Transcribe your podcast

If you're feeling a little lost or overwhelmed right now, I can relate, and that's why I can't recommend our sponsor better help enough. They'll assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist and you can start communicating with them in less than 48 hours. This is not a crisis line and it's not self-help. It's professional counseling done securely online. One of the best things about better help is that you can log into your account any time and send a message to your counselor.


You'll get timely and thoughtful responses. Plus, you can even schedule weekly video or phone sessions. There's a broad range of expertise available and they're recruiting additional counselors in all 50 states. So you're sure to find a great match to get 10 percent off your first month visit. Better help dotcom slash DL. NBC join the over one million people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional at better LPI Dotcom Slash Dell NBC Better help Dotcom slash Dell NBC.


This was a gruesome murder. The high profile executive at his wife shot to death in Beverly Hills.


We don't really think that children can murder their parents. You have to have a lot of evil in you to shoot your mama down.


Young, rich, handsome, in a case made for Hollywood, they were ready for the cameras.


It was the first televised courtroom drama that captivated the United States. It was a huge deal.


Erik and Lyle Menendez convicted of murdering their own parents. I ran around and saw my mom, but it wasn't real. It just wasn't real. They're sociopaths and there are pretty big ones.


Now, almost 30 years later, chilling new details, evidence never broadcast before. A letter hinting at secrets too dark to imagine.


This is so out of the norm. Something's going on in that house. Did they kill in cold blood or in crippling fear? A man who was gut wrenching. I want to bust the door down. They spoke the truth about what had happened tonight. Hear from the brothers themselves. They were afraid. Let's go through this bit by bit. There was no way he was going to let this get out. Silence destroyed our whole family. I'm Lester Holt and this is Dateline.


Here's Keith Morrison with unthinkable the Menendez murders.


Here it was the shining symbol of their success here, finally in a dress worthy of their long struggle, their amazing rise.


Beverly Hills, California, careful what you wish for.


More than three decades later, it's still the case that as the power to shock, it's Beverly Hills, it's the movie business.


It's kids killing their parents. What possessed those two handsome young man who had been given everything? What Porsche or alcoholic's? They got pretty much what they wanted.


Why did they give back murder?


A sensational murder? Theirs was the case to usher in Wall-to-wall TV coverage, their parents. Even before O.J., I was just firing.


As I went into the room, I just started firing the kind of horror you couldn't stop watching what was in front of you?


My parents. Tonight, you'll hear the real story told by the investigators his face was disfigured from the shotgun blast that he took to the back of the head by the young men themselves.


They want.


What I definitely would give my is the real life details of the defense that shocked America, we would be in the bathroom and he would put me on my knees as I'm looking to see, is he telling the truth or not?


Tonight, we'll ask the brother at the center of it all about truth. To this day, I'm still dealing with with the controversy of it. Obviously, my own guilt and what happened. Sure.


What really happened and why?


So to understand where to begin, how about here, Illinois, the 1940s, everybody who knows this story knows her as Kitty, but that wasn't really her name was Mary Louise.


She was the baby of the family, said her older sister, Joan Vanderwall. And it was one of their brothers who came up with a nickname that stuck for life. How did she get to be known as Kitty?


I think it was when Brian went out to get her for dinner one night or something and he said, here, kitty, kitty, kitty. And she came.


And then when Kitty was three, her dad left the family for another woman. And as that little girl watched her mother struggle, she imagined the way she could do better.


Kitty grew up believing that she was going to marry well and have household help. How would she know such a thing? I think this is probably what my mother had maybe wanted for herself and never got.


Kitty was pretty. In 1962, she was crowned Miss Oaklawn. You should be in show business, her mother told her. So Kitty studied radio and television at Southern Illinois University.


Was that wrapped up in the whole idea of if you're in that field, you're more likely to meet a success?


Yes, absolutely. In college, she met a bundle of ambition named Jose Menendez. He had fled communist Cuba at 16 with bold dreams of striking it big in business, just the kind of man Kitty was searching for.


And so they married in nineteen sixty three. They were stars and our family, Kitty Jose Diane Hernandez was Kitty's niece and lived with Kitty and Jose for a few years.


How could you idolize?


Oh, I did from the very beginning and I was known as a daughter Kitty never had.


Of course, as the world would come to know, Kitty and Jose had sons, Lyle and Erik.


Do they seem to get along to their liking?


Yeah, absolutely. Very close. Yeah. I think Erik depended on Lyle a lot. Erik was quite introverted.


Alan Anderson was Kitty's nephew. He spent a couple of summers with the Menendez family and bonded with Lyle.


He was a mischievous boy, to say the least. He liked to smile and laugh and giggle. Oh, he loved to laugh and giggle.


But what the Menendez brothers did, most of them was practice and practice and practice.


Jose wanted his kids to be the best, especially in sports.


I noticed immediately swimming, soccer, tennis.


They pushed his sons to excel at everything as his own career skyrocketed.


In the 70s, Jose was the general manager at Hertz and impressed his sons by bringing the company's famous spokesman, O.J. Simpson, home to dinner.


Jose was, of course, living the American dream, and he wanted his boys to continue.


That American dream that he had set forth for not only himself was failing in 1986, so they took a job with Carol Coke pictures in Los Angeles, the company that produced mega hits like Basic Instinct and the Rambo's series Chalco had just bought a video distribution company from a man named Noel Blum when they gave Rosie the job of running it.


So we think nineteen eighty nine will be a tremendous. You think we will be very happy with the growth of the company.


That was the year 1989 when Robert ran. Then a reporter for the Miami Herald went to Las Vegas to cover a trade show for the home video business and happened to meet Jose Menendez.


What was your impression of the guy? Talk to him for maybe two or three minutes.


Seem professional, dynamic, a high powered career, a beautiful family. And finally, the one missing piece of Jose's American dream, the perfect home. Jose moved his family from Calabasas, then Cardassian, and a relatively unknown enclave outside of Los Angeles to a more Tony address. Joan was with her sister the day the realtor called Kitty.


They had accepted Jose's offer. And Kitty, you got your zip code and that made her so happy.


Nine oh two one oh oh, absolutely. 722 North Elm Drive, a six bedroom Mediterranean style home swimming pool guest house tennis court. Elton John once lived in this very house so that the Saudi prince and even Prince himself. By August nineteen eighty nine, Jose actually made it to ensure his sons did to. By then, Lyle was a student at Princeton, younger brother Eric was going to UCLA in the fall. So perfect. So why did Diane feel this way?


I said, well, I know this sounds crazy, but unless I am crazy, somebody who's really close to me is going to die and it's going to be horrible.


Horrible that it certainly was just. When we come back, something chilling in the den, the first thing I noticed was Jose Menendez seated on the couch. It was a test. What happened?


Questions from the very beginning, we didn't see any shotgun shells. What did they say to you? Somebody collected the shotgun shells, somebody that didn't want fingerprints on the shotgun shells. It was August 20th, 1989, just before midnight, a nine one one operator picked up a call from an apparently hysterical young man.


His name was Lyle Menendez, who was the person that was shot by the mom and the other less.


So there was a detective back then, one of a grand total of two detectives in the Beverly Hills Police Department who worked homicide.


How many murders occurred in Beverly Hills in those days and those days?


Approximately two year. Detective Zellner was asleep that August night when his boss called and he said, come on in, we've had a murder. And I asked him for some information. He said he gave me the address of 720 to North Elm.


