In the premiere episode of Ryan Murphy's new series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Nicole Brown Simpson's body has just been discovered and her ex-husband quickly becomes a suspect in her murder, though he was later acquitted of the crime. Although the series doesn't depict Brown Simpson's life, one thing is made very clear in the premiere — prosecutor Marcia Clark's determination to successfully prosecute Simpson was largely driven by her belief that, aside from one arrest, O.J. Simpson's history of domestic abuse allegations had not been adequately investigated by police officers. In the premiere, Clark (played by Sarah Paulson) angrily says: "You know what pisses me off? This went on for years. All that battering, before he was even arrested. He got away with beating her."
Though during his civil trial, Simpson denied beating his ex-wife, there is much evidence to the contrary. As reported by the New York Times, Simpson beat his wife so badly on Jan. 1, 1989 that she required hospitalization. According to police records, she repeatedly shouted "He's going to kill me!" when they arrived at the scene and she also told police that they'd been called to the residence eight times before the 1989 incident. Simpson echoed the number eight in his own confrontation with police that same evening. According to the Los Angeles Times, Simpson told responding officers: "The police have been out here eight times before, and now you're going to arrest me for this? This is a family matter. Why do you want to make a big deal out of it when we can handle it?" In the same article, the outlet notes that Brown Simpson told officers: "You never do anything about him. You talk to him and then leave."
On this occasion, Simpson was arrested and eventually pleaded no contest to charges of spousal abuse, as reported in the same New York Times article. According to the prosecutor in this case, he recommended that Simpson spend 30 days in jail and complete a year-long program for men who batter their wives. Neither of these things happened and Simpson entered counseling with a psychiatrist of his choice. Although specific dates pertaining to 911 calls prior to the Jan. 1 incident are not available, Brown Simpson's journals, photos, and statements to friends can help piece together additional allegations of abuse.
In December 1994, prosecutors broke into a safe-deposit box and discovered what the Chicago Tribune described as "a trail leading to the dark and violent side of [Brown Simpson's] marriage." It contained her will, letters of apology from Simpson, and photographs of her apparent bruised and swollen face. In January 1995, Philly.com recapped information released by prosecutors, mainly taken from Brown Simpson's journals. The journal entries recounted incidents of Simpson allegedly beating his wife during sex, throwing her out of a moving car, and threatening to decapitate her ex-boyfriends. The entries also claim there were instances of verbal abuse, such as Simpson allegedly calling her "fat" during her pregnancy and ordering her to get an abortion.
Philly.com also cited the statements of others who claim to have witnessed or suspected abuse. A physician stated that in 1986, Brown Simpson sought treatment for an injury on her neck which she claimed was the result of a bike accident — but he concluded the injury was inconsistent with falling off a bike. A limousine driver alleged that he witnessed Simpson hit his wife while he was driving them home from a charity event in either 1988 or 1989 and then supposedly "lunge" at her when she entered the house. And, a friend of Simpson's claimed that in March 1994 Simpson took him on a drive to Brown Simpson's condo and told him: "This is the back way ... Sometimes she doesn't even know I'm here."
Simpson and Brown Simpson divorced in 1992, but two other phone calls are significant — one to the police and the other to a battered women's shelter.
Brown-Simpson Called The Police Again On Oct. 25, 1993
At this point, the couple had divorced and were living apart. According to the Chicago Tribune, Brown Simpson made two 911 calls on the night of Oct. 25, 1993 after Simpson broke down the door of her condo. In her first call, she requested dispatchers and told the operator: "My ex-husband has just broken into my house, and he's ranting and raving outside in the front yard." In the second call, which was placed 10 minutes later, she once again said that Simpson was going "nuts" and requested that officers be sent to her property.
The June 7, 1994 "Nicole Call"
Nancy N. Ney, a worker at a battered women's shelter, testified during Simpson's civil suit, but she was not permitted to testify at the criminal trial. According to Ney, a woman who identified herself as only "Nicole" called Sojourn House just five days before Brown Simpson's murder. According to a New York Times article about the testimony, the caller told Ney that her ex-husband was stalking her and had allegedly threatened to kill her. A key detail led her to believe the caller was indeed Brown Simpson — she described her ex-husband as "high-profile" and stated that Ney would recognize his name. This testimony was inadmissible in the criminal case because Judge Ito determined it to be hearsay that lacked sufficient records to back up the claims.
Simpson was found not guilty of the murders of Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, and though we may never know the truth of what exactly happened the night she was killed, it's tragic that so many aspects of her short life appear to be marked by such violence and fear.