On 20 August 1989, the US brothers Lyle Menendez (* 10 January 1968) and Erik Menendez (* 27 November 1970) cruelly murdered their parents. Eric was 18 at the time, Lyle 21. They lived in one of the most exclusive mansions in Beverly Hills, California. The trial lasted six years and is one of the most questionable court scandals in the USA.
How the Menendez brothers murdered their parents:
The picture that presented itself to the police at the crime scene was shocking: the parents had been sitting in front of the television eating ice cream and were hit by so many bullets that their bodies were destroyed beyond recognition. Immediately after shooting their parents, the brothers took a car ride to get rid of the guns.
They then bought tickets to a cinema to provide themselves with an alibi. Then they returned to their parents‘ house and called the police. During the emergency call, they declared in a shocked tone of voice that they had found their parents shot. During later interrogations, they presented different versions of what had happened and also brought the mafia into play. However, since they lived on a very large scale in the coming weeks, they quickly came under suspicion of being the perpetrators.
In the first three months after the murder, Lyle and Erik Menendez allegedly spent about one million dollars on luxury items. In March 1990, police arrested them on strong suspicion of murdering their parents.
Menendez brothers: No verdict in first trial in 1994
In the first trial in 1994, the Menendez brothers confessed to the crime on camera, which caused a national sensation. In tears, they admitted to having been sexually abused by their parents for years. The murders had been committed for self-protection, as the parents had allegedly planned to murder their sons so that the abuse would not become public. The prosecution disagreed and was convinced that both had acted out of pure greed.
The father, who worked in the entertainment industry, had a fortune of $14 million at the time. Since some jurors believed the defendants‘ arguments and the jury could not agree on a guilty verdict, the first trial in 1994 ended without a verdict – a scandal. The had to decide on the death penalty or life imprisonment. The fact that no verdict was reached was also due to the fact that both brothers were awarded their own jury.
A verdict with a new jury
It was not until the second trial, on 2 July 1996, this time with a different jury, that the brothers were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment – with no prospect of ever being released. They accepted the verdict without any visible emotion. In cases of premeditated murder, the law provides for life imprisonment as the minimum sentence. The presiding judge does not necessarily have to follow the jury’s recommendation, but cannot increase the sentence. The 14 million dollars, the actual motive for the crime, had meanwhile been consumed by the immense court costs.
The Menendez brothers are incarcerated in different prisons in California. They have married in prison, but are not allowed to be visited by their wives. In January 2016, Erik gave an interview for the first time in which he reported on the murders. Even before the conviction, the story of Lyle and Erik Menendez was filmed several times. There was also a two-parter in Germany, broadcast by RTL under the title „The True Story of the Menendez Brothers“.