The Menendez Brothers | 15
On August Twentieth Nineteen eighty-nine. Jose and Kitty Menendez settled into watch TV in the family room of nine thousand square foot mediterranean-style Mansion on North Elm drive in Beverly Hills the five million dollar estate on a sedate tree lined streets had previously been home to Elton John and Prince and along with the prestigious nine. Oh Two one oh zip code. It Data Beautiful Courtyard Pool and tennis court on this warm summer night the middle aged couple was enjoying a bowl of ice cream with strawberries. As as they watched the one thousand nine hundred seventy seven James bond film the spy who loved me then suddenly without warning their two sons burst into the room armed with shotguns and opened fire. I'm Cathy can Zora. And this is the history story of the ninety s and on this episode. We look back at the shocking story of the Menendez murderers the ninety seemed to be filled with high profile criminal trials that captured the public's imagination the OJ Simpson. In trial. Is probably the first one that comes to mind. But before Marcia Clark and Johnny Cochran were battling it out in an l a courtroom there was another another jaw-dropping case that unfolded live on TV. One that featured a lively cast of characters and turned real life tragedy into entertainment. In fact it was this case that cleared the way for a televised trial and first foreshadowed our fascination Shen with true crime docu series and reality TV on this episode. We're going to take a second look at the murder. Trials of Erik and Lyle Menendez and ask the question if the brothers stood trial today would there be a different outcome in light of our current understanding of sexual abuse use and family violence. You'll hear from journalist and author Robert Rand. He's been working on the Menendez story for thirty years. He was one of twelve journalists allowed in the courtroom in one thousand nine hundred ninety. And he's uncovered incredible new evidence that could have altered the result of the trial l.. But first let me take you back and tell you about the family at the center of this case. Jose Menendez a Cuban urban emigrant was living the American dream as a successful Hollywood executive he moved to the US when he was a teenager and he went to college on a swimming scholarship. That's where he met Mary Louise Anderson a former beauty queen who everyone called Kitty and soon they were married Jose was ambitious. He was smart and sometimes pretty ruthless but his drive was undeniable and he went from being a part time dishwasher at the famous twenty one club to being chief operating officer of RCA records. That's where he helped sign a few big names including the ARRHYTHMIC durant Iran and Latin boy. Band menudo meanwhile. Kitty was a stay at home mom and was raising their sons lyle. Lyle and Erik Jose drilled into the boys the importance of success and achievement. He made the memorize passages from self help books. And he demanded they carry on intellectual conversations at dinner. Jose Menendez was nearing controlling. There were eye witnesses Sousse to physical verbal and emotional abuse. That's journalist and author Robert Rand. We'll be relying on his book. The Menendez murders for many of the details in this episode. He says when the brothers were twelve and nine Jose started them on a physically demanding regime in an effort to turn them into tennis pros does he hired expensive coaches and he supervised practices. There were several Anecdotes told by people. Jose just lost his temper as matches he'd be He'd be on the sidelines pacing back and forth yelling at her son during bestmattress and there was one incident worthwhile Lost an important test match and was punched him and then knocked him down to the ground and broken shoulder. Jose didn't allow his sons to have close friends. He said they were a distraction and as they got older he controlled who they dated. And what and and where they studied for him it was imperative that the boys got good grades so much so that Jose and Kitty would do their homework all the way through high school to ensure top marks in nineteen eighty-six. Jose moved the family from New Jersey to California. He had landed a new job at the movie company. Carolco pictures which among other things produced the Rambo movies. Eventually Jose would run. The company's Video Distribution Distribution Division called live entertainment in California Lila. Eric who were now handsome. Athletic teenagers started to rebel against their father. They fell in with a crowd of rich privileged teens in the San Fernando Valley who robbed houses for fun much like the lingering in the the two thousands. The teens including Eric were caught by police. Jose hired a high profile criminal. Defense attorney to arrange a deal for Eric it included probation community service. Plus the family was required to seek counseling. That's when the Menendez family I met a Beverly Hills psychologist colleges by the name of Dr Jerome Hozeal. He would soon play a much bigger and important role in the lives of lyle and Eric after through the robberies Jose decided the family needed to get out of the valley so he moved them to a spacious mansion. Block away from Rodeo drive in Beverly Hills during this