As anyone who lived through the "Trial Of The Century" will remember, the investigation and trial of O.J. Simpson was more of a national spectacle than a somber legal proceeding. The public was privy to the goings on in the courtroom, thanks to Judge Lance Ito's approval of having media present. And other details were either strategically or not strategically released for public scrutiny by both sides of the case. On June 23, 1994, the Los Angeles Police Department released recordings of two 911 calls made by Nicole Brown Simpson one evening the previous October, as reported by the Seattle Times. Shocking and visceral, the tapes presented a clear picture of a woman living in fear of her ex-husband, Simpson, who was later acquitted of her murder.
The trial of Simpson for the murders of ex-wife Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, of which he was found not guilty, is playing out again on FX's series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Just like in the trial itself, Brown Simpson's only presence so far in the series is through recordings and the memories of people who knew her. In the first episode of the show, Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) says that the system had already failed Brown Simpson, because she had repeatedly reported her ex-husband's alleged battery and threats, but police only arrested him once. As reported by the New York Times, in 1989 Simpson was arrested following an incident that landed Brown Simpson in the hospital, for which he pleaded no contest to spousal abuse. However, that instance did not truly come to light until the trial, and so the public retained its perception of Simpson as an all-American sports hero... until the 911 calls were released.
In the calls placed on Oct. 25 1993, which have been partially transcribed by the Los Angeles Times, Brown Simpson alerts the dispatcher to Simpson's uninvited presence in her yard. "He's ranting and raving outside," Brown Simpson says. Eventually, Simpson breaks the back door down to gain entry, and Brown Simpson expresses fear for the couple's children who are asleep in the house. Simpson can also be heard on the tapes, alternately screaming at his ex-wife and her roommate. "He's going to beat the s**t out of me," Brown Simpson says at one point. And when the dispatcher asks if similar incidents have happened in the past, she responds, "Many times."
Surprisingly, the District Attorney responsible for charging O.J. Simpson with the double murder spoke out against the release of the tapes. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Gil Garcetti said at a press conference that his office had not authorized the action, and that it was "not fair to Mr. Simpson." In almost ominous foreshadowing, Garcetti said that he did not "want to try this case in the media." Many would argue that that's exactly what happened. At the same press conference, he downplayed the effect the release would have on the fair trial any defendant is due. "Certainly, I am confident that we can find 12 jurors who know little if anything about the 911 tapes," Garcetti said. However as American Crime Story shows, that may not have been the case.