Before there was a trial for O.J. Simpson, Jodi Arias, or Amanda Knox, there was Erik and Lyle Menendez. It was the first trial that was televised and America couldn’t get enough. They wanted all the gory details of the murders, and as far as the public was concerned, the juicer the better.
The Menendez brothers were filthy stinking rich teens that claimed that their father physically, emotionally, and sexually abused them. To end the abuse, they decide to kill both parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, by slaughtering them with a shotgun.
The parents’ death was a horrifying scene. Jose Menendez died almost instantly. Kitty, however, wasn’t as lucky. The boys missed when they aimed at her, and they had to reload their gun which took a few minutes. Imagine how scared she must have been waiting for her own children to come back to kill her?
During their first trial, the jury couldn’t decide if they were guilty of first-degree murder, manslaughter, or unintentional manslaughter. Many felt that the abuse they allegedly suffered could have given them a reason to feel as if they had no other option but to kill their parents. Others felt that they were adults and could have moved from their parents home to their own apartment and created some distance from their father. The jury couldn’t agree on a charge, so the Menendez brothers had to go back to court for another trial.
On Sunday, October 2, Snapped: Notorious–The Menendez Brothers aired on Oxygen and dug deep into the case that captivated America in the 1990s. The 27-year-old case is still as intriguing as it was in 1992. Were the Menendez brothers monsters that brutally murdered their parents for money or were they victims of years of abuse and forced into killing their parents to protect themselves?
In 1996, Lyle and Erik Menendez’s second trial began. The judge decided to keep television cameras out of the courtroom. He also decided to not allow the defense to imply that Jose Menendez abused his sons in any way. As many are well aware, the abuse was the foundation of the defense’s case. They lost the case and the brothers were declared guilty of first-degree murder. The judge handed them a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
E Online reports that several years ago a new California law was passed which states that if the abuse the defendant suffered was not allowed to be mentioned in their trial, they could file an appeal. For the Menendez brothers, this was the break they had been waiting nearly three decades for. They felt certain that if the judge allowed them to bring up the alleged abuse in the second trial, they wouldn’t have been found guilty of first-degree murder. At the moment, the Menendez brothers do not have a new court date. They are hoping to file an appeal and appear in court before 2020, the deadline to file the appeal under the new law.
Erik and Lyle Menendez have not talked to each other by phone or mail correspondence in decades. Reportedly, the brothers severed all communication after they were found guilty of first-degree murder in 1996.
If the brothers would go to trial today, would they be able to convince another jury or even an appeal judge that they shouldn’t spend the rest of their lives in prison? The big question in the Menendez brothers trial was not, did they commit the crime. They admitted they killed their parents early in the investigation. The big question was always “why did they decide to kill both of their parents?”
Snapped: Notorious—The Menendez Brothers aired on October 2 on Oxygen.
[Feature Image by Nick Ut/AP Images]