Ziller drove to the mansion, walked inside. That was eerily quiet. And when I went into the den library, first thing I noticed was Jose Menendez seated on the couch. He was slumped to one side. His head was to one side.


It was bad, very bad. But I could immediately tell that his face was disfigured from the shotgun blast that he took to the back of the head and was wearing shorts. And he had a shotgun blast to his thigh, blood soaked all the way down to the white couch. And then I noticed his wife Kitty, had his feet on the floor. She was curled into a fetal position and like her husband, had been shot many times, several times near her knee.


The most horribly kitty was shot point blank in the face.


Shotgun killings are very messy and there were brains and blood everywhere back then.


Pamela Basinet was an L.A. County prosecutor in the organized crime unit. But nothing prepared her for this Jose and Kitty had been riddled with 15 shots, one image in particular lives with her. Still, there was a contact wound on Kitty Menendez's face. It blew out her eye. I mean, it was grotesque what happened to her, to investigators.


It appeared Jose and Kitty had been relaxing in the den, an empty bowl of cream and berries. And Eriks UCLA paperwork were on the coffee table.


The television set was on. There was no indication of a break in, but something did stand out to Detective Zola.


We didn't see any shotgun shells. What did they say to you? Somebody collected the shotgun shells.


But who does a thing like that if they've got a messy crime scene of that sort?


Somebody that didn't want fingerprints on the shotgun shells. The only thing I could think of.


Well, investigators examined the crime scene while Menendez, then 21, and Eric, 18, went to the station to speak to police.


The brother said they were in and out throughout the day. And then as evening approached, they decided that they wanted to go to the movies. They wanted to see a James Bond movie, but it was sold out. So they saw the Batman movie, which they had both seen before. So they decided to see that again. Curious.


After the movie, they told the detectives they planned to meet a friend for a drink at the Cheesecake Factory, but they had to go back to the house to pick up Eric's fake I.D. And when they walked in, they said they saw haze in the air, smelled gunpowder, smoke, went into the den and then dialed 911.


One of the news spread quickly.


I got a phone call from my brother and I remember putting the phone down on a table and walking around the house screaming.


Reporter Robert Ran's phone also rang. It was a friend who had attended the Las Vegas trade show with him 10 days earlier. The friend had said, Hey, do you remember that guy, Jose Menendez? You know, that you met briefly last week? And I said, sure. And he said, well, he and his wife were blown away last night in Beverly Hills.


Now, that thought Rand was a story tailor made for the Miami community. He was writing for a rags to riches story capped by murder.


He worked the phones and soon met up with Jose's sister, who told him, you know, the family was so close they were loving.


They did everything together. She said, you have to interview Erik and Lyle. And I said, of course, I want to interview Erik in life. As he would find getting to the brothers was not so easy. But then they just lost their parents. Lyle and Erik Menendez were the grieving sons. Alan Abrahamsson is a journalism professor at USC. Back in 1989, he was a reporter for the L.A. Times. Nobody quite knew who had killed the parents.


Was it because of Jose's position in business or had he been taken out by the mob?


After all, both Ozzy and Kelly, that shot of the knees, a mafia signature, perhaps. Then there was the company say it was running live entertainment, distributed all kinds of movies, including children's movies, but it got its start in porn. A lot of pornography is organized crime back because it's a great way to make a lot of money in an industry that's not, you know, very well regarded.


And there was actually a homicide in the Valley a few weeks before they were murdered. And Jose mentioned to his sons, you know, this is what happens. This guy was into the pornography business and he was murdered.


Plus, Jose was known to be aggressive when it came to business and investigators found two rifles in his bedroom. Was Jose worried someone might come after him? Could Lyle and Erik be next? The brothers hired bodyguards and in an interview, Erik Menendez voiced his suspicion.


No alarm. Sounds like my father if you did kill another.


Noel Blum, the founder of the company Jose was running and an unapologetic distributor of adult entertainment. The Menendez boys were not alone in their suspicion about Noel Blum. Coming up, rivals at the office. Was that a motive for murder? He didn't kill those eight minutes left? Absolutely not. No.


Bloom speaks then and now.


We are day by day waiting for somebody to call you and be taken and put in handcuffs. When Dateline continues. Kitty Menendez shot this home video in August 1989, capturing images of what looked like happy family, everybody.


Twelve days later, Kitty and her husband's murders were front page news.


It was a big story from the get go because it happened in Beverly Hills, California. The big story became a big problem for Caraco Pictures.


The company was getting beaten up in the media because all the media stories were this was a mafia hit somehow related to shady dealings that this company was doing.


Carol hired a prominent publicist to help calm the media storm. Sylvester Stallone spoke warmly of say he was a true cornerstone of the of the company, which I love.


And Jose's memorial service was held at the Directors Guild of America headquarters on Sunset Boulevard, all of which might have led people to believe he was a beloved Hollywood insider.


But the reality was Jose Menendez was really not known in the Hollywood community at all, and most of the people at this memorial probably had never heard of him.


Lyle and Erik arrived late to the service in a chauffeured limousine.


They spent the night before in the ultra chic hotel Bel Air, how they behave when they were there.


Lyle Menendez was very cool, calm and collected.


His sister, Joan, was at the memorial, too, and heard something disturbing about Ozzy.


Several men that worked with him say, talk to me at that memorial service and told me how. He loved to humiliate other men. Pretty shocking thing to hear at somebody's memorial service, isn't it? Yeah, not during the memorial, though.


Rosie had made enemies. The brothers confirmed it and knew where to point the finger.


They indicated that their father was involved in some shady business contacts, and one in particular was a gentleman by the name of Noelle Bloom.


That name, again, Noel Bloom, had founded the company that became known as Live Entertainment and then wound up working uncomfortably with Ozzy.


They bickered about a lot of things, but mostly it was because of the pornography. Jose didn't like that at all.


Did it seem to you that there was a motive there? Possible. We found this tape of you deep in the NBC archives.


You didn't kill those amenities. Absolutely not. And wondered what he had to say today. What do you do with yourself now?


Well, I'm a retired kind of forced retirement. Oh, but your resume. Your resume. Yeah, my résumé could scare people.


Noel Bloom, known for years to law enforcement authorities as a kingpin in the porn trade with alleged ties to East Coast mobsters.


Why would they say you were involved with organized crime? Because people had a perception that people in the adult business or organized crime, which is totally not true.


At least I was with some of the people who you associated with memory, those a couple of companies back in New York that I believe was in the 1970s boom was one of the biggest foreign producers of distributors in the country with titles like Swedish Erotica Camp.


And then he made an unlikely turn. Do distributing children's programming care bears, for example.


Along the way, you encountered this guy, Jose Menendez, unfortunately. What was he like in the office? Oh, they can be very sweet. Smile at you, even charming. But he was very ruthless. He was scream at people. If he fired somebody in his office and fired them, even though he had no business doing so, you would hear them laughing like it was a big joke.


Jose fought with his own family to said Noel Blum, I'm not kidding. I felt like she was sometimes going into his office yelling and screaming and hollering. I mean, really loud. Oh, so they'd argue a lot. Are you all right? And I think a lot of it was about the kids. What was your impression of them? Yeah, they were kind of quiet. They weren't that friendly, but it seemed like they were a bit troubled.


