Installment One – The OJ EFFECT
June 12th 1994 was just an ordinary day in Los Angeles. I was living on Gorham Avenue in a tiny one bedroom apartment in the affluent Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Brentwood at the time was a mixed density area of the City where apartment dwellers like myself lived side by side with sprawling mansions and ritzy condominiums. I was a 28 year old law student working my tail off in my second year of law school.I was an ambitious and hard working student who completed his first year of law school ranked number 1 in my class with high ambitions attending a middle of the road law school, the price I paid for being a hard partying frat boy at the University of California at Santa Barbara, then known best for its beaches and beautiful people.My apartment was midway between a local see and be seen restaurant; Mezzaluna, up on San Vicente Boulevard and Barrington Avenue. The next morning the news broke of the horrific murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, estranged wife of Football great and mega celebrity OJ Simpson that happened the night before just steps from my apartment in Brentwood.
My quiet neighborhood was abuzz with helicopters, police and throngs of media who had descended upon the site of the murder on Bundy Drive. I remember clearly walking to the scene of this horrific crime and witnessed the aftermath of this horrific event, which no one, at the time, imagined had anything to do with All American hero OJ Simpson. Within a matter of days all that changed. Simpson was soon on the run with long time friend AJ Cowlings who I used to see regularly at Gold's Gym in Venice and the entire world became transfixed. Mobs of Angelinos' came out of their homes to watch the surreal slow speed chase of OJ that was transpiring up and down the 405 Freeway just a few miles away from my home and within a short time it became abundantly clear that America's hero was transformed overnight into a murderous villain.
Simpson, at least in my mind, was clearly guilty of the crime, which was brutal. Brown-Simpson's head was nearly cut clean off with a knife and a male companion was also brutally murdered on the steps of her Brentwood home. The Simpson murder would transform the law and the courts when it came to light that Mr. Simpson evaded any kind of justice for repeatedly beating his now deceased wife throughout the course of their tumultuous relationship. Simpson would never serve a day in jail for any of his brutal beatings.
Flash forward two years. I graduated law school with honors and became the only student in my class to receive an offer to work as a Prosecutor. Then City Attorney James Hahn invited me to join a small class of outstanding lawyers from some of the best law schools in California. These are dream jobs for law students and only a select few get them. I underwent 6 weeks of intensive trial advocacy training before being assigned straight away to a trial court where I began my career. By 1994 I had been working in the office just a few months when the Simpson case went to trial and it became the center of the City's attention for months. I was in my second trial as a Prosecutor when the jury began their deliberations. As a Prosecutor this seemed a slam dunk case for the DA's office. The evidence seemed overwhelming but in a twist of fate the 12 jurors who spent nearly a year listening to the evidence acquitted him and the criminal justice system would never be the same.
Prior to the Simpson trial individual Prosecutors had nearly complete discretion to do as they saw fit with Domestic Violence cases. They could dismiss them if the evidence was weak or plead them down to lesser offenses in situations where the proof was weak or the injuries were of a minor nature. Police similarly had discretion to make judgment calls when responding to these calls to make determinations of credibility in deciding whether to make an arrest when minor domestic violence was alleged. This would all change after the verdict.
Domestic violence against women became the hot legal and political issue of the day and the California legislature enacted mandatory minimum punishments for anyone convicted of these offenses. Police largely lost their own discretion as well in deciding if an arrest should be made when an allegation was made that involved a domestic violence accusation. The law now largely required police to arrest someone involved when called to the scene of one of these calls regardless of their own perceptions of fault. Prosecutors in my office would receive now specialized training in the trial of these crimes including intensive indoctrination into the psychology of domestic violence. Education about the profile of a serial violent abuser was part and parcel of every prosecutors training in my office. The LA City Attorney soon formed a specialized Domestic Violence Unit to prosecute more serious cases of DV, as it came to be known. Soon enough the prosecution of Domestic Violence became a whole sale cottage industry.
As a misdemeanor Domestic Violence prosecutor we largely saw cases involving very minor and sometimes trivial injuries like a nail scratch or minor abrasion. More serious abusers were usually prosecuted as felonies but occasionally I was exposed to more serious cases involving very serious abuse. I disdained these men and prosecuted many of them, with great satisfaction. Sadly a profile of the victims of this kind of abuse also began to surface. In virtually all cases of domestic violence, no matter how serious the injuries most women would come to regret their decision to involve the police, sometimes out of fear but also out of a larger sense of denial. I recall many cases in which my office would compel me to aggressively subpoena and sometimes arrest women who failed to cooperate with these prosecutions. I recall one trial in particular in which I was required to send law enforcement to forcibly bring the victim to court that had serious facial injuries.
The woman, clearly scared and intimidated by her abuser sitting in the courtroom across from her on the witness stand testified quite convincingly that she self inflicted her injuries by smashing herself in the face with a frying fan. I had to show the jury my own victim was a liar, and she was. It was tough work. The man was convicted and received a hefty well deserved jail sentence on my recommendation.This was the climate in the 1990s. Domestic abuse had been kicked under the rug for years and it was righteous work at the time and largely ethical even in the aggressive manner in which we were required to bring victims to court. But this was not always the case. Many a time I received cases for trial in which I either did not believe the victim or the injury was so trivial that I would ask for discretion to plead the case down and would rarely if ever be given consent by my superiors to reach a more favorable outcome. Any prosecutor who dismissed or reduced one of these cases would be subject to potentially career damaging punishment. Judges too could be sanctioned for deviating from the minimums.
