The Non-Incident: What Really Happened?

In September, 1992, the tabloids were full of accusatory allegations that Jackson Browne beat Daryl Hannah, resulting in the assumption that he is a domestic abuser.

Although only the two parties themselves will ever be totally sure what happened that night, it is important to remember that an individual is innocent until proven guilty.

A couple facts to keep in mind: Daryl Hannah has never pressed charges. Jackson Browne's friends did not think he did it. No other women have stepped forward and claimed that he abused them (yes, Joni Mitchell wrote the song "Not To Blame" but that was based more on her emotions after hearing about the Daryl Hannah incident rather than on first-hand evidence or testimonies - she was intimate with him herself at one time and has not claimed that he beat her).

"What exactly happened with the Hannah-abuse thing? Were charges ever laid? Were they dropped? What was the official word on what happened?"

Russ Paris, who maintains the Unofficial Jackson Browne Homepage:

"Nothing ever happened. No charges were filed since there was nothing to file charges over.

Tell people not to believe everything they read in the tabloids.

Based on what I've read and the people I've spoken with, it is my understanding that Jackson called the police that night (she was moving out and he accused her of taking things that didn't belong to her) and if there had been ANY chance that anyone struck anyone else, the police are required by law to have looked into it. All the officers on the scene denied any such thing. Jackson and Daryl have both denied the incident at different times... Jackson at the time and Daryl a number of years later.

Most of the people involved at the time seem to believe that Daryl was upset at their breakup and made up the story as a way to get back at Jackson... and then it got out of her control when the tabloids picked it up. Daryl's ex-boyfriends -- including JFK Jr. -- all say she was capable of that and more... But Jackson has said that he didn't want to drag her reputation through the mud in spite of what she did to his reputation.

Now, it's something that he's got to live with for the rest of his life, 'cause this stuff never goes away. It's really too bad.



In 1993, shortly after the non-incident, Daryl Hannah's uncle, cinematographer Haskell Wexler, had a letter published in US magazine. Jackson Browne wrote in response to the accusations of Daryl Hannah's uncle about the abuse allegation. Here are both letters:


"I am Haskell Wexler, Daryl Hannah's uncle. I am, also, a longtime friend of Jackson Browne and admirer of his artistry. I am no longer his friend. Jackson beat Daryl in September 1992. I was with her in the hospital, I saw the ugly black bruises on her eye and chin and on her ribs. The examining doctor reported she had blood in her urine. The doctor was shocked by the severity and noted Daryl as "a badly battered woman." I photographed her at the hospital. It could be that nobody cares about objective truth anymore. Jackson is a "good guy," and good guys don't beat women. Yes, it is hard to listen to Jackson and believe he has a hidden side of violence. I saw the results of the last violent attack on my niece, and there is no spin of fancy which will erase my shock and disdain for someone who would beat her up. Haskell Wexler, Santa Monica, CA"


US magazine writes: (sic) "Jackson Browne asked to respond with two letters. One general response and one addressed specifically to Mr. Wexler."


"It appears that Haskell Wexler has taken exception to your having printed my assertion that much that was said about this affair in the tabloids and in the media is untrue. Particularly that the police came to our house and I sent them away without their having spoken to Daryl. Further, Fred Schruers actually checked it out with the police, and that's more than the other writers that I made the same assertion to were able to do.

Here is a statement made by Lt. John Miehle of the Santa Monica Police Department in November 1992:"The Santa Monica Police Department went to the house where Jackson Browne lives regarding a possible disturbance. We resolved the situation in about five minutes. There was never any assault. There are no charges pending and no prosecution sought by or intended by the District Attorney. It is this department's intention that no citizen, regardless of who she is, suffer any kind of abuse, whether it be domestic violence or any other kind of assault. But in this case, absolutely no assault occurred. Our investigators tell us nothing happened. Nobody has even alleged that Daryl Hannah was even touched. If they had, we'd be investigating. We're not hiding anything. The press is trying to make more out of this than there really is, and it's unfair, not just to Browne, but to us. We did our job, and repeat, no crime occurred here. This whole thing is ridiculous."

Dear Haskell, I agree that we are no longer friends. A friend would never do what you have done. You have believed the worst about me and not allowed me the opportunity to defend myself. What's more, you have participated in an attack on my reputation and character in which many untrue things have been said, some of which I think you must certainly know are untrue, and added your incorrect but very damning assumptions to them. I tried to reach you, but you would not return my call. I wish you had. It would not have been necessary to answer you publicly now.

Obviously you believe what Daryl has told you. Perhaps you think Daryl has been generous in not pressing charges of battery. But there is a very good reason she did not press charges. If there was a trial, I would be able to defend myself in court, and the police who came to the house and intervened would testify to what they saw there. By her not pressing charges, the entire description of events has taken place in the media, where anything can be said and nothing has to be proven.