You know, I know they were afraid of him, afraid of their father, Jose. I saw him just stare them down a couple of times. But after Jose was murdered, Lyle and Erik seemed to be afraid of Noel Blum. They told police they thought Blum may have killed their parents and might want to kill them to Bloom have been arrested before on obscenity charges, but never convicted. Still, with the brothers public accusations, he was nervous. We saw day by day waiting for somebody to call you and be taken in and put in handcuffs.


And, oh, the cops would be calling and the investigation would take a turn, one that no one expected.


Coming up, new questions about the case that wasn't an organized crime yet and about the grieving son.


I was like, wow, the way he was spending money was very strange. You begin to see a pattern here and you begin to think of great. In the weeks after the Menendez brothers, one name, one whispered suspicion, no blue, I got a call from Beverly Hills Police Department. They wanted to meet with me and ask me a few questions. And I had been waiting for that meeting.


It turned out was about all it took. He was very cooperative and we couldn't determine that he had a motive at all.


So no, Bloom was no longer a suspect. And the rumored mafia connection to the crime? Not a chance, said prosecutor Pam Percentage.


The number of shots would tell you that it wasn't an organized crime had what do you say that because they were torn apart? If you think about what the media portrays or are Hollywood portrays as a mob, hit it a little hole in the middle, like a twenty two or thirty eight to the back of the head.


But the kneecapping was the missing shell casings to investigators. Those were signs it was staged to look like a mob hit.


Hours after the murders, detectives looked at the scene puzzled. And right around that time, Lyle showed up at the house. He said, and we want to get our tennis equipment. And I said, well, where is that? He said, it's in the library where my parents were murdered. What was their demeanor?


He was matter of fact and and didn't seem very upset to me.


Then Zola learned something very odd. Lyle and Erik went to the bank days after the murders, looking for Jose's safety deposit box, trying to find the family.


Will that surprise you that they would do it so soon? Oh, definitely. So why would the brothers worry about the will? Zola learned that Jose had threatened to disinherit them.


Lyle had been caught cheating at Princeton. Erik had fought with his father over tennis. But there was a bigger issue, too.


Well, in the first house, they took the whole site. The second house they got into the safe, violent.


Eric had burglarized the homes of their friends, wealthy parents. One of the burglaries was in the exclusive community of Hidden Hills. And you ever heard of such a thing before?


No, it was just because we can do it. Look what we can do.


At the time, Jose hired a prominent criminal attorney. We arranged for the younger brother Eric to take the fall because it was a minor, knowing that Eric probably wouldn't get any jail time. And part of the disposition was that he contact a therapist incomes.


Jerry Osiel, Dr. Jerome Osiel, you'll want to remember that name, a Beverly Hills psychologist who specialized in phobias, sex therapy.


So therapy and no jail time for the burglaries. But were they written out of the will? They finally did get hold of it and discovered Jose hadn't disinherited them after all. So now they stood to inherit the family's fourteen million dollar estate. And what the brothers did after the murders shocked the whole country.


They were just spending, spending, spending three Rolex watches, a private tennis coach for Eric, a Porsche.


Lyle even bought a chicken wings restaurant.


I love to shop, but I think that I might even wait a day or two. I went to visit his cousin Alan in Chicago after the murders.


He ordered some of the most expensive shirts I've ever seen in my life. He ordered some jewelry, ordered these shoes, these expensive shoes.


And I was like, wow. And the way he was spending money for me was very strange.


But to other relatives, the spending was just Lyle and Erik doing what they always did. Lyle was grieving, said Cousin Diane.


People would ask, you know, people were like, What are you doing? And I would defend him and say, well, everybody reacts differently when somebody dies. This is just his way of coping.


I guess their casual behavior after the murders, the hunt for the will, the spending spree, none of it was criminal, but it certainly caught the attention of the prosecutor. You begin to see a pattern here and you begin to think of great. But to police, Lyle and Eric kept repeating the same story they told the cops the night of the murders. They had no idea what happened with a believable in those conversations, you recall.


Yes. So they didn't seem to be lying or obfuscating or.


No, they answered our questions willingly. So maybe they were spoiled and self-centered. But it was a long way from that to killing their parents. Except another interview was coming, one that would reveal so much more. Coming up, I've never seen my dad has an emotional Erik Menendez speaks out about his father, his family and a killer script. That story was about a young man who murders his parents and inherits one hundred fifty seven million dollars. They thought about the perfect crime.


It's looking like a perfect crime to me.


When Dateline continues.


Reporter Robert Rande had been working the Menendez story hard. He was writing a biography of Jose Menendez, but he couldn't complete it without talking to two people, Jose's sons, Lyle and Eric. The brothers had blown them off for several weeks.


But finally, on October 20th, 1989, exactly two months after the murders, Rand got his shot.


I showed up at the Menendez mansion at 3:00 in the afternoon and a young woman in her 20s answered the door and she said, Oh, Eric Niiler out playing tennis. They'll be back at some point.


The woman invited Rand in to tour the house. And immediately in front of me is the room, the room where Jose and Kitty Menendez were killed. And I had a chill up my spine. I felt creeped out.


He waited. They arrived.


Eventually, Erik and Lyle came bouncing in the house, wearing tennis, whites looking tan. They were laughing and joking as if nothing had happened, as if nothing happened. And I'm kind of torn up inside. I'm just thinking to myself, I wouldn't be anywhere near this house if my parents had been killed here.


Rand pulled out his tape recorder and notepad, but Lyle stopped him and then just said, hang on. He said, we don't want to do the interview today. We just like to meet you and get to know you, the brothers that flaked on Ron before he was annoyed but obliged. They chatted informally and made plans to meet later that weekend for an official interview. But when Rand arrived, Lyle had left for New York on a redeye the night before.


He had a problem with his chicken wing restaurant in Princeton.


Eric, however, was home. At this time. He was willing to talk. Eric was emotionally appropriate.


He would cry at times and he was telling really lovely stories about how wonderful his parents were and people were afraid of people even were afraid of immigrants.


You'd walk in the room and know that this man was more about this man, more intelligent.


Eric said his father wanted to get into politics.


He was going to become senator of Florida. Then he was going to spend his life making Cuba and the United States.


And now with his father's death, Eric said he and his brother wanted to fulfill his father's dream to become senator.


And my brother wants to become president.


Since then, the mood shifted and Eric described what he saw when he walked into the family den on August twenty one.


We don't know. Wax and wax, it was just something that I've never seen my dad have, you know, I think that possibly if I would have been home. We would have to do something about it, maybe maybe my dad would give us. I definitely would get my guess and this was curious, Eric also told Round about a screenplay he'd written called Friends, and that story was about a young man who murders his parents and inherits one hundred fifty seven million dollars.


Fancy that.


Eric wrote the screenplay with a close friend of his named Craig Signorelli. When Detective Zola interviewed Craig, he learned that Craig and Eric often fantasized about committing the perfect crime, which in their screenplay became the story of a man killing his parents and evading police.


They thought about the perfect crime, and here their parents are murdered. We don't have a suspect yet. It's looking like a perfect crime to me.


At that point, Zola began to wonder if Eric's fantasy could be playing out in reality. And then Craig told Zeller about his visit to the Menendez house. After the murders, Eric said, Do you want to know what happened? And he described shooting the parents. And then he summed it all up by saying it could happen. And Craig thought about and he says, well, is he saying that's what he thinks happened here at the house? Or did they actually commit the crime?


