fellow jurors found Simpson not guilty for the murders of Nicole Simpson, the former NFL pro’s wife at the time, and Ron Goldman. For many who remember the trial — especially after the airing of American Crime Story: The People V O.J. Simpson — Cryer is known as the juror that reportedly raised his fist in salute of Simpson after the verdict was read in the California courtroom.
Currently, Simpson is serving a life prison sentence in Lovelock, Nevada, for his part in the robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in Las Vegas in September 2007. On Thursday, a parole hearing is scheduled for the 70-year-old former athlete, and it’s already garnering lots of attention from the media.
Nearly 22 years since finding Simpson not guilty, Cryer sits down for an exclusive interview with ET and talks about how life changed for him after the trial. “It was a very stressful situation for me,” he admits. “I was working for the phone company at the time and I was due to go back to work, but because of my stress, I had to take a disability from work at that point.”
Cryer also decided to seek professional help upon returning home. “I was actually in therapy seeing a psychiatrist right after the trial for a while. It was hard making the adjustment to come back to real life again,” he remembers. “It took anywhere from four to six months before I was able to return back to work after that.”
While Cryer says he was one of the first to declare Simpson innocent in the deliberations, he doesn’t know that he feels the same way after all these years. “My personal feeling is that Mr. Simpson probably, and in all probability, did commit these crimes,” he claims. “At this point in time, [for] lack of a better scenario, I do believe he probably went over there and killed them.”
Cryer does not think, however, that the jury was given enough evidence to convict Simpson in 1995. “There was no way that I could convict a person, to send someone to jail for the rest of their life, based off of the events that occurred in the room that I was in,” he insists.
He also believes that there was one other factor that led to the jury’s speedy deliberation. “I think the sequestration itself definitely played a part in the outcome of the verdict itself,” Cryer says of the trial. “People were kind of worn down by the time. I mean, this is a 10 and a half-month process.”
As for Simpson being up for parole on Thursday, Cryer thinks he has a good chance at getting out of prison. “This is America and in America, when you’ve done your time ….definitely people should be allowed to get their parole,” he says. “I understand also, [Simpson has] been a model prisoner there. I don’t think they’re gonna deny him [parole]. I don’t think that they will.”
Cryer and several other jurors give their side of the story as to what transpired during Simpson’s criminal trial in Oxygen’s The Jury Speaks, which airs on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Additional reporting by Rande Iaboni.
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