A harrowing account of a relationship rife with profanity, violence and infidelity dominated the second phase of O.J. Simpson’s pretrial deposition in the wrongful death suits brought against the former football star.
Over the course of two days, attorneys representing the families and estates of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman repeatedly confronted Simpson with excerpts from diaries the murdered woman kept during their 17-year relationship, according to transcripts obtained by The Times.
In the journals, Nicole Brown Simpson alleges that her then-husband terrorized and verbally abused her, menaced her with a gun, attempted to coerce her into aborting their unborn son and threatened to report her to the Internal Revenue Service, which he eventually did. She also recounts three abortions--one after an affair with one of her lovers.
In his sworn rejoinders to the diaries, Simpson testified that his then-wife struck him five or six times, physically assaulted his housekeeper, abused drugs and alcohol and was intermittently promiscuous.
Their contradictory accounts of the marriage, occasionally as sordid as it was tumultuous, are contained in the 527-page transcript of the sixth and seventh days--Feb. 22 and 23--of Simpson’s 10-day interrogation, which ended last week. Simpson’s deposition was broken into two five-day parts to accommodate his lawyer’s schedule.
Prosecutors were unable to use Nicole Brown’s diaries in the criminal case, in which Simpson was acquitted, because of the rule excluding hearsay evidence. Sources close to the lawyers representing the families and estates of Nicole Brown and Goldman say they are seeking witnesses who can corroborate the murdered woman’s accounts, allowing them to be admitted in the civil trial, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 9.
One of the incidents Nicole Brown described reportedly occurred just nine days before she and Goldman were murdered. According to the diary, her ex-husband arrived to pick up their children and was already in an enraged state because she had abruptly broken off a telephone conversation the night before. Under questioning by Daniel M. Petrocelli, lead attorney for Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, Simpson was asked whether he angrily raised the issue when he arrived at his ex-wife’s condominium:
“ ‘You hung up on me last night.’ Did you say that to her?” Petrocelli asked.
Simpson denied having made that statement.
He also responded “no” when he was then asked about other statements the diary alleges he made during the conversation. Among them were:
“You’re going to pay for this, b----.”
“You’re going to jail, you f------ c---.”
“They’ll get you for tax evasion, b----.”
“You’re not going to have a f------ dime left, b----.”
Under questioning, Simpson acknowledged that his daughter Sydney had a friend with her at the time he came to pick up the children. It is not known whether the children heard any of the alleged conversation. But sources close to the plaintiffs in the civil suit said this was one of the incidents for which they are seeking verification of Nicole’s account.
The diaries also allege another abusive encounter, which Nicole recorded earlier in their marriage. In that passage, she contends that while she was pregnant with their second child, Justin, Simpson said to her, “You’re a fat pig. You’re disgusting. You’re a slob. I want you out of my f------ house.”
Simpson testified that he never made those remarks.
Then Petrocelli asked him whether he ever had told his then-wife that he wanted her to abort the child, as Nicole had written in the diary.
“I never would have said that, ever,” Simpson responded.
Petrocelli then questioned him about a subsequent diary passage in which Nicole quotes Simpson as saying: “Let me tell you how serious I am. . . . I have a gun in my hand right now. Get the f--- out of here.”
Finally, Nicole Simpson wrote, “I got real scared and grabbed Sydney and the cats and a bag for her and a bottle and pair of sweats from the laundry room for me and got the heck out of the house.”
Asked why Nicole would write such things if they weren’t true, Simpson said: “Maybe she was feeling that way.”
Simpson’s lead attorney, Robert C. Baker, then intervened, saying: “If you don’t know, just tell him you don’t know,” whereupon Simpson said, “I don’t know.”
At another point in the interrogation, Petrocelli asked, “Did you know Nicole to have a very vivid imagination?”
Simpson responded: “She was great with the kids, so, yeah, she was good. . . . She was good at making up games and, you know, writing stories with the kids. So, yes, she was pretty good at that.”
Simpson testified that Nicole became pregnant four times during their relationship and that she aborted two of the pregnancies, one early in the relationship and another in 1989 or 1990 after the Jan. 1, 1989, incident which led to his plea of no contest to spousal battery charges.
Simpson said he didn’t know why Nicole had decided to abort what would have been their third child. Petrocelli pressed Simpson on whether she had decided to abort a pregnancy after that incident because she feared being struck or abused by him. Simpson replied that Nicole never told him that.
Simpson said Nicole’s third abortion stemmed from a relationship after they separated in 1992. He said the father could have been one of two men she was dating but he wasn’t sure which one. He said she had discussed this abortion with him and was “very emotional” about it.
Prosecutors in the double murder trial attempted to portray Simpson as an obsessive person who killed his wife at the culmination of an abusive relationship in which he was fixated on her.
During his own interrogation, Petrocelli asked Simpson if he, in fact, was “obsessive with Nicole.”