Strange as was the story the brothers told about discovering their parents bodies. The brothers said that they saw this haze in the air. And some smoke that they smelled like gunpowder, gunpowder, smoke, but I mean, that dissipates pretty darn quick. Well, the officers got there right after they did and they didn't smell anything.


The gunpowder, smoke and fantasizing about the perfect crime and the screenplay and even what might be called a confession. Let detective detectives to start thinking the unthinkable, that the brothers had murdered their mom and dad. And he wondered, would Eric tell the story of the shooting to Craig again, this time on tape? And they decided to wire wire up Craig and go to this restaurant. But this time, Eric wasn't at all talkative. Eric didn't admit anything.


But I think his conscience said you'd better not talk too much about this, not that day anyway, and not to Craig Signorelli.


But Eric did talk eventually and what he said would change everything coming up while burst into the room, she heard him say, why did you tell him the explosive secret hidden till now? Could you believe it? No, no. It was absolutely devastating. Shocking beyond words. Detective Lessler at a very disturbing suspicion that Lyle and Erik Menendez had a shotgun, their parents to death in the den at their Beverly Hills mansion, and then one day he just knew.


Was there a particular time when you thought, OK, yes, it's them?


Well, when we got a call from Judelson Smith, a name he'd never heard before. What did she have to tell you? Her whole purpose was to talk about this doctor and how he was her therapist and he was having an affair with her, not relevant information to a homicide detective.


But this was who was his first name, Dr. Dr. Jerry Osiel.


Dr. Osiel, the psychologist Erik was sent to after those burglaries two months after the murders. Judelson Smith said she was with Dr. Osiel when Erik Menendez called to schedule an emergency session. Smith wouldn't talk to us for this report, but she did back then. And here's what she told us.


Dr. Osiel said after getting that call, all of a sudden he's saying, you know, I hope I I'm not going to hear what I think I'm going to hear.


Smith told Zola that Dr. Osiel was worried about what might happen at the session, and so he asked her to stay in the waiting room of his office while he met with Erik on October 31st, 1989.


She also told Zola that from the waiting room, she overheard Erik tell Dr. Osiel the very thing investigators had suspected for months but couldn't prove.


Erik said that they shot their parents and Dr. Osiel immediately says, we need to call your brother and have him come over here right away.


Lyle Menendez, who had been at the drive home, passing out candy to trick or treaters, rushed over to Dr. O'Neill's office and Lyle burst into the room to launch.


Beth told Zola she heard Lyle confront his brother and she heard him say, why did you tell him we're going to have to kill him now? Seriously? Yes. And Erik said, I can't kill anymore. And he burst into tears and left. Lyle and Dr. Osiel. More or less followed him and Lyle got to the elevator and Dr. Osiel said. Am I in danger? And Lyle said, that's all I can tell you. Have a good life, Dr.


Osiel, and freak them out. What followed was a strange and nervous dance. Osiel told Lyle and Erik to come back for follow up therapy sessions. The brother is afraid Osiel might go to the police. Agreed. During one of those sessions, they both confessed to killing their parents, and Osiel recorded the conversation. Julianne Smith learned about the recording and told detectives who promptly seized the tape. Just one problem. They weren't allowed to listen to it because of doctor patient privilege.


How frustrating was that?


Very frustrating. A good piece of evidence.


I couldn't even listen to it, even though investigators didn't know whether they'd ever get to play that tape in court. They thought they had enough evidence to arrest the brothers. Today, at approximately one, it was March 8th, 1990, detectives arrested Joseph Lyle Menendez for the August murders of his mother and father.


Eric was playing a tennis tournament in Israel at the time. Erik Menendez is being sought by detectives of this department. He surrendered to police three days later.


Could you believe it? No, no. It was absolutely devastating. Shocking, just beyond words.


Former L.A. Times reporter Alan Abrahamsson, who would imagine that these two young men of privilege, possession and power to be could could kill their parents? That's that's the kind of stuff that Shakespeare wrote about.


And yet it seemed that's exactly what happened. A few weeks after the arrests, Detectives Zola confirmed another tip Judelson Smith gave them.


Judelson said that the guns were purchased at a gun store in San Diego. I was looking through gun records and I said, this is it.


The name of the sale was an old friend of Lyall's from Princeton, but the friend was not even in California when the guns were purchased and he was missing his I.D..


We learned later that Lyle had taken the wallet. It seemed like overwhelming evidence that Lyle and Erik killed their parents. But their story of why they did it, I believe the family and the rest of America speechless.


Coming up, watching her in court was like watching great theater. The battle begins with a powerful new ally standing by the brothers. How does he walk into a room with a shotgun? This kid, it doesn't add up. I mean, I'm totally, totally puzzled when Dateline continues.


More than 75 percent of identity theft victims who had accounts open in their name did not find out they had been victimized from their bank or credit card company. What you can't see can hurt you. Don't be one of the 75 percent who didn't check more places identity theft could be hiding. Get LifeLock identity theft protection. LifeLock sees certain threats you could miss if you're only monitoring your credit and bank statements and alerts you if they find something that could be suspicious.


Plus, if you become a victim of identity theft, a U.S. based identity restoration specialist dedicated to your case will work to fix it.


No one can prevent all identity theft or monitor all transactions at all businesses. But you can find out if your information has been found on the dark web that you're free. Dark Web scan at LifeLock dot com scan, then pick the plan that's right for you and save up the 25 percent off your first year with promo code Dateline. That's a free scan at LifeLock dotcom slash scan and twenty five percent off with promo code Dateline Jeffrey Epstein is dead. But for his many victims, the search for justice is still alive because Epstein had help, lots of help.


And on this season of Broken, host and investigative reporter Tara Palmeri follows Eppstein survivors as they tracked down those who enabled and witnessed his crimes and hold them accountable. Broken Seeking Justice documents the journey of these women to find out what justice looks like in their lives, including their battle against the government to change how it treats victims of child sex abuse. They're naming names, they're seeking justice, and sometimes they even find it. For the many brave survivors, the Eppstein story isn't over.


It's just beginning. Listen to Broken seeking justice wherever you get podcast's. Continuing our story, Lyle and Erik Menendez are under arrest for the murders of their parents in the family mansion in Beverly Hills. It was grotesque. What happened? Bloodsoaked had a chill up my spine. Could you believe it? No. It was absolutely devastating, just beyond words. The question now, what drove them to kill? How does he walk into a room with a shotgun?


This kid I mean, I'm totally, totally puzzled. A dark secret was about to come to light.


I just told him that I didn't want to do this.


Something horrible is going on in the family. Oh, man. It was gut wrenching. I wanted to bust the door down and say, what's going on here? Here again, Keith Morrison.


The news rocketed around the country, much of the world, the Suns themselves shotgunned their own parents in their own home to rich kids from Beverly Hills, coddled, spoiled, greedy and murdered their own parents in cold blood, actually planned it, tried to make it look like a mob hit, use stolen I.D. to buy the guns, tried to get away with it.


And after went on a lavish nationwide spending spree, public judgment came harsh and fast. How do you plead? Not guilty. They were smirking. They were smug.


Former L.A. Times reporter Alan Abrahamsson. People were not predisposed to think kindly of Eric and Lyle Menendez.


Media feasted on the story of the rich brothers who killed their parents for the 14 million dollar estate. Hard to overstate the public's disgust with those young men, too.