time Kitty Menendez struggled. She had discovered that her husband was having an affair and she turned to alcohol Xanax as a way way of coping with anxiety and depression. She'd never been a very warm parent but now she became even more distant blaming her son's funds for her marital problems. In the fall of Nineteen eighty-seven Lyle Menendez got accepted at Princeton University for Jose this was the culmination of all his hard work. His dream of having a son attend an Ivy League. School was coming to fruition but soon that dream became a nightmare nightmare when lyle was accused of plagiarizing a paper in his first semester. He was suspended but he was allowed to return the next year. Meanwhile back in California. Eric completed his senior year at Beverly Hills High School. He was on the tennis team and he had a solid B. average he planned to attend. Ucla the next fall. You wanted to live on campus but at the last minute his dad had told him he wasn't allowed he he would have to live at home. By the summer of Nineteen eighty-nine. Despite their many ups and downs. The Menendez family seemed to be doing okay at at least from the outside Eric was spending his summer break playing in tennis tournaments around the country. Well Lyle was back from Princeton unwinding at home home by the end of that summer the family would be rocked by an unbelievable tragedy As their parents tucked into watch a movie on a late August evening in nineteen eighty nine. The Menendez Brothers Matt at Eric's car parked on the street in front of their house inside the car were a pair of Mossberg twelve gauge shotguns. They had bought the day before the brothers loaded the guns and and rant the house. They burst into the family room where their parents were watching. The movie Eric entered. I began firing. Lyle followed followed behind. Jose jumped up and yelled no no no a shot. Blew away his left thigh. He fell back on the coach which the brothers kept firing. Jose Menendez was shot point blank. In the back of the head. Kitty Menendez managed to survive the first round out of bullets and attempted to crawl away but neither would escape. The barrage of bullets five to Jose's hadn't body and nine to kitties face and body. According to witnesses it left them virtually unrecognizable. Lyle and Erik Menendez says rain fire on their parents stopping to reload when they ran out of bullets then they calmly picked up all of the shell casings and left after dumping the weapons and their bloody clothes. The brothers I drove to a movie theater and bought tickets for the movie Batman next they drove to a food festival in Santa Monica to meet up with a friend in an attempt to establish an alibi but when they couldn't find the friend they returned home around eleven forty seven seven PM. That's when lyle placed a frantic call to nine one one problem. Ask people it shocked. When the first officers arrived on the scene they found the brothers? Were hysterical Eric Punch the ground and rammed his head against a tree you at the time Beverly Hills was not exactly a hotbed for crime. Logging only two murders a year. This might explain why investigators Peter's didn't think to check the brothers hands for gunshot residue instead. They focused on something. Lyle said he suggested that his father's there's business dealings may have provoked. The killings officers had noted that the scene looked like a gangland style massacre. They thought it wouldn't be not much of a stretch. If the killings were mafia related. You see there was something else. Police believe the previous owners of the company Jose worked worked for had mob connections. which wasn't that uncommon in the video distribution business because of its ties to the adult movie industry the rumors and innuendo spread pretty quickly? There were even a few people who thought that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro might have been behind the slayings slayings but at least one officer thought something was off about the brothers. Their hysteria seemed overboard and there. There were some inconsistencies in their story. Plus not long after the shocking murders. Lyle and Erik went on a crazy shopping spree. We just four days after the killings. They use their Dad's American Express card to spend about fifteen thousand dollars on three Rolex watches. They stayed in a thirteen hundred dollar a night suite at the Hotel Bel Air. Then when they received half a million dollars in life insurance money they bought new vehicles vehicles. Lyle Gray sixty four thousand dollar special edition Porsche Carrera. Replacing his old Alfa Romeo and Eric bought a Tan Jeep Wrangler. They even spent money on courtside tickets to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. which at the time was one of the hottest tickets in town? Evidence of their spending was well documented. But if you don't believe me just check out. Legendary Point Guard Mark Jackson's nineteen ninety trading reading card. You'll see lyle and eric sitting front row as Johnson sets up one of his mythical teardrop shots crazy and so was the spending by the brothers about seven hundred thousand dollars in five months not surprisingly that raised a few red flags journalist and author. Robert Rand had his first meeting with the