In a devastating attack on O.J. Simpson, the prosecution has introduced 59 incidents of alleged domestic violence that portray the former football player as a batterer who physically abused his ex-wife for a 17-year period that culminated with her death in June.
The explosive allegations, which were culled from his ex-wife’s diary and eyewitness testimony of friends and family members, included a number of alleged beatings, a threat by Simpson to cut off the heads of any of his ex-wife’s boyfriends he caught driving his cars and allegations that Simpson threatened and stalked Nicole Brown Simpson, made incriminating remarks at her funeral and was in possession of keys to her house that were reported stolen two weeks before her death.
The allegations are contained in an 85-page response to a defense motion seeking to bar evidence of the alleged domestic violence at trial. The papers were so inflamatory that Superior Court Judge Lance Ito sequestered the jury before releasing the documents.
In another bombshell revelation, which appeared to come as a surprise to the defense team, Deputy District Attorney Lydia Bodin said that prosecutors learned Wednesday that Nicole Simpson had contacted a shelter for battered women on June 7, 1994 - five days before she was murdered - saying that she was being stalked by Simpson.
“She called because she was afraid, and she had reason to be afraid,” Bodin said.
At the funeral, according to the court papers, friends watched as Simpson leaned over his ex-wife’s casket and said, “I’m sorry … I’m sorry. I loved you too much.”
Bodin said that they found letters of apology from Simpson to his exwife last month when they broke into a safe deposit box the dead woman maintained. In the box, she said, investigators found that Nicole Simpson “literally created an accounting, an audit trail of acts of violence because she wanted people to know what was going on in her life.”
Prosecutors allege that Simpson repeatedly threatened to harm his wife and was unable to accept separation from her. The papers cite an alleged threat made in a May 1991 conversation with actor Eddie Reynoza on the set of “Naked Gun 2” when Simpson allegedly said that “if he ever caught any of his wife’s boyfriends driving any of his cars, he would, ‘cut their … heads off.”’
The incidents of abuse are the subject of a high-stakes pretrial hearing before Ito that experts say could seal the outcome of the trial.
California law gives the judge broad discretion to allow prior acts of abuse into evidence to show such things as motive or identity or pattern of behavior.
While conceding that Simpson “slapped and punched” Nicole Simpson in a 1989 incident that resulted in a conviction, defense lawyers argued that the incidents are overblown and not relevant to the charges of homicide and would serve only to prejudice the jury.
After court, defense attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Robert Shapiro met with the press to complain about the prosecution, charging that the day’s events were an orchestrated attempt at “character assassination.” Cochran also sought to downplay Nicole Simpson’s call to a battered women’s shelter. “A call was made, it’s never been authenticated,” he said. He then added she called to ask, “Should I reconcile or get back together with my husband?”
Defense lawyer Gerald Uelmen dismissed most of the incidents as “uncorroborated rank hearsay” and noted that most of the confrontations did not involve physical abuse. He said the incidents outlined in the diary were prepared by Nicole Simpson at the request of her divorce lawyer and were designed to gain an advantage in the proceedings. He denied that the relationship was characterized by physical abuse.
“What we end up with is a bumpy marriage in which the parties argue a lot,” he said.
Uelmen also took issue with the prosecution labeling the murders a domestic violence case, arguing that there was no similarity between the punching and slapping that may have occurred in some of the Simpson arguments and the slashing deaths of the victims.
“If we had to put a label on this case, based on these factors, the label we would put on it is that it bears all of the earmarks of a drugrelated homicide,” Uelmen said.
But Deputy District Attorney Scott Gordon, disagreed. “This murder took 17 years to commit,” he said. “That punching, pushing and slapping is a prelude to homicide.”
Simpson’s reactions ranged from quizzical looks to smirks to laughter. At one point, as Deputy District Attorney Bodin described an altercation that apparently was reported by Denise Brown, a sister of the victim, Simpson shook his head turned to look at his ex-sister-in-law.
But he appeared agitated when the prosecution moved to introduce three photographs of Nicole Simpson after the 1989 beating that were viewed by Ito but not displayed.
Earlier in the day, Ito ordered a battered women’s shelter to turn over any documents it has about Nicole Simpson.
MEMO: For more information on this story, call Cityline at 458-8800, category 6202. We will continue updating this story through midnight today.