But on the other side of the country, in an upscale New Jersey town just a few miles from Princeton, people began comparing memories of their home.


At the time was a Tudor style home. It was on a lake.


This is the home where Lyle and Erik grew up, where Bill Curtin was a young tennis coach when he met Jose Menendez and was certainly impressed.


There were two clear sides of him. One was the very friendly, outgoing, joking person.


The flip side was how driven and controlling he was because a engaged bill to teach his son Lyle and then watch the lessons but didn't just watch, he would physically come onto the tennis court and start giving instruction to Lyle while I was still there.


That was very, very strange, very uncomfortable.


Only much later did Bill learn Jose had hired several coaches for Lyle, that the 10 year old was working hours every day to learn tennis.


He was incredibly quiet, especially when Jose was present neighborhood memories about a successful but slightly imposing family.


Everyone seemed to look up to them, but not draw closer to them.


Alicia Herts was a friend and neighbor of the Menendez family. The minute they would come into a room, they took the ARA. Wow, and we were all, you know, very, very careful and that Menendez house, it was like it was covered with a shield, like a.


That was in penetrable thing was Alysha wasn't just a neighbor, she was Lyall's ninth grade Spanish teacher, the exclusive Princeton Day School.


Was he a good student? He tried to go, but he was not particularly talented at the language, one she caught while cheating.


And she said Eric cheated, too.


I think teachers understood deep down inside what they were going through, that they were being pressured strenuously from their parents to perform well.




And to Alicia, it seem to be taking a toll. And while Alicia remembers more than once seeing while outside her office staring blankly, I wish to this day that I had gotten out and said, Please, come on.


Please come in. Did you talk to Kitty or Jose about this? Oh, no, I didn't reveal anything to them. No. And not anything that could get them in trouble like many others, said Alicia.


She was careful around Kitty and Jose, but there was one episode she found too disturbing to ignore a dinner party at the Menendez home.


Jose told his guests he'd brought back a VHS tape from a trip to Brazil.


And I have to show you guys this because it's so unique. And so he puts it in and I don't remember the name, he said.


The film showed adults engaging in sex acts in front of children, and we saw a few seconds of it a few minutes, and we make excuses. A lot of us stood up and said we have to leave. We couldn't stand to see, to watch. But Jose found this hysterically funny.


These stories of the Menendez family had been buried for years until the sons were charged with murder and she signed on to defend them. Veteran criminal defense attorney Leslie Abramson known for her brash style in the courtroom and with the press.


That's reporter Robert Rande now writing a book on the Menendez case because the attorneys passionate devotion to her clients.


I've never seen anybody with the power of Leslie Abramson watching her in court was like watching great theater.


In this old interview from our archives, Leslie Abramson described how her defense strategy began to take shape.


I'm hearing a lot of very negative and and at least heavily psychologically abusive things. But it's not answering what's wrong with this kid because he's incredibly sweet. How does he walk into a room with a shotgun, this kid? And it doesn't add up? I mean, I'm totally, totally puzzled. And that's when I bring in Vickrey.


Dr. William Vicary, a forensic psychiatrist and graduate of Harvard Law School, agreed to meet with the brothers in jail. He knew going in. Police believe Lyle and Erik killed their parents for money, but. Based upon the dozens of parricide cases that I had worked on in the past, that's the exception, not the rule.


The rule is that something horrible is going on in the family and something was going on in the Menendez family, something very secret. But what was it?


Coming up, a letter from Lyle to Eric hinting at the horrors in that house, the screams. Oh, man. It was gut wrenching. Lyle and Erik Menendez, the boys from Beverly Hills, sat in jail charged with the shotgun murders of their parents and the great wheel of justice ground slow. The main issue was the Jerome Osiel confession tape admissible or should doctor patient privilege keep it out? The arguing went all the way to California's highest court.


We sat around for a couple of years waiting for the Supreme Court to rule during which the Menendez brothers resided, that the men's central jail, where soon after their arrest, Lyle slipped his brother a letter. Dateline obtained a copy. It's never been broadcast before. In it, Lyle wrote about their father and the murders. He bore two brilliant children, only two. They carry his name and his pride. We did not do anything for the money, he went on.


We alone know the truth.


We alone know the secrets of our family's past. I do not look forward to broadcasting them around the country. I pray that it never has to happen. Secrets at this point.


Even attorney Leslie Abramson knew none of them. Lyle and Erik revealed nothing not to Abramson and not to the forensic psychiatrist.


She hired William Vicary.


What struck me in that initial interview was how? Together, the older brother, Lyle, was I mean, he was articulate, he made good eye contact. He had very thoughtful, organized answers, Eric, on the other hand, seemed broken. He very rarely made eye contact. He was biting his fingernails. So I was thinking in my head. Boy, I sure hope I get to work with the older brother and not the younger brother, because this is going to be a piece of cake with the older brother.


How wrong he was. After a few sessions with Lyle, Dr. Vicary hit a wall and moved on to Eric, who month after month seemed to stick to a kind of script about his wonderful father, his loving family. And the minute something would leak out about maybe things weren't so wonderful in the family, he would start crying and he would kind of.


Dissolve and end and whimper, and he just wouldn't go any further, Vicary put Eric on antidepressants and slowly a trust began to form. As the months rolled by, I got more and more pieces of information and it got worse and worse and worse as to what was going on in his family until finally the dam broke.


Hurricane Lyle's cousin, Ellen Anderson, had lived with the man and his family and knew the public didn't understand.


They just knew that, OK, we've got these rich kids who shot their parents. Now they're think they're multimillionaires. Well, that's not the case.


Alan had begun thinking back to some very disturbing things he had witnessed at the Menendez house as cousin Diane Hernandez.


He would take their heads and push them under water until they started panicking and needed help. He would get them up again.


Jose's way of teaching his then quite young boys to swim. What did Kitty seem to think about?


I mean, if José did it or set it, there was no question. Absolutely not. Not by the boys.


Not by Kitty. She became his right hand man. And enforcing things, including what Diane and Alan came to know as the single most important rule in the Menendez house, you cannot go down the hallway and Jose's with his kids.


He didn't go down the hallway. No, no. But they did hear things.


I've heard them being whipped. Oh, man. It was gut wrenching. The screams and the daddy. Don't hit me, Daddy. Don't you know that kind of stuff?


A disturbing series of stories that to the defense began to explain what those young men did to their parents. But how do you get from disturbing stories to a double murder? The brothers lawyers began to connect the dots. Their defense would be unique and daring.


Coming up, the prosecution versus the defense. These are smart, strong women, definitely engaged against each other. Yes, the fireworks were about to begin. I felt that the brothers were evil, but not as bad as she was when Dateline continues.


Even before the Menendez brothers went on trial, the defense scored a big victory. The California Supreme Court ruled that the confession tape made by Dr. Osiel could not be presented as evidence. Of course, the defense had already conceded that Lyle and Erik killed their parents.


A sensational murder trial open today in California.


The defendants, two brothers, the victims, their parents, nearly four years after the murders in July 1993. If convicted here, Lyle and Erik could face the death penalty.


Their judge was Stanley Weisberg, who had already presided over a high profile cases, notably the Rodney King beating case whose results sparked the L.A. riots. Judge Weisberg ruled that each brother would have his own jury and the electronic media that wants access to this courtroom.


He allowed cameras in the courtroom, gave the idea that there was a camera in a courtroom in California was so new, so novel.