brothers during this time period in October. Nineteen eighty-nine two months after the murders orders. He sat down with them at their parents mansion. They were fit tanned and dressed in their tennis whites so we spend about an hour talking working together. They told me loving stories about the parents. Lyles did ninety percent of the talking a few times. Eric did talk. You would look over to lyle as if am I doing okay but I had no reason to be suspicious than they were not suspects publicly Their stories were emotional channel loving and caring but police were suspicious and in March nineteen ninety seven months after Jose. And Kitty Menendez were gunned down. They announced the arrest of their oldest son Lyle. Eric was out of the country at a tennis tournament and was on his way back to the. US would also be arrested. Did in connection with the grisly killings within twenty four hours the story blew up around the world up until all the arrest the murderers of Jose and Kitty had mainly been a local Los Angeles story but now with the arrest of their handsome young sons it was an international national media sensation. At a news conference. Police told reporters they had investigated all potential leads. The focus it became very clear on The two sons and I might say that Over the or the month we've gathered a lot of evidence Has Been Very circumstantial and we were waiting for the glue. You will find it all together and just recently that glue has come about and I feel that we have a very tight you might have heard. Reporters asking almost in unison. What is the glue? Police wouldn't answer the question publicly. Then but here's what was going on behind the scenes they. They had found out that on October. Thirty First Nineteen eighty-nine ten weeks after the murders Erik Menendez had met with psychologist. Dr Jerome hozeal remember. Remember him he was the one who counseled the Menendez family after Eric was caught burglarizing houses with other rich teens in the valley. Eric told the doctor Dr he was having an extremely difficult time. Dealing with the death of his parents he'd lost weight and was having vivid nightmares with images of their bodies after talking for about an hour. Doctoral zeal and Eric went outside for a walk. According to Rans book as the walk was ending. Kirk leaned against a parking meter and let out a deep sigh. Then he said we did it. Ozzie lost you mean you killed your parents. Eric answered I answered. Yes over the next few weeks. The doctor met with both brothers several times. Sometimes he taped the sessions and other times he he made recorded audio notes after the fact about what they had told him under California law the doctor was not obligated to tell police so he didn't now this is where things start to get a bit complicated and pretty distracting to the case. Actually there was a lot of things about the story that were distracting and if you followed them all the way they could lead down a path that to be honest lead you nowhere sensational tidbits that that might be true but aren't totally relevant to this story. So in some instances I have left them out focusing on the evidence that matters most for example doctor. Zeal married father of two was having an affair with a woman. By the name of Judah Lon Smith you can go down a rabbit hole about Dr Zeal and Smith crazy allegations from both about the other everything from kidnapping to drugging allegations that would later seep into the Menendez trial L. end bogged down. But what matters most is that Judy. Lon Smith would be the one who eventually went to police and told them that the Menendez brothers had confessed. Here's Robert Rant Jude Lund. Smit rack the Menendez case and she told the police the Menendez brothers. There's did they killed their parents and doctoral. Zeal has notes and an actual so-called therapy tape with the brothers voices confessing other than those tapes. Police didn't have much more to go on. There was no physical. Evidence tying the brothers to the murders the the whole case basically hinged on the tapes. So that's why the defense fought tooth and nail to keep them out of court for three years between nineteen ninety in one thousand nine hundred ninety three. They argued that the tapes were covered by doctor patient privilege in an unprecedented and controversial decision. The courts eventually ruled against the defense and allowed the tapes to be used as evidence because Dr Oziel believed that the brothers had threatened him. I'm during the tape sessions. The doctor patient privilege was waived under California law. The privilege ends if the therapist believes the patient and is an imminent danger to himself or others while lawyers were in court battling over the tapes. The police and district attorney were. We're steadfast about the motive behind the killings. They said the brothers killed their parents because they wanted to get their hands on. Jose's fourteen million dollar estate state. You have to remember. There was no internet. There was no social media in high profile cases back before the Internet and social media the typically. DA's office or police department would set the agenda in a high profile case the DA's office has a dozen people catoon nothing but public relations in their job