Your letter states that I beat Daryl. I did not. You describe seeing her injuries. I suggest that you allow me to describe Daryl's actions to you and then judge for yourself as to how those injuries may have occurred.

I repeat: I did not beat her. I have no desire to expose Daryl to public scrutiny in this matter. I have avoided describing her actions or characterizing her behavior so far. It has been hard. I would have preferred to talk to you a year ago. Basically, I believe that Daryl has a right to the support and belief of her family and friends. However, you leave me no choice but to respond to your public accusations."


This was posted to the Jackson's Cafe message board by a member who is in the legal profession:


From the Jackson's Café Message Board
Posted with permission

Subject: The 1992 non-incident revisited
Posted by snshne on Mar 21, 2002

If you've had your fill of this subject, my apologies...

I was just perusing Leslie's web-site (nice job!) and was reminded of the 'non-incident' all over again. I would like to clarify a few things that may not be quite clear to the average person.

I have been a prosecutor for the City of Los Angeles for 17 years. In 1992 domestic violence was (and still is) a priority in our prosecutions, so I not only write this with knowledge of the criminal justice system in general, but also how it is/was applied in the Los Angeles area specifically.

1. The police here MUST take a report whenever domestic abuse is alleged or reported.

By 'alleged' I mean someone says "he hit me" or "I saw her hit him". By 'reported' I mean, for example, a situation where neighbors hear screaming/yelling/commotion and when the police arrive they see injuries. One doesn't have to allege they were hit, but since it seems apparent, the police would have to take a report. Of course that doesn't mean we will necessarily file charges in that situation, but a report would definitely be taken.

'Reported' includes situations where someone calls the police and someone has visible injuries, even if the victim says nothing happened. The same was true in 1992, (although not in the mid-80s). Here in LaLa land it makes no difference if you are famous, we have plenty of those types. We have prosecuted OJ for abusing Nicole (before the murder), Tommy Lee, Jim Brown and the producer who abused Farrah Fawcett, to name a very few. If the police were at the scene and there was ANY evidence that abuse occurred, a report would have at least been taken. I know this as fact, which leads me to...

2. It is NOT up to the victim as to whether or not a report is taken or charges are filed. A victim does NOT have the choice of whether or not to 'press charges', prosecute; they are not the ones filing charges, the State is. The police are not given the choice either; they simply investigate and are required to bring the report to the prosecutors so that we can determine whether a crime has occurred.

In fact, many victims change their story when they learn charges have been filed. They say they lied to the police or that the police made things up. Interestingly, we very often win jury trials where the victim insists the event didn't occur (and testify as such), but the evidence shows otherwise. The system is set up this way to PROTECT VICTIMS. It is a complete misnomer to state that she 'refused to press charges'. Unless, of course, one is merely talking about her failure to file a civil lawsuit against him.

There is a well established 'syndrome' associated with many victims of abuse - "He/she didn't mean it", "Things will be different from now on, he'll never do it again", "I love him and don't want him to get in trouble", "I egged him on, it was all my fault", "I won't be able to support myself/my family if he leaves me" etc. These are all very valid feelings held by true "victims" and it is truly tragic, but the climate is, and was in 1992, that we need to protect people even if they don't want nor think they need protecting. Sometimes they are just terrified and intimidated by their abuser.

I have, on many occasions, had domestic violence victims scream at me that I am ruining their lives, I've even been physically threatened. They have lied on the witness stand or refused to respond to subpoenas (one can actually be arrested and brought to court for failing to respond to a subpoena). This may sound drastic and Machiavellian, and I'm not saying we go to these lengths in all cases, but there are times when it must be done.

When the police arrive at a scene, victims are almost always worked up and tell the truth about what happened, it's only later they want to change their story. Sometimes they may try to minimize the situation, but generally there isn't the time nor the presence of mind to out and out lie that NOTHING has occurred (and come up with a plausible story as to how they got injured). In 1992 the police issued a statement saying that when they got to the location there was absolutely no evidence of abuse; she never even claimed he laid a finger on her. Under the strain of what would have been a very traumatic experience, particularly since she did apparently have an injury, it is extremely unlikely that she would lie convincingly enough to make the police leave without even taking a report. I guarantee it was NOT because of their love for Jackson. On the contrary; knowing the chauvinism that existed (exists) within law enforcement, if anything, there would have been a desire to be the knight in shining armor and protect the beautiful movie star from the crazed rocker.

I wasn't there and I'm not claiming to be clairvoyant (or insist that the above is true all across America). But despite my feelings about Jackson, knowing all I know about the subject, it seems clear what DIDN'T happen. Jackson's refusal to air her 'dirty laundry', and statements by the police and JFK Jr simply corroborate it.

