Reporters who cover trials often say of witnesses that you have to take them as you find them; the same rule applies to the families of murder victims.
A murder trial is a narrative, a collection of family stories.
As a story, Denise Brown has the ambiguities of Becky Sharp. Was she prepared to be held up for scrutiny as the older sister of the most famous murder victim in postwar American history?
While Denise is in New York, I notice in her tote bag a single book: Insane Jealousy, a study of domestic violence - a phrase she routinely says she never heard until June 13, 1994.
Every interviewer now asks her the same question: How could she not have known that Nicole was being battered?
Why did she come out at first and say that Nicole was not a victim of domestic abuse?
It is a measure of the desperation of the family and the madness of this trial that Denise chooses to grieve in public, airing her confidences to Geraldo Rivera, who has become not only her close friend but a booker for reporters who seek interview time.
Her conversation has a definite agita; she speaks in the idiom of twelve-step programs. She says, "I don't want to spend my time thinking about what-ifs, what-ifs. Nicole never told us she was battered! She would say, 'He threw me against the wine cabinet, and then we went out to lunch.'"
Denise does not dwell on what the family chose not to see. "What good would that do?... I want to help other women now. This foundation is my crusade for life. Now I am a happy person. I have a mission and a cause."
Is it mean-spirited to speculate that, as in the case of many battered women, Nicole's family seemed intent on not seeing the truth of what was going on?
Denise has taken on the public role for the family; it is her odd task to advance the narrative of what the Brown family knew about the Simpson marriage. There are many episodes that she willingly retails: When Nicole attended a Buffalo Bills game on an early date, O.J. blew up when he saw her kiss a friend on the cheek. Denise said to her younger sister, "This is ridiculous. What are you doing with this guy?"
She is reduced to admitting, "He was awful again and again. And when it was good, they were in a honeymoon phase, and they would go around and around in a vicious circle."
Beyond the Courtroom