LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Brothers Erik and Lyle Menendez, raised as young Beverly Hills scions, are two of California’s most notorious murderers.

The two killed their parents with a shotgun and were sentenced to life in prison.

The two said they acted after years of physical, sexual and mental abuse. But they didn’t report the abuse to authorities and after the murders they went on a lavish spending spree.

CBS2’s Randy Paige says 22 years after their conviction, a new legal loophole might gain the Menendez brothers a new trial. That could mean a chance for freedom.

The two — Erik is now 46, Lyle now 48 — have tried to appeal their conviction for decades. But Paige said they are appealing their case because they were not allowed to present a key element in their defense

On the stand in the first of two trials, the boys were able to talk about alleged abuse.

“My dad had been molesting me,” said Erik.

That trial ended in a hung jury. The defense argued the boys were acting in self-defense.

In their second trial, which ended in the life convictions, the judge wouldn’t allow the defense to present all the allegations of abuse.

The new California law says that defendants found guilty after being barred from using physical or sexual abuse as a defense may be allowed to appeal their convictions.

“Even though a law exists to potentially give them a right to appeal, it’s still a long road ahead,” says Harvard-educated criminal defense attorney Manny Medrano.

He covered both trials as a journalist back in the ’90s.

“This is not the first bite of the apple for the Menendez brother on this specific issue. They’ve appealed it repeatedly, and every single time, either the state or federal appeals court said ain’t gonna fly. So, for now, with this new law they may have another bite at the apple, but it’s still going to be a very, very difficult appeal to prevail on,” Medrano says.

He said the prosecution had a lot of incriminating evidence against the brothers that could be presented at a new trial even if they were to prevail in their appeal.

“I covered every trial in the Menendez brothers in Los Angeles and as an objective observer and as a lawyer and as a reporter I have to tell you, the evidence was very overwhelming,” says Medrano.

The brothers continue to serve their life sentences without the possibility of parole, and said Paige, it looks like they are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Comments (11)
  1. The Menendez brothers’ testimony was clearly very well rehearsed. It was like watching professional actors.

    Both brothers’ testimony had the right inflections at exactly the right time.

    In Erik’s’ direct testimony, his voice and demeanor exhibited a state of confusion as he testified that he barged into the room and started firing.

    The defense attorney’s voice rose in a manner to match the emotional mode of her witness as she guided him through the re-living his state of “fear and confusion”. ”

    In what direction!? Abramson asked.

    “In front of me!” Erik exclaimed.

    Again matching inflections Abramson asked “and what was in front of you!?”

    Erik’s voice dropping to a whimper “my parents”.

    The brothers needed to concoct an abuse and self defense claim which might appeal to jurors’ emotions. The prosecution, in my opinion, effectively cut through those claims showing that the parents had retired for a quiet evening to the family room. Surely the brothers knew their routine.

    They could never explain the killing of Kitty Menendez. The imminent danger they claimed they believed they were in surely had diminished once they left the house. Kitty was already incapacitated when Lyle returned to fire the final shot into Kitty’s face.

    It’s been reported each brother’s defense cost nearly $1 million. The ebb and flow of this trial reflected what they paid for. Fortunately in the end the jury didn’t buy it.

    It may be if they get another trial the state could again seek the death penalty.

    One day these two will face God and Kitty and Jose will be there to directly testify against them.

  2. I feel Jose and Kitty will have a lot to answer for before God as well. Jose, even my his own mother, thought he was a monster. A person can only take so much put down and then physical abuse before they go over the edge. I am not saying they should not have been punished but think 2nd degree murder or voluntary manslaughter would have been better. They were no Angels but neither was Jose. Kitty told the boys she had known all along what Jose was up to. To me, that isn’t much of a mother, but she was not about to give up her social standing. She said she wished she had never had them. That is why she got killed. In her own way, she was as bad as Jose. Jose told Eric if he left he would find him and kill him. They should have left anyway, they didn’t, and they have paid for a moment of very bad judgement.

  3. It’s travesty that anyone could possibly have convicted those young men. And worse that LA CBS would refer to them as murderous. THe sick mofo were the parents and they deserved to be shot, justifable homicide. Any child that endured the level of abuse for that long, hell even once, with no opportunity to escape or prosecute them is completely entitled to defend theirself. The bigger crime is that after all of that a corrupt judge, who was probably molesting his own kids, would prosecute them and lock them up. There is no justice in America.

  4. The tv series clearly shows these boys were abused by monster parents. If this happened today, they would not be in prison. They need to be freed with time served. God has surely forgiven them.

  5. I hope they get a third trial and this time the system will do the justice of hearing all the evidence there is to be heard about the abuse.

  6. Sickening, the way the media has portrayed Lyle and Erik, that 2nd trial was a sham and blatantly biased against them. They served their time in prison for their crime, they deserve to be shown some compassion now, someting their parents never did. They were not parents at all. Disgusting excuses for human beings.

  7. Karen Sweatman says:

    What sealed their fate was their ages at the time and the shopping spree. As far as lacking emotions after their parent’s deaths, who would feel bad about ridding the world of a sadist and a mother who refused to protect you? Their spending after the crime just served to add credence to the prosecution theory that the motive was money. If the boys would’ve been minors, it would’ve been more understandable why “walking away” wasn’t an option. Being young adults left most people with the thought, why not just leave? Thus, money comes back into play. That would also be discounting the testimony that they believed they were under threat and couldn’t leave, even though they were no longer minors. I’ve followed criminal cases for many decades and have found that fratricide and matricide carry a harsher punishment than filicide. It’s ironic that a country so concerned with women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrants and minorities, still don’t give a damn about children. All considered, these brothers should be free, but too many people just don’t care about those nasty little details referred to as egregious child abuse. It’s shameful.

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