is to put out their spin on the case and I believe personally that their job is to poison the potential jury pool and so the combined a message from the Beverly Hills Police and the DA's office was really rich. Kids Kill Ozzie and Harriet. On a Sunday night Beverly Hills in. That was never the real story behind the scenes Eric. Lyle had come to a decision. They must reveal what had been happening behind closed doors for many many years it was time to tell the world about the burden they had been in carrying the brothers. I disclosed their secret to their lawyer and then their family soon. They're shocking allegations would stun everyone in. who had been following the case in July nineteen ninety-three two weeks before the trial was about to start defense lawyer Leslie? Abramson went public about the secret. Krit life of the Menendez family in an article published on the front page of the Los Angeles Times Abramson conceded that the boys had killed their parents once in self defense because they feared for their lives after years of psychological physical and sexual abuse. Aw Story family that D- intergenerational sex-abuse had mental health problems and it was a story of two to dysfunctional parents that raise two very troubled kids and everything ended in terrible tragedy rant believes it was a tactical error for the defense is to wait so long to reveal this information because for many it appeared to be a last minute attempt to explain their behavior something legal scholar color and renowned defense attorney Alan Dershowitz coined as the abuse. Excuse the public had a hard time turning away from the narrative that had been created during the three years between the arrest and the trial in that time several books were published and movies were made and they all portrayed. The brothers as is greedy playboys the media coverage of the case was so pervasive that when jury selection began nearly all of the potential jurors new of the Menendez family and some said they were sure. The brothers were guilty in an effort to change the public perception. Their defense lawyer Leslie. Abramson had the brothers come to court. Each day in matching Pastel colored sweaters. That made them appear younger than they were. Throughout the trial she also referred to them as the boys in an effort to remind jurors they were just eighteen and twenty one. When the crimes occurred? The brothers were tried together but in an unusual move to separate. Juries heard the same case one for the Eric and one for Lyle. That's because some of the evidence didn't apply to both defendants in another unusual move. The judge allowed the trial trial to be carried. Live on court. TV One robotic camera would be set up in the courtroom to cover the proceedings court. TV was fairly new. It was launched in Nineteen ninety-one by lawyer and journalist Steven Brill and it provided viewers with live coverage of trials and commentary from experts. The first big case they carried gavel-to-gavel was the sex assault trial of William Kennedy Smith. Unfortunately for the network that case only lasted ten days days so they weren't able to fully test the public's interest in watching a lengthy trial from start to finish the Menendez case which was expected to last for months would be the first true test of the format and it passed with flying colors. Brill told rolling stone in two thousand seventeen. The Menendez trial was the one that proved people would be interested in watching big trials even without a celebrity. If the circumstances were dramatic enough people would be captivated critics of cameras in courtrooms have argued they add pressure to the proceedings and ultimately turn trials into into entertainment similar to sit coms soap operas and game shows. The Menendez trial proved that to be true to in fact people watching the trial. I became so obsessed that the La District Attorney's office got fifty calls a day from citizens offering opinions on how to prosecute the brothers for viewers. This case was like watching a reality show that asked for audiences input think about American idol or dancing with the stars When opening statements began on July Twentieth Nineteen ninety-three spectators lined up to get seats inside the courtroom for one of the most talked about trials in in the country reporters and crews from around the world arrived at the courthouse in Van Nuys? California to cover the case. There were just twelve seats reserved served for media inside the small courtroom. The rest of the reporters had to watch a satellite feed on TV monitors in a building a block away author. Robert Ran Dan. Who you've been hearing from in this episode one of the twelve reporters inside the courtroom watching the proceedings? Giving him a front row seat to the case as has the trial began the lead attorney for the prosecution. Pam Sandwich painted a picture of young men driven by greed and the fear that their father had written them. I'm out of his will prove to you. Allow men is planned. This murder provided false identification for the purchase of two shotgun. Set up an alibi. Acquired ammunition repeated the alibi to the police shortly after the crime and then set off to spend the money which he had acquired through the killings of his parents parents. Based