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.