The face of domestic abuse

Chilling O.J. Simpson deposition tapes show ex-NFL great testifying under oath

The seldom-seen footage is back in the spotlight after 20 years

Nearly 20 years after former NFL legend O.J. Simpson was deposed as part of a civil trial brought against him in connection with the 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson, his wife, and Ronald Goldman, her friend, the tapes from that deposition, long-forgotten, have resurfaced.

According to ABC News, the rarely-seen videos were locked away in an underground storage facility for the last 20 years and unearthed by film producers for the cable TV network A&E and LMN, a production company. But as NBC reminded ABC on Friday, portions of the video have aired in 1999 on Dateline NBC and again in 2014. In the videos, Simpson is seen wearing a greenish cardigan sweater and testifying under oath — something he was able to avoid doing at his criminal trial — on his explosive relationship with Nicole.

“No,” is Simpson’s curt answer when asked whether he sees injuries in photos showing the visibly bruised face of Nicole, wounds suffered during an alleged 1989 domestic violence incident.

Dan Petrocelli is the lawyer whose voice is heard in the video. Petrocelli, who had previously argued only one case before a jury, represented Ronald Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, who filed the wrongful death suit in civil court against Simpson.

Watch clips of the deposition from ABC’s Good Morning America:

“You don’t see anything?” Petrocelli asks during the 1997 deposition.

“I mean, I see this eye thing,” Simpson responds. The photo Simpson is being shown at the time of the question depicts Nicole with an obvious wound on the right side of her forehead.

“You don’t think this picture reflects any bruising or injuries or marks on Nicole’s face?” Petrocelli prods.

“No, I don’t,” is the terse response from the former football great.

“What do you think this reflects?” Petrocelli wonders.

“I think it reflects doing a movie that we were doing — and we were doing makeup,” Simpson explains.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 6: Denise Brown, the sister of murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson, cries on the witness stand 06 February as a picture she took on 01 January 1989 of a beaten Nicole is shown on a screen. Denise took the pictures of her sister which Nicole later put in a safety deposit box. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)

Denise Brown, the sister of murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson, cries on the witness stand on February, 6, 1995 as a picture she took on January 1, 1989 of a beaten Nicole is shown on a screen. Denise took the pictures of her sister which Nicole later put in a safety deposit box. In a taped deposition in a subsequent civil trial, Simpson said the bruising seen in the photo is from makeup his wife was wearing for a movie they were making. (AFP/Getty Images)

Portions of the deposition tapes were aired on ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday, and more of the footage will air Friday night on the network’s 20/20 newsmagazine. Next week, two documentaries will be broadcast and unveil even more of the footage. In a sign of just how long it’s been since the testimony was made, the deposition was recorded on VHS tapes.

In another exchange with Petrocelli, Simpson admits to injuring Nicole during an incident, but is evasive when he’s asked how he hurt her.

“You never hurt your wife, correct?” Petrocelli says.

“No,” Simpson interjects. “I hurt my wife, yes.” He goes on to say that he never punched Nicole in the face, but when asked  by Petrocelli whether he put his hands around her throat, Simpson admits, “I could’ve touched her neck, yes.” He confesses to Petrocelli that the incident was a “violent” one.

One of the most dramatic moments of the footage aired by ABC showed a visibly stunned Simpson being shown a photo of him wearing Bruno Magli shoes — the brand of shoe the killer of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman was wearing during the crime — that surfaced after the trial. One of the few clues left at the crime scene was a bloody footprint made by a Bruno Magli shoe. During proceedings, prosecutors had been unable to prove Simpson had ever owned a pair of Bruno Magli shoes.

“Yes, that appears to be me,” said Simpson, his eyes widening as he studies the photo.

The Simpson case, the trial of the century as it came to be known, was a pivotal moment in American culture for many reasons. The media frenzy that engulfed everything from the the televised Ford Bronco chase to attorney Johnny Cochran’s famous “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” catchphrase to the jury’s verdict redefined how America views celebrities — and how the news media cover sensational trials.

The jury in the civil case found Simpson responsible for the deaths of Nicole and Goldman, and the ex-football star was ordered to pay their families $33.5 million in damages.

The Simpson saga also was influential in changing how Americans view domestic violence, TIME magazine pointed out in a 2014 story, Simpson became the face of domestic abuse, and the grisly accusations against him served as a “eureka moment in the national understanding of domestic violence.”

Rita Smith, the executive director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence told TIME many people didn’t even “understand what domestic violence was” prior to the Simpson trial. “And now that term, domestic violence, is something that most people understand,” she said.

Smith said the attention the murders brought to the issue of domestic violence accelerated the Violence Against Women Act, landmark legislation that Congress passed in September of 1994.

Few people drew a link between domestic violence and murder until testimony during the trial revealed that Nicole had called the police on January 1, 1989, after an incident left her face bruised, the aftermath of which was captured in photos by her sister, Denise Brown — the same photos Simpson said during the deposition depicted Nicole wearing makeup for a movie.

Nicole told police that she feared for her life that night.

Over the years, Simpson, now 68, has never paid any of the damages to the families of the victims as he was ordered to do. He’s descended into further legal trouble and is currently serving a 33-year sentence in a Nevada correctional facility for armed robbery, where he reportedly had a violent altercation with a white supremacist earlier this year.

He’s eligible for parole in 2017.

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