upon this evidence it will become apparent that this murder was unlawful unjustified and wholly premeditated and that it was accomplished conspiracy into which allow Menendez entered with his brother and that but for a few mistakes they made is was almost the perfect murder. Thank you the defense countered that it was far from perfect murder. Leslie Abramson told jurors that experts would testify that the crime scene was was a prime example of an overkill committed by someone who is experiencing deep fear. Someone like Erik Menendez. Who had lived a lifetime time of sexual abuse by his father? The defense admitted the brothers killed their parents. But said they were reacting to a lifetime living in a shared warzone. Abramson said they killed in pure terror. An pure panic Erik Menendez was the abused son of wealthy a fee parents. He killed his parents because he could no longer endure their abuse and had to stop it when he did that. He unwittingly made himself a threat to everything his parents valued. He put himself in mortal danger when he sensed that danger was imminent his instincts to survive. Took over this would be the crux of the defense case. The Menendez brothers killed their parents because they were afraid. It was an act of self-defence so first degree murder should be off the table in the week before the killings air confessed to his brother that their father was still molesting him on a regular basis. Something that he had said started when when he was six years old. Lyle testified that he thought that their father had stopped abusing eric so he was surprised to hear otherwise he he told the court that he too had been a victim and that their father had sexually abused him as well between the ages of six and eight when lisle took the stand he told the court he confronted. Jose Menendez three days before the fateful August night. He threatened to tell outsiders about the alleged alleged abuse. If it didn't stop said What I do with my son is none of your business and I warn you? Don't throw your life away to stay out of it. I told him that I would tell everybody. Tell I would tell everybody everything everything about him. I would tell the police and that I would tell the family he said we all make choices in life. Son Eric made his. You've made yours. And then it just looked at me and he got up. We've I thought we were in danger. I thought he he had no. He felt he had no choice but to what that he will kill us that he would get rid of us in some way because he thought I was going to run in extremely emotional testimony. Both brothers described the abuse. They had suffered over the years at the hands of their father. They struggled to get words out often fighting back tears. Here's Leslie Abramson Abramson questioning Eric. What do you believe was the originating cause of you and your brother ultimately winding ending up shooting your pants me telling you telling taught me while that You telling well. What visit you telling lyle about something that was happening? Eric testified when they confronted their mom about the abuse. She brushed them off and said she had always known it was happening. The testimony from the brothers was incredibly ably gripping it was hard not to watch this real life miniseries unfolding right before our eyes renowned author Dominic Dunn covered the trial for Vanity Fair. As he would later do with the OJ trial in his eyes. Leslie Abramson was the star of the show the epitome of a tough lady defense attorney. This is what he wrote. There is never an instant when she is not performing and she knows how to play due to the court. TV camera as well as Barbra streisand knows how to play to a movie camera. Up a parade of defense witnesses which included teachers coaches his family members and friends all recalled the brothers childhood as grim and oppressive. They grew up in a house. Where hugs and smiles were rare Jose? Menendez was portrayed as domineering an authoritarian. Well Kitty was depicted as a cold rage filled in with a drug and alcohol. Alcohol Problem Andy Canto. A cousin testified that Eric had confessed to him that his father had touched his privates when they were kids and that he begged Andy not to say anything to anyone. A string of experts in child abuse psychologists psychiatrists and several professors. There's also testified that extensive jailhouse interviews persuaded them to believe that the brothers were telling the truth in the Dan. The two juries spent several weeks trying to come to a unanimous verdict but they were deadlocked split between manslaughter and first degree murder. Finally the judge was forced to declare a mistrial defense lawyer. Leslie Abramson was lauded in the media for the outcome the four foot eleven of an attorney known for her take. No prisoners approach was called the Queen of Miracles by the New York Times. The Washington Post described her as a fire eating mudslinging being nuclear strength. Pain in the legal but Marie-claire magazine declared her one of America's foremost ball busters after the Hungary injury Abramson was sworn by reporters and she was just as feisty outside the courthouse as she was inside. You're able to literally say he or convince some. Some of the people on the jury at least chop abuse here was an