Like many cases of domestic violence, the story of O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson’s stormy relationship fits a disturbing pattern – a pattern of official intervention that came too late and did too little.
As his horrified fans now know, Simpson was arrested for spousal battery after an incident at the couple’s Brentwood home on New Year’s Day, 1989.
According to police reports, Nicole – clad only in a bra and sweat pants, her face scratched and bruised – emerged from a row of bushes outside their home to tell a LAPD officer “he’s going to kill me.”
Last week, L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti angrily charged that the superstar had received “special treatment” by the courts and that the outcome of the case had been a “terrible joke.”
Garcetti may be right. Simpson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of spousal battery and got off with a $970 fine. He was also allowed to pick his own form of community service and choose his own psychiatrist for mandatory counseling, some of which was apparently conducted by phone.
When the D.A.’s office tried to find him in violation of his probation, Simpson lashed out, telling the judge he had done more community service than everyone in the courthouse put together.
“I think the judge was trying to accommodate him, rather than help him understand that this was criminal behavior,” says Alan Bowman, head of the L.A. City Attorney’s domestic violence unit.
The Simpson case is an American tragedy in every respect, but not merely because of O.J.’s celebrity and vast popularity.
“You have to have tremendous compassion for Nicole Brown, for it took her death for people to realize that even the most wonderful public persona can still be a wife-beater,” says Richard Gelles, who heads the Family Violence Research Program at the University of Rhode Island.
“But the real tragedy, and I hope we don’t lose sight of this, is the 1,400 women every year who are killed by their husbands of partners. It is a tragedy for them, their families and their children.”
Newsweek Magazine (June 27 1994)