Reporter Alan Abrahamsson wants an attorney himself, covered the trial for The L.A. Times.


You weren't just playing to the jury, you were playing to all of America.


The judge's decision turned a local L.A. story into an international sensation. Reporter Robert Rande was there, too.


Of course, I've written articles for Paris Match, The Guardian in London, grazi in Italy and sold articles in Japan and Australia.


How big was it? The Menendez trial was the case that put an entire networks Court TV on the broadcast landscape prosecutor Pam Bosnich knew all of America was watching her every move.


How did you feel as you prepared to make your opening statement? As I walked down the hallway, all the cameras were there and, you know, I just threw up because I thought, oh, God, you know, this is really stressful.


So what's more, Prosecutor Bosnich was going up against two fierce opponents, Leslie Abramson defending Eric and Jill Lancy defending while these were three very smart, strong women, definitely engaged against each other over these boys.


Yes. I say, boys, but they weren't really boys, they were boys at all. In fact, that's what the defense wanted everybody to hear when these boys and these poor boys, these orphans, orphans, an impression the defense tried to play up.


Leslie Abramson wrapped her arms around their shoulders, had them trade their dapper suits for preppy sweaters.


Everything that Jill Lansing and Leslie Abramson did was deliberate and calculated.


Prosecutor presented steeled herself, determined not to let the optics distract the juries.


Based upon this evidence, it will become apparent that this murder was unlawful, unjustified and wholly premeditated in basic English.


The prosecution's case was this just the facts, ma'am?


Fact No. One, Lyle and Erik driving down to San Diego two days before the murders to buy shotguns and with a stolen ID.


Why are you using the fake ID? Because, you know, you're going to be using the gun to do something you shouldn't be doing. That is evidence of intent.


After the murders, the prosecution showed the brothers lied to the police for months, starting from the very moment Lyle called nine one one.


And they did it all for the family fortune.


The state said, remember, Lyle and Erik had searched for the will just days after their parents murders and went on a lavish multistate spending spree.


They were very aggressive about spending money as soon as possible. Yeah, which I thought was very strange.


It was pretty obvious that the prosecutor first degree murder and they did it for the money.


At the end of the prosecution case, I was like, OK, these these two brothers are so guilty, it's not even funny.


But then there was her, Miss Abramson, for the defense. Thank you.


We had a joke investigator myself and my co cocounsel, Lester, the joke was, you have a gun, you have two bullets. You go in the courtroom, who do you shoot? OK, so both the guys say they would shoot Lyle and Erik and I. My thing was I'm going to shoot Leslie twice. I felt that the brothers were evil, but not as bad as she was.


Abramson had a reputation for doing whatever it took. Do you guys haven't been fair to these boys and you're not fair to them.


And she had an unusual strategy for defending the brothers, a law known as imperfect self-defense.


That is to say, under all the circumstances, it was reasonable to the person to think that they were acting in self-defense. But the reality is that that wasn't the case at all.


In other words, an honest but unreasonable belief that one's life is in danger. The defense argued that the brothers weren't spoiled. They were damaged, subject to years of abuse that made the decision to kill their parents seemed to them like an act of self-defense against imminent danger.


If the jury agreed, the Menendez brothers would get manslaughter instead of murder, our witnesses will paint a portrait of Joseph and Mary Louise Menendez as parents. That will make understandable to you how they could have died at the hands of their children. What they did to their children to bring this about, the parents were as much on trial as Lyle and Erik Menendez were on trial. And while the prosecution tried to to stick to a just the facts, ma'am narrative, the defense strategy was emotion, emotion, emotion, emotion.


The defense called teachers and coaches, family members to testify about emotional and physical abuse. One of them was Cousin Alan.


And would you see bruises in the boys after that? Yes. And they're above their above their thigh area for work, but would be hit.


A then cousin Diane took the stand. And here came the most explosive issue of the trial.


Diane testified that the abuse Hosie inflicted on his sons was not just physical but sexual.


He and his dad had been touching each other and he indicated that it was in his journal area.


And Diane told us she observed even more three of them would take showers together.


Lyle was 15 and Erik was 12.


Prosecutor Bosnich was, to say the least, skeptical.


If my daughter needed me to lie for her, I'd like for her. If it was a life and death thing, of course you would. If it's your cousin that you grew up with, of course, you would be pretty sure that they were doing that.


I'm positive one reason why a relative came to me and said that she felt that the defense was made up, that she confronted Lyle about it, and he said to her, that's the way it's going to be. So we had to ask, did the brothers ask you to lie for them?




Did they ask you to sort of like shade things or tell certain stories, not other stories or anything like that?


Mm hmm. The defense contended the abuse was real, went on for years. And finally they came to believe that something terrible was about to break loose, specifically that their parents were going to kill them if they didn't kill their parents. First, mental health experts testified and said that was understandable.


Erik and Lyle Menendez purchased the shotguns for their own protection.


It was a high stakes defense. And by far the most important witnesses would be the brothers themselves with the jury. Believe them with America coming up.


My dad had been molested. I just told them that I didn't want to do this. And that is very shocking then. Chilling even now. Was it the truth? We get support from Madison Reid, for decades, women have had two options for coloring their hair outdated at home color or the time and expense of a traditional salon, I knew there had to be a better alternative out there. And lo and behold, I found Madison Reid. What makes Madison Reid color unique is that it's crafted by master colorists who blend nuances of light, dark, cool and warm tones to create over 55 multidimensional shades.


And they make it really easy to find what will suit you best. Just go online and take their color quiz. You can even use their trian tool to see how you'll look with different shades. I wasn't planning on going brunette, but the Trian tool might have convinced me get Omonia free multitool hair color delivered to your door starting at just 22 dollars at Madison Dasch retcon. Use our code date line and you'll get 10 percent off plus free shipping on your first color kit.


That's Code Dateline at Madison. Dasch, Reid, Dotcom.


So what was it, according to Leslie Abramson, there was only one relevant question to consider in the Menendez murders.


Why did these killings occur?


I question the brothers believed they could answer best. No one had ever seen televised testimony like this before.


You don't have your life.


Joseph Lyle Menendez and the brothers testified in graphic, emotional terms about what they said were the darkest secrets of their family between the ages of six and eight.


Did your father have sexual contact with you? Yes, we would be in the bathroom and it would he would put me on my knees and have oral sex with him. You want to do this? At some point, did he do some other things to you? Britney. Did you ask him not to? Yes, I just told them that I didn't want to do this and that it hurt me. And he said he didn't mean to hurt me.


He loved me.


What did he tell you about telling people? He just said that was our secret, that bad things would happen to me if I told anybody.


Lyle testified his father stopped abusing him when he turned eight. He said for years he had no idea his brother was a victim to. Then Eric took the stand, he would have me give him oral sex and he would stick the needles or the tax into my thighs as he was doing this.


Eric testified that when he refused to cooperate with his father's demands, he came back with the knife. He put it on my neck. He said, I should kill you and next time I will.


Reaction to the brother's testimony was, to say the least, polarized. You either totally believe that the brothers had been abused or no. You thought the whole thing was a complete crock of, you know what?


But the defense, the brother's explosive claims were just the lead up the back story to what really prompted the murders.


What do you believe was the originating cause of you and your brother ultimately winding up, shooting your parents? Are you telling Lyle that?


Are you telling Lyle what? Is it you telling Lyle about something that was happening?