excuse for murder. Yeah we never argued that child abuse is an excuse for murder what we argue this child abuse. It creates a terrible fear and that that fear is in a certain set of circumstances can cause people to act because they feel they have no choice we have never said child abuse uses an excuse for La District Attorney. Gil Garcetti who was still aching from the disastrous outcome in the Rodney King beating case and subsequent Quinn La Riots and now that the brothers would be tried again for first degree murder but before the second trial could be scheduled L. A. was gripped By another high profile murder case in June nineteen ninety four five months after the first Menendez trial ended Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron and Goldman were brutally murdered outside. Her condo in Brentwood five days later. Nicole's ex husband. OJ Simpson was charged with the murders following the now infamous slow speed freeway chase and sidebar story OJ and the Menendez brothers both spent time in the La County men's in central jail as they were awaiting core proceedings according to Robert Rans Book at one point O.. J. was in the cell right beside Eric during the week that they were neighbors. The pair talked frequently and Eric even wrote. OJ A letter with advice on how to handle life behind bars. The second trial for the Menendez brothers wouldn't begin for about a year and a half and during that time the spectacle of the OJ Simpson trial and acquittal had taken place in one of the more shocking verdicts of all time. OJ was found not guilty on October. Third One thousand nine hundred ninety five the L. A. District Attorney's office led by Gil. Garcetti took a lot of heat for fumbling. What seemed like an open and shut case ace so that was probably on the? DA's mind when opening statements began in the Menendez brothers retrial. On October Eleventh Nineteen Ninety Ninety five just eight days after the O.. J. Verdict within twenty minutes after the mystery was declared in Menendez one said he was on live. TV stations in la saying we are going to retry. This case misses first degree murder case. We will never back down from his prosecution. The reality is if this had not been a high profile case there never would have been second Menendez trial there would have been a plea deal per maybe second degree murder and everybody would have walked away but because the politics involved immediate wall you know Gilder said he was going to. The second trial was vastly slightly different from the first one. This time the brothers were tried together with only one jury panel and more importantly cameras were banned banned from the courtroom judge. Weisberg who was hearing the case again said. He made the decision in an effort to protect the dignity of the proceedings without the presence of court. TV The twenty week. Retrial almost resembled a regular murder trial with only the occasional moments of drama many legal observers believed that the brothers were at a decided disadvantage in the second trial mainly because the judge excluded most of the sex-abuse excuse evidence prosecutors persuaded the judge to cut short. What they said was unflattering gossip about the parents and the brothers tortured? Richard family life by teachers coaches and acquaintances which often sidetracked the first trial. Basically the most crucial parts of the defense's says case were not allowed as a result the final outcome was completely different on March twenty first nine hundred ninety ninety six five and a half years after the death of their parents. Lyle and Erik Menendez were found guilty of first degree murder. Jurors later said in interviews that they would not have gone for murder if they had known own the extent of the abuse before the brothers were sentenced. They gave a memorable jailhouse interview with Barbara. Walters you might have seen it. It's the one when Eric told Walters he was just a normal kid in response. Walters looked incredulous and said Eric Eric. You're just a normal kid who killed his parents. Because the prosecution asked for the death penalty the jury had another job to do after the verdict predict was reached. They had to decide whether the brothers would be executed for their actions. This time family friends coaches and teachers were called to testify about why the brothers should be spared from death in the end. The jury voted for Life Without Parole. After six years of courtroom wrangling. The fate of the Menendez brothers was finally set. The prosecution also asked the judge to who ensure that the brothers were not allowed to serve their time in the same prison. Because they might commit other crimes together this outrage defense lawyer Leslie Abramson Awesome and this is just an attempt to last ditch attempt by the prosecution to inflict even greater punishment on them then with the law prescribes and I see it as is exceedingly cruel and heartless. I don't hear them. Making statements like that about serial killers about baby rapists but because these are highly I'm notorious defendants. Thanks to Y'all they think it's a it's a free for all for inhumanity. The prosecution was granted its request and the brothers were sent sent to separate prisons. The Menendez Brothers did appeal their convictions