It makes me nuts when people tell me I only feel that way cause I like the man. I wouldn't like him so much if there were any ring of truth to what she (never) said happened. My opinion is based on knowledge and reason, not emotion.


After Laura's post, a couple of follow-up questions were posted; hre are her responses:

Question: Are domestic violence victims both "competent and compellable" in relation to giving evidence? I suppose not, in that you have the fifth amendment.

There is no fifth amendment privilege (another common 'TV' fallacy) unless the victim would be admitting to committing a crime, ie, maybe saying she lied to the police in the first place. But no privilege exists to excuse one from testifying against one's abuser. Victims often tell me they will 'take the fifth', seeing as how they know their rights from watching TV. Guess again!

Question: Although these reasons are valid, it doth drive one nuts in a legal system where the witness must give evidence, or no case.

Well, the victim doesn't even have to give the evidence, testify, to make our case these days. The legal system has created alot of exceptions, particularly as related to domestic violence. A victim can take the stand and lie, or possibly not even testify, and her hearsay statements to the police at the time of the incident are admissable. Those statements, before they have time to reconsider their story, are often what wins our cases, when corroborated by other evidence (yelling heard by others, visible injuries, etc.)

Additionally exceptions have been created to allow in evidence of prior police reports and incidents, even if they were never reported and charges were never filed. All of this is in recognition of the fact that many victims will either recant or avoid service of a subpoena and not go to court.

We've come a long way, and the legal system recognizes just how tragic domestic abuse can be.



The following was posted to the jacksonbrowne email list by a poster apparently no longer on the list. This post is recirculated on the email list nearly every time the issue of the allegation comes up, but never in any of those times has any one the now 800 list members seen or heard of this interview. I joined a JFK email list whose members keep up with JFK news to ask whether they had this on videotape and they denied that such an interview ever took place. An attempt by a list member who had access to old televison tapes from the networks failed to turn up this alleged interview. My original conclusion was that this interview never took place, but a member of Jackson's Cafe remembers seeing this interview, and believes it may have been on A&E's Biography, or some other documentary. Another Jackson's Cafe member reports that a trusted friend also saw this interview and remembers the same details and conversation. I'm posting it here in event that someone may have remembered seeing it and can verify it or provide enough information that the tape might be located.

Originally posted to the jacksonbrowne email list Mar 26, 1998

The interview was a television interview just before or at the time of George magazine; the date on the tape says Nov. 96 but she's not sure if it is the correct one because she taped over something else. The tape was made from her satelite system, which gets wild feeds. So I have no idea which network, etc. it was, or even if it was just a "local" NY show or something.

He talks about his mother and father, the murder of his father and uncle . . . standard stuff. The interviewer is someone I don't recognize but (the friend who taped it) thinks it was Maria Shriver - someone guaranteed to be "gentle." It does look kind of like Shriver, but not quite.This woman is heavier -- pregnant, maybe? But there is a certain familiar feel to it, as if they know each other well, so maybe.

She brings up Daryl, he doesn't. He calls it a "queer relationship . . . off and on. She was involved at one point . . . involved elsewhere." He kind of smiles.

The interviewer asks about Jackson Browne and JFK Jr says "I like him. I like his music. He seems nice enough." She asks if he thinks "it" happened, and he says "It? you mean do I think he . . . um, hit her? No. I think he probably wanted to, and she knew that. She has that effect at times." He seems to consider, then says, "Daryl sometimes exagerrates things . . . she gets an idea . . . Daryl is more complex than you might think. And I think there was a lot of family pressure, about Jackson . . . not his age, just . . . the families know each other. And I think she felt pressure about the way she . . . they had problems, and I think some of her family was upset by that. And she felt she had to say certain things to not be blamed for the problems. She got stuck in it, and then had to carry it on. "

The interviewer than asks if he means he thinks Daryl lied, and he says, "I don't want to give the impression she does that, but . . . yes. I think it got out of hand on her, and now she is stuck with it. He is stuck too, which is sad. But I wasn't there and I don't know for sure. Could he have done it?" He shrugged. "Could she make you want to hit her? Yes. But I'm sure I have made women want to hit me, to be fair."

They then went on to other subjects.

I don't understand the reference to Daryl's family and Jackson - are they old friends or something? And it certainly isn't flattering to Daryl; she comes off a bit shaky, you know? But he doesn't sound bitter or angry with her, just "stating the facts" kind of thing. He sounds a bit reluctant at points but he doesn't look uncomfortable. I don't know much about him, so I don't know if he is always this unsure of what he is saying (maybe) he was just trying to be honest but polite. Maybe some Kennedy admirer could clear it up.   :)

End of post

(name of original poster, who is apparently no longer on the list, not included for privacy)