THIS is the moment the media have been waiting for. For months, coverage of the O. J. Simpson case has consisted largely of stories of jail privileges, jury selection, and spats between attorneys. The start of the trial, expected Monday, means the ``real'' reporting can begin.
In the course of determining Mr. Simpson's guilt or innocence, an issue of particular import will emerge. That issue, domestic abuse, prompted serious discussion after Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were killed, but soon after took a back seat to other, sometimes frivolous, topics.
The evidence offered by prosecutors of domestic abuse in the Simpson marriage is, indeed, ``inflammatory,'' as Judge Lance Ito said. The prosecution asked that it be allowed at trial, arguing that it represents behavioral patterns that ultimately led to the murders. The defense countered that much of the testimony is hearsay and asked that no evidence of battery by Mr. Simpson be admitted. Wednesday, Judge Ito ruled that most of the evidence would be admitted.
It is important that the issue of domestic abuse is back in the spotlight. It involves the police, the courts, social service agencies, and, of course, the batterer and the victim. By hearing what Ms. Simpson allegedly endured over 17 years of marriage, perhaps more battered women will seek help, and more men will hear themselves in the words Simpson wrote to his wife after pleading no contest to beating her in 1989: ``[I'm] thinking and trying to realize how I got so crazy.''
The prosecution presented 85 pages of documents in which friends and associates of the Simpsons described more than three dozen incidents from the couple's marriage. The contents of a safe-deposit box, where Ms. Simpson kept pictures showing her bruised face, newspaper clippings of Simpson's 1989 arrest, apology letters he wrote, and a will, also were submitted as evidence.
Prosecutors said of Ms. Simpson: ``She literally created an accounting, an audit trail of acts of violence because she wanted people to know what was going on ....'' The defense countered that the evidence only led to the conclusion that the Simpsons had a ``bumpy marriage.''
But any marriage in which one partner seeks help from a battered-women's shelter is never simply ``bumpy.'' Any evidence of abuse should lead more people to say, ``This is unacceptable.''