and in the first one in one thousand nine hundred ninety eight. A state appeals court upheld howled their convictions stating that judge Weisberg did not make any errors when he limited defense testimony about the brothers upbringing. Then in two thousand thousand five a federal court also upheld the convictions but the appeal judge made pretty shocking statement while he was hearing arguments justice. Alex Kozinski suggested there may have been collusion between the La County District Attorney's office and Judge Stanley Weisberg to convict the brothers in the the second trial remember the. Da needed a conviction because of the embarrassment of the not guilty verdicts against LAPD. Officers in the Rodney King case and the Oj Simpson case despite making the comment about collusion. The judge voted to turn down the appeal thanks to a slew of TV specials about the case the two affluent brothers accused of killing their parents have come back to the public's attention there were three Menendez specials in 2017. ABC News aired a two hour documentary called Truth Truth and lies the Menendez brothers American sons American murderers lyle provided a jailhouse interview for the show and he maintained that he'd been abused abused. There was also a lifetime. Movie called Menendez Blood Brothers. Starring Courtney love as outspoken defense. Lawyer Leslie Abramson. And in November twenty seventeen Dick Wolf ventured into true crime for the first time with law and order true crime the Menendez murders I for NBC. If focused on the molestation of the brothers and possible collusion between the DA's office and the judge during the second trial Robert. Ron Who you've been hearing from on this episode worked as a special consultant on the eight part series. Rand was surprised at the reaction to the show. How enduring the law and order? NBC Series Social Media was loud noisy. Every night of the series was on in the fall. Twenty seventeen social media was almost ninety. Five percent. Free them brothers. This is horrible. You know what was done to them during their trials in one thousand nine hundred ninety s Dick Wolf told the Hollywood reporter in August twenty seventeen just before the miniseries aired that when people see this version of events they will reconsider the case he said Yeah. The brothers did it but it wasn't first degree murder without parole it should have been first degree manslaughter. You can't help but wonder if this case was heard now would the outcome be different. Robert Rand believes yes. It might have a different ending today because we have a greater understanding of sexual abuse and family violence. He believes leaves. The brothers should have been convicted of manslaughter. Which means they would likely be out of jail today? A buzzfeed article in two thousand seventeen highlighted that the trials took place decades before the media's exposure of the Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Scandal or the Jerry Sandusky Penn state story in those cases didn't focus on whether the victims were believable or not but that was always at the center of the case against Lyle and Eric were they telling the truth about years of abuse by their father. In fact the buzzfeed article points out the abuse. Allegations were mocked on Saturday. Night live as a carefully. stage-managed Reuss in a sketch where John Malkovich Rob Schneider acted out a parody of their testimony author Dominic Dunn All so suggested it was all an act when he wrote in Vanity Fair. That lyell has all the instincts of a great neurotic actor on the order of Marilyn Monroe. Montgomery clift or Judy Garland of Eric. He noted he did break down but only once in it had but none of the pathos or drama of Lyles I cry. It seemed in the nineties. It was either or when it came to the Menendez brothers. Yes they were either cold blooded killers or tortured victims. They couldn't be both or could they can. Years of sexual abuse use lead someone to murder their parents and then go on a shopping spree afterwards. According to an article in psychology today more than ninety ninety percent of adolescents charged with killing apparent had been a victim of abuse and these youths frequently killed because they could no longer tolerate conditions at home. The killings represented an act of desperation. The only way out of a family situation they could no longer endure. This sounds pretty similar to what has at times been a successful defense in. US and Canadian courts for battered women. The concept of the battered battered women syndrome refers to a woman who following years of abuse has become so traumatized that she is trapped by her own fear and feel she must just kill or be killed. It was legitimized in Canada in Nineteen Ninety six when the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the acquittal of a twenty two year old Manitoba Kobe residents. Who fatally shot her? common-law partner after being terrorized and abused but in the cases of the Menendez brothers their allegations of abuse were not only not accepted as defense. They were wholly dismissed by the the prosecution and in the second trial not even allowed as evidenced by the judge in fact Justice Weisberg referred to the allegations as trivial matters. Attitudes have changed