“I don’t believe so at all,” Simpson responded.
On the other hand, Simpson said, “I think I’m a controlling person, period.” Nonetheless, he denied that he was controlling with Nicole.
But then Simpson backtracked a bit, saying: “I think in general that I like my space. I like things the way I like things, and people who come into my life tend to conform to the way I do things.”
Asked if Nicole conformed, he responded: “Yes. Not the last year we were together [1993-94], but certainly before, she did, yes.”
At several points in the deposition, Simpson alluded to the fact that he now regards himself as having been a “battered” husband.
He said Nicole had hit him at times, but said he initially considered it “no big deal,” and declined to call the police.
In his testimony, he cited one public incident in 1984, when Nicole drove by a restaurant Simpson was leaving and started “Frisbee-throwing” framed pictures of the two of them at him and “said something very unpleasant to the girl” he was talking to at the time. The next day, Simpson testified, he and Nicole Brown became engaged.
On one occasion five years later, according to Simpson, his wife, “just started hitting and kicking me, and I went into Justin’s room. Why--I don’t recall what the conversation was at this time, but I know she did until she got tired, because I just covered my groin and covered my--turned my back to her. And then another time she came in, and I was just laying on the bed, and she took a stack of books and just slammed them down on me.”
Simpson said that Nicole hit him five or six times during their relationship and that he reported each of these incidents to his personal assistant, Cathy Randa, and told her to put them in a log. He said he had done this “because that was recommended to me by some police officer.”
He said that this had occurred around the time of the 1989 incident, but that he did not recall the officer’s name.
Just three months before the murders, according to Simpson’s testimony, his housekeeper, Michelle Abudrahm, quit after being struck by Nicole. Simpson alleged that the incident occurred when his ex-wife brought their children and some friends to his Rockingham estate for a swim. Nicole, Simpson testified, objected to the housekeeper’s presence because “she just gets on my nerves.”
To avoid trouble, Simpson said, he gave Abudrahm the day off. He then went to turn on the Jacuzzi for the children. As he returned, he testified, “Nicole was walking out of the house shaking, saying, ‘She drives me crazy. I hit her . . . I know it’s wrong, but I just can’t take that woman and I hit her.’ ”
Simpson then said he went into the house and found Abudrahm red-faced, crying and attempting to phone the police. “Look what she did to my face,” Abudrahm allegedly said.
Simpson acknowledged in response to other Petrocelli questions that some of the couple’s marital squabbles were precipitated by Nicole’s finding “some phone numbers of girls” in her husband’s possession, leading her to believe that he was having affairs with them.
He acknowledged that they quarreled over his “infidelity,” (Petrocelli’s word), but he said he didn’t recall how often. He also said they quarreled over the extent of his travel.
Asked about one of their disputes about another woman, Simpson responded: “Typically she didn’t want to straighten it out. She wanted to argue.”
When Petrocelli pressed Simpson on how often he and Nicole argued, Baker interjected sarcastically, “It was scheduled at 10 every Monday.”
Simpson maintained during his questioning that he was very concerned about his ex-wife’s use of drugs and alcohol in the months before their final breakup, stressing that he had expressed his anxiety to Nicole’s mother, Juditha Brown. In particular, he cited a January 1994 incident in which he said Nicole had an accident in her Ferrari while leaving a bar with her friend Faye Resnick.
He testified that Nicole told him that she was leaning over to ingest cocaine when she smashed into the car in front of her.
“I was real upset with Nicole,” Simpson said. “She didn’t want anybody to know, and I was upset with her.”
Petrocelli also grilled Simpson about an incident at a restaurant called California Sushi, where he allegedly screamed at Nicole in 1993 during the couple’s attempted reconciliation. That night, the two were dining with Resnick and her fiance, Christian Reichhardt. Simpson said the incident was precipitated by Nicole and Resnick “comparing notes” about their sexual experiences with a man whom both had dated. “I was in shock that in front of me they would be having this conversation,” Simpson testified.
Simpson said he left the restaurant in anger and denied using profanity. In her book, “Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted,” Resnick wrote that Simpson was screaming and using profanity at the table and barged into the ladies room, kicking the door open. Simpson denied this in the deposition.
Baker, who appeared to have difficulty controlling Simpson’s responses to questions in the first round of interrogation, was very much a presence on the sixth and seventh days. He repeatedly intervened to halt questions and clashed repeatedly with Petrocelli and the other plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Occasionally, Baker even needled his own client. At one point, for example, Petrocelli asked Simpson, “Who taught you to act?”
“There’s a lot of people who say no one,” Baker interjected.
Transcripts on the Web
* Transcripts obtained by the Los Angeles Times of O.J. Simpson’s deposition will be available Tuesday on a special World Wide Web site. Point your browser to www.latimes.com. In addition to Simpson testimony, the site includes Times stories, commentary and photos.