The other significant piece of training we received was the impact of abuse against men. It was almost universal that men who were the victims of violence at the hands of women would almost never come forward or cast themselves in the role of a victim. Men are socialized differently. Many men were far too ashamed or embarrassed to expose themselves as victims and rarely did I see a case of DV come to trial with a male victim. As a result these cases almost always involved male abusers and female victims when they came to court. One of the most important parts of our training was in the so-called cycle of violence. The underlying emotional component in textbook domestic violence was control. Those men who fit this profile, and it was not in fact the majority of people who were charged with the offense, had a central psychological component of control. The cycle of violence always started with obsessive jealousy. Women caught in it often weren't allowed to wear clothes the man felt would draw male attention.
They would be forbidden from wearing makeup and many were made to stay out of sight. These men would almost always explode into their violent rages when they felt the loss of that control. Women were in the most danger if and when they ever tried to leave the abuser. Many of them, like Brown-Simpson would end up dead at the hands of their abusers. This obsession with control was a hallmark of several profound personality disorders but the central theme was that many were sociopaths, malignant narcissists or both. These abusers were at the extremes of the domestic violence profile. That said there were a large percentage of men caught up in the system who were in fact not serial abusers nor were they sociopaths. They were caught in toxic relationships and many times with toxic and dangerous women. In some cases men that got caught up in this system were simply just unlucky or worse. They were themselves the victims of women who had learned to game the system to enact some kind of revenge or vendetta. The law treated them no differently then the extreme textbook abuser.
What made the prosecutions of these crimes so easy to prove was that we did not need to prove severe abuse or even a serious or harmful injury. The law requires only that the parties have or had some kind of dating or marital relationship and that the alleged victim need only have a visible injury. It could be anything so long as it was visible by the naked eye. Men caught up in a tussle with an equally toxic woman might catch a fingernail on their partner who would be the first to call the police and that mans life would be forever changed. Men convicted of this offense would lose jobs, families, and reputation because they were unable to themselves excise themselves from the toxic woman before it blew up and they were on the wrong side of an accusation that required as a matter of law that they be arrested even if they themselves had injuries inflicted by their partners. Even in these situations we had little discretion to do the right thing in those cases because of the heavy politics surrounding these offenses.
In these early days most often police and prosecutors got it right. But to my own great frustration there were occasions I had to put people on trial who I personally did not feel deserved to be tagged with the label of a domestic abuser. The politics and the mandatory minimum nature now of these offenses from time to time required me to pursue trials I myself didn't feel right about. It was not often. But it happened.
We are now nearly 30 years removed from OJ and there has been no change in the application or enforcement of these offenses. I left my job as prosecutor after 7 years and have been for the last 20 years a defense attorney. I am now working family law cases that involve civil domestic violence restraining orders. I have opened a new business dedicated to the prosecution and defense of these cases. Particularly in the realm of family law I have seen countless abuses of the criminal justice system as well as of the restraining order process by men and women who allege, often falsely, acts of domestic violence that are simply fabricated. This happens all too often in the context of divorces in which the parties are fighting over child support and custody. A finding of domestic violence can cause someone to lose complete custody of their children or cut off the ability of one of the parties to have to pay or receive child support. In all too many of these cases perjury is commonplace.
The abuses of men are now well documented and in most cases are prosecuted fairly. Yet, even today police and prosecutors still have little to no discretion to get around these ongoing mandatory minimum punishments and tens of thousands of lives have been damaged or destroyed by people gaming or abusing the system that was put into place to gain an advantage in a divorce or worse, to simply exact revenge out of spite.
I, myself was briefly married to a woman who vigorously attempted to do just this in retaliation for me leaving her and the relationship. I nearly became a victim of the system I worked for so many years to uphold by an abuser who gamed the system for no other reason then to exact harm and revenge against me from breaking free of her. The next passage will be about the profile of the female abuser, who they are, why they do what they do and how so many get away with it costing many men without the knowledge and resources that I have their children, careers, and reputations.
I was motivated to write this piece ironically by watching pieces of the sensational Johnny Depp – Amber Heard trial. I try to steer clear of sensational media trials typically angered by the misinformation and flat out wrong headed analysis the media provides the public about the law and trials in general. I have not watched it wire to wire but the parts I have seen have put on full display the personality of the dangerous and toxic female and hope that, regardless of the outcome of this case, more people will come to understand that men too are victims and that there needs to be an overhaul of the law and the way in which we view men caught up in relationships with toxic and dangerous women.
I do not claim to know definitively if Mr. Depp was an abuser. He is clearly someone who suffers from untreated addictions and other deep seated and untreated problems. He might not be a very nice guy but I have never met the man. What I have seen however, is a woman suffering from many of the personality disorders I was exposed to and empathize with him and hope his efforts will allow the public to take a closer look at the role of toxic women in the context of the courts and the harm some of them set out to cause. Toxic relationships take two to tango. Often though, men who are unable to escape are the ones caught up in the justice system.
The next passage will detail my own experiences and how I too, nearly became a victim of a sociopathic woman and the allies she manipulated, who nearly successfully gamed the courts to destroy my life and in the process harmed many others so that other people caught in similar situations might be able to find their way out before it becomes too late for them.