since the nineties but allegations of sex abuse are often still subject to extreme mm scrutiny. Experts say sometimes they're dismissed simply because some people are not psychologically prepared to accept how common common harassment and assault can be and that sometimes people look for reasons to disbelieve. In in the case of Erik and Lyle Menendez people had a hard time believing or comprehending that a father could sexually assault his son during the trial. Defense Attorney Leslie. Abramson suggested the jury would have had a different take on the abuse if the defendant's name was Erica. And Not Eric. The brothers claims were also dismissed in part because they had not been reported before the murders. We know now that child. Sex sex-abuse is widely on reported. In fact only thirty percent of such cases are thought to be disclosed during childhood another reason the prosecution dismissed the self defense case by the brothers was because of how they acted after the murders mainly that over the top shopping spree but does that mean. They weren't tormented by their father today. We know there isn't a correct way to be victim. How people will react to sexual assault or trauma can be vastly different? Those affected can appear calm or flat. One Minute or distraught an angry the next all reactions are possible and maybe we didn't understand this very well in the ninety S. Luckily we do now in the year. Since the Menendez brothers were sent to jail they both got married in fact. Lyle is on his second wife. Lyle L. married former model Anna Eriksson on July second nineteen ninety-six the day. He was sentenced to life in prison but they divorced in twenty eleven after he was reportedly caught cheating by writing letters to another woman. Lyle married Rebecca sneed in two thousand and three and they've been together ever since despite the fact that California doesn't allow conjugal visits for prisoners convicted of murder. Eric found love with single. Oh Mom Tammy ruth soccer men who had been writing to him since his first trial they got married in the prison waiting room in June one thousand nine hundred ninety nine after twenty two years apart. The brothers were reunited in April two thousand eighteen when lyle was transferred to the Richard J Donovan in Correctional Facility in Southern San Diego County where Eric was housed and I would be remiss. If I didn't mention as well that lyle well no longer wears the to pay that he became known for during his trial. The fact that the handsome young man wore a toupee came up during the trial and and became one of the many distractions in the case and it was a bit of a public fascination at the time today lyle has dropped the hairpiece and is completely bolt also. Recently Robert ran the man whose work has helped put this episode together. Spoke with Marta Canto Jose sister an aunt to the brothers. It was her son Andy. Canto who testified at the trial that Eric had confessed to him about Sexual abuse when they were kids sadly anti died of an accidental drug overdose in two thousand three at the age of twenty nine. Marta Canto recently remembered that Eric had written many letters to Andy over the years. Starting when they were kids she invited ran Dan to go through them and he was shocked by what he found. Here's rand reading one of the letters written by Eric to Andy in December nineteen eighty eighty eight eight months before the murders. They've been trying to avoid dead. It's still happening Andy. But it's worse for me now. I can't explain it. He so overweight. Wait I can't stand to see you never know when it's going to happen and it's driving me crazy every night. I say up thinking he might come in. We need to put it out of my mind. I know what you said before. But I'm afraid just don't know dead like he's crazy. He's warned me a hundred times about telling anyone rant has turned the letters letters over to the lawyers representing the brothers. Now they're considering whether to file a new appeal in the case rand is also working on another another possible revelation in the case and suggests that we stay tuned. Thanks for joining me on this. Look at the shocking case of the Menendez brothers be sure to check out the show notes for linked to my guest Robert Rand. This episode relied heavily on his book. Menendez murders the shocking inside story of an American tragedy. If you haven't already make sure to subscribe to our show so you never miss missing episode and while you're there please don't forget to rate and review us. It helps spread the word and get more people to find the show. We're available for free at Apple. PODCASTS spotify why Google podcasts and everywhere else you get your streaming audio you can also listen at curious cast dot CA. And if you're new to the show make sure you go back and listen into some older episodes. If you want to reach out to me you can find me on twitter at nineteen ninety s history. I'm also on Instagram and facebook and you can email me at nineties nineties at curious cast dot. Ca That's nine zero s at curious cast dot CA. This show is hosted and Co written by me Catholic Zora uh-huh and deal of Alaska's our producer sound design and final production is by ROB. Johnston see you next time for more history of the nineties.