My dad and my dad had been molested and had been right up until the murders, Eric said, and he testified that his mother was aware of it all. She says, I know. I've always known. What do you think I'm stupid?


Lyle said he confronted his father several days before the murders.


I told him I would tell everybody everything about him and I would tell the police and that I would tell the family.


Then, according to Lyle, his father said something that sounded like a threat.


He said, We all make choices in life, son. Erik made his. You've made yours. I thought we were in danger.


And so the brothers drove down to San Diego to buy the shotguns for protection. They said two days later, said Lyle, he and his father had another argument about the abuse, after which Lyle said his parents went into the den and shut the door.


And I thought they were going ahead with the plan to kill us. Remember Ozzy and Kitty Cat, two rifles in the house? So what did you do? I ran upstairs to tell my brother that it was happening now they ran out to the car, loaded their guns and burst through the den door.


I was just firing as I went into the room. I just started firing. In what direction? In front of me. What was in front of you? My parents at some point. Was your gun empty?


Yes, I could see somebody moving. Seemed like moving in the direction of where my brother should be, Lyle said.


He returned to the car, reloaded and ran back into the house.


What did you do after you reloaded? Yeah, I ran around and shut my mom. So did they act well in the mistaken belief they were defending their own lives? Yes, said the defense. A classic case of imperfect self-defense. Perfect nonsense, said the prosecutor. She grilled while on cross-examination.


When you put the shotgun up against her left cheek and you pulled the trigger, did you love your mother? Yes. And was that an act of love, Mr. Menendez? Was confusion, fear, you were afraid of her at that point, they slaughtered their mother in a way that was so cruel.


She got up to run and they went out and they reloaded and they put the gun up to her cheek and blew her brains out. I'm sorry. That is the height of cruelty.


What's more, observed reporter Alan Abrahamsson, let's count how many seconds it might take to go out to the car. Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk. Grab the shotgun shell, put the shotgun shell in, run back in, remember? Time is ticking. Time is ticking. You put the barrel of that shotgun against her cheek and you pull. That is intent.


No doubt about it, the prosecution believed the brothers were flat out lying about the abuse and the events leading up to the murders, and as it turned out, their testimony gave the state a big openings.


They offered their mental state as a defense. And when you offer your mental state as a defense, you have waived your psychiatric patient privilege.


The Osiel tape, remember that by testifying, the brothers had put their mental state on center stage, meaning the tape was now fair game.


There was never going to make a decision. No, my mother without their consent. The defense played the tape to take the sting out of it. I heard the I believe Detective Zula, remember, had never heard the tape before, and he was dumbfounded. This was supposedly a candid confession tape, but on it, the brothers never once mentioned the issue that was now the very core of their defense.


Why did you ever murder your parents? Oh, because they were sexually molesting us. That never came out. Why wouldn't you tell us? THERAPIST Big deal. The prosecution thought so. But by then, the jury had already heard many hours of tearful testimony about abuse. And that is when in December 1993, they retired to consider a verdict. We made a mistake right off the bat.


Hazel Thornton was on Eric's jury.


We took a show of hands. As to what level of guilt we thought they were and it became immediate that it was men against women murder versus manslaughter, the main issue, said Hazel, was a brother's story of the abuse.


The women believed them. The men did not. Did discussions get heated?


Oh, yes. The public thinks that the women were emotional in the trial. It was the men who were emotional. They pounded their fists on the table. They called us names. They yelled at us.


Those tumultuous deliberations carried on into the New Year.


And then Southern California's San Fernando Valley shattered early this morning by a major earthquake bringing a massive six point seven earthquake shook Southern California, the backdrop against which the juries would deliver a decision that shocked the world. Coming up, O.J. Simpson, when O.J. Simpson went home at the end of his trial. It was very hard in the DA's office. That explosive case is about to cast a shadow over this one. When Dateline continues.


The court finds, based upon after six months of trial, two juries, one result, therefore, I find that the jury is hopelessly deadlocked and the court declared a mistrial. The juries couldn't make up their minds. Nearly half of them on each panel voted for manslaughter. D.A. Gil Garcetti vowed to retry the case.


We have an ethical, a professional and moral responsibility to go forward with this case as a first degree murder case.


But before that second trial could begin, O.J. happened and suddenly the stakes were even bigger.


Mr. Garcetti was very upset about the fact that we couldn't win the big one. Yeah, and when O.J. Simpson went home at the end of his trial, it was very hard in the DA's office. We were, you know, nationally considered to be kind of losers.


The second Menendez trial began just eight days after OJs acquittal, with Judge Weisberg presiding again, the same judge, the same case. But this time the trial was fundamentally different.


The first major ruling judge was ever made was no TV camera in the courtroom.


This time, one jury for both brothers, Judge Weisberg, also scaled back testimony about the brothers alleged physical and sexual abuse. Cousin Diane, for example, was able to testify, just not about Lyle telling her that his father was molesting him. One reason that couldn't come in was because this time around, Lyle didn't take the stand to lay the foundation about abuse in the first place.


In between the two trials, there were allegations that he was asking people to fabricate testimony.


Letters surfaced after the first trial in which Lyle was alleged to have encouraged people to lie for the defense.


So the defense decided they couldn't put him on the witness stand. So Erik Menendez had to carry the ball for both brothers. And he was a good witness, but he was not as strong as Lyle Menendez had been at the first trial.


And that expert testimony about the impact of the alleged abuse on the brothers state of mind, Ted Weisberg, severely limited the number of experts because he felt their testimony was repetitive. One not allowed to testify was Dr. Vicary. I was shocked.


I said, well, they've gutted the defense. I mean, that there is no defense without that.


That specific ruling was in large part due to the objections raised by the new prosecutor leading the people's case, Deputy D.A. David Kohn. It's one thing that we have asked the judge to do is to limit the so-called abuse excuse.


The approach that the prosecutor, David Cohen, took was to attack at every at every turn and not give any free passes there.


Andrew Wolfberg is a lawyer today like that, and he was the youngest member of the Menendez retrial jury at the time.


The defense attorney was saying this was a family that was win at all costs. The ends justify the means. To say that their parents had abused them was almost like the ends justify the means. Let's make up this story about abuse.


But one thing jurors figured was not made up was that confession tape. This time, the prosecution got to use that wild card the way they wanted to as their smoking gun. And they highlighted the section where the brothers seem to have no remorse about what they had done.


This just having people around. I miss not having my dog.


I think that's the question that really just was like a punch in the gut. And then just before the jury went out, Judge Weisberg's last ruling and quite possibly the most important one of all, the jurors would not be allowed to consider an imperfect self-defense.


Judge Weisberg basing his ruling on a California Supreme Court decision that came down after the first Menendez trial said imperfect self-defense didn't apply because the brothers initiated the confrontation with their parents.


Do you think in retrospect, had you been offered imperfect self-defense, that you might have maybe started in a different place or come to a different conclusion?


I'm pretty confident that we would not have because we literally started from first degree murder. And when every element was satisfied, we were done.


This time around, the deliberations were quicker, more congenial and certainly guilty on all counts with special circumstances guilty of first degree murder.


But the fates of Lyle and Erik Menendez were not the only headlines. More came in the penalty phase. Dr. Vicary finally got to testify and under oath he had to admit something.


The drama involves this man, defense psychiatrist William Vicary, who has disclosed that he. Elita, dozens of portions of his notes, because, quote, Leslie Abramson told me, this has to come out.


What did it feel like to be you in that particular circumstance of your life? Well, it was very traumatic, traumatic indeed, the doctor said Leslie Abramson asked him to delete notes she felt could be viewed as evidence of premeditation. And reluctantly, he said he agreed the California Medical Board punished Vicary 34 months probation. Abramson disputed Viguerie's version of events. And after an investigation, the state bar years later cited insufficient evidence of violations and closed her case. In the end, all her efforts did not spare the Menendez brothers from a life sentence.


I think its fairness has been drained out of the system more than two decades later. That question whether the second trial was fair, is still being debated. It's a tale of two trials.


The trials couldn't have been more different. Cliff Gardner was the attorney appointed to handle Lyall's appeal.


So it was sort of a one, two, three punch, no source evidence, no lay, no expert testimony. And then your defense doesn't go to the jury. But it was the same judge in both trials. It was the same judge. So what's the explanation for the difference?


It's a it's a very good question. I don't have an answer to it.


In this audio of Lyall's federal appeal hearing, a judge also questioned why so many key rulings changed in trial.


Number two, file distastefully with the state doesn't succeed in convicting somebody of one set of rules. So change the rules automatically, grounds to vacate their convictions.


And what did the brothers have to say all these years later?


We'll ask Lyle Menendez next. Coming up, the outside world saw what they thought was evidence of premeditation and how to keep it. That's not really entirely new details from behind prison walls. And a new question, could there be a trial? Number three, this case they picked out as different. This case should have been settled. In 2005, after years of failed appeals, the Menendez brothers case went to federal court. It was their last chance. The court denied it, maintaining the state court made reasonable rulings in light of the facts and did not violate federal law.


Lyle Menendez is 52 years old now, has spent nearly half his life in prison. Hello, Hal. So here we are all these years later. We spoke with Lyle Menendez for more than two hours.


He was confident, articulate, and 28 years later, still eager to explain why he and his brother killed their parents.


He shared intimate details about his childhood and the betrayal he said he felt when Erik confided to him days before the murders that their father was still molesting him.


My father was raped. I said nothing. And I just feel like part of that pact I had with my dad and I are keeping this secret. And for you to have done this to my brother, like I kept my part of that sort of devil's cock and you did it, you know, and my mother just, you know, you let your children wake up in the home of a child molester every day.


Lyle testified in the trial that not only did his mother cover for her husband's actions, she also sexually abused them a quarter century after the murders. Those feelings of anger and hurt are still close to the surface, said Lyle.


My mother was very cruel. She just very much resented my brother and I from her early, early on, as if you and Erik had come between her and your father.


Yes, exactly.


We reminded him of what his prosecutors still say about him, that Lyle is still trying to avoid some level of responsibility by blaming abuse when the abuse doesn't appear to have been so bad as to as to cause a person to do that.


I would trade my entire defense for a 30 second video of my father. I would trade my whole case for it because I think it's so sanitized and so easy to use the word a piece of is that this wasn't so bad.


Let's get down to the incident itself. When did you and Erik decide to kill your parents? We didn't decide to do it, it was we finally just kind of overwhelmed with this panic and emotion and made the decision to run in that room.


The outside world saw what they thought was evidence of a lot of premeditation using a friend's driver's license to hide the fact that you went to San Diego and got weapons and had to keep it.


There is you know, it's just not really entirely accurate. I didn't have a California I.D., so there was no way to purchase a weapon other than my brother using these other kids I.D., but no disputing it.


They did buy the guns in advance with a stolen I.D. and there was this irrefutable fact, the prosecutor pointed out L'Isle Reloaded and fired that final shot at his mother's face while she was still alive and crawling desperately to get away.


They saw that as the evidence of premeditation and cruelty.


I certainly in the room wasn't making kind of decisions in a chaotic situation like that. But, you know, reflecting afterwards, you know, that haunts me. It does haunt me.


The other comment that would come up was, well, they you know, they could've just gone out and gotten a car and driven away. You know, they they didn't have to do this to a person.


Like, my father is not going to allow you to just take something that will ruin his life that he has so carefully crafted. He's not going to he's not going to know.


But you can laugh. That's the point I'm trying to make.


But leave it to what? Leave it this way for yourself to be killed in a parking lot. I mean, you really thought that would even tell who?


They didn't believe anyone would help them, said Lyle, not even the police.


Speaking of which, that 911 call I made with the person that was shot that you were so, uh, you know, grief stricken on that call and lying at the same time.


Yeah, what happened? I don't think I was grief stricken, I think I was just absolutely broken down with stress. Both of us were just in such a state of trauma that I just. It just poured through on that call, made it very easy to make that call, really, you know, but you could have told them instead you misled them. Why that? Well, I I mean, I don't think I was going to credibility, of course, but, you know, I told my parents and here's lie, and they were going to go, OK, go back home for the self-preservation.


At that point, Lyle strongly denied the prosecution's claim that he and Eric killed their parents for money.


Furthermore, he said he didn't think their case should have even gone to trial.


This case should have been settled. There are like two two to 300 parricide cases a year where a parent is killed by a child and they are almost all related to abuse and they are almost all settled this case. They picked out a different. Yeah, but wow, it was different.


Guys like you in places like you lived and acts like you committed. I mean, it's this is a big flashy deal.


Exactly. And I think that it was very easy because it was Beverly Hills and my father had a lot of money to sort of sell this headline that these brothers kill for money. You haven't seen a hurricane, how long? Well. 1996. It to be a long time. Yeah, I guess my brother every day. Six months after our interview, Lyle was transferred to the Richard Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego, where Eric is housed. After more than 20 years, the brothers were reunited.


Erik Menendez declined our interview request. He has been married for 21 years while for 16. And remember, Eric had said both he and his brother wanted to pursue careers in politics in a highly unusual way. They've done it, sort of.


Erik spearheaded a life care and hospice program for inmates, and Lyle was the president of the inmate government. That is old prison.


I know it's going to be a suffering for me, but I feel like I can find some purpose here.


Lyle's former appellate attorney told us if the brothers can produce new evidence of the abuse. It would be the first step toward perhaps getting a third trial. If that did happen to people, surely wouldn't be their defense attorney.


Leslie Abramson is retired from law and did not respond to our interview request.


As for prosecutor Pam Bosnich, you really think that this kind of wrecked your career?


Oh, I did. Of course it did. But it's OK, because if I'd won the case, I probably never would have been a mother. I probably would have gone on a book tour or something and I wouldn't be Natalee's mom. And so it does have a happy ending.


Before she left the DA's office, Bambas, she took something with her, a picture of Kitty. Not this one. No, she took one from the crime scene.


She had blue eyes and one little blue eyes open and the other one's gone. You know, I think I'm a little crazy to keep that picture, but it's a reminder of what those horrible children did to her. Can you imagine giving birth and then giving everything you have to these two kids and they kill you?


The Menendez brothers have supporters who hope they get out of prison one day. File's Facebook following has steadily grown. Fair to say Pam Bosnich is not a part of that family life in prison for those two is just fine.


I hope they live a long, long life. That's all for now. I'm Lester Holt, thanks for joining us.


The Meet the Press Chuck Todd cast.


It's an insider's take on politics, the twenty 20 election and more candid conversations with some of my favorite reporters about things we usually discuss off camera. Listen for free wherever you get your podcast.