One day, less than a month before jury selection, Novelli was seething with anger outside the courthouse. One of the defense attorneys had asked her to stop attending pretrial hearings. “People will think you have something to do with Lyle,” was the explanation_ “I have something to do with Lyle. I’m not going to disappear!” she exclaimed. “I want it to look like they have some supporters. I’m in control of my tongue.”
Novelli frequently wore short skirts and white go-go boots to court. Sometimes, she dressed in provocative outfits while visiting Lyle in jail. Menendez family members believe Novell developed a “romantic fixation” for Lyle. “It’s disgusting,” said one family member during the trial. “What is this 54-yea-old woman doing chasing after a 25-year-old man?”
“I have two things in life: publishing Mind’s Eye and taking care of Lyle,” Novelli said just before the trial. “He calls me several times a day and I visit him in jail three times a week. I’m the only person who visits him. When you’re in jail, you find out who your friends are.”
Lyle recently discovered the true meaning of Norma Novelli’s friendship. She has written a book based on transcripts from the four years she surreptitiously recorded his three-way phone calls. The publisher, Dove Books, is the same company that released Faye Resnick’s tabloid tell-all about Nicole Simpson. Dove co-founder Michael Viner told Newsweek that Novelli’s tapes “will put Lyle away for good.” And this past February, Novelli voluntarily turned over to the Los Angeles County district attorney 15 hours of taped phone calls that Lyle had made.
Defense attorneys say the tapes contain no “smoking guns” nor anything about fabricating a defense. “People will be disappointed,” Novelli told one member of the defense team. She also said she was annoyed with Dove for embellishing the significance of her record Erik was indignant that Garcetti compared the two cases. “He kept bringing it up, as if my name is synonymous with some sort of thinking—here’s another ‘I did it but don’t blame me kind of thing.’ It was really aggravating.”
A few days later Erik and O.J. had a conversation about legal representation. Erik was unhappy about his own surrender, which Shapiro had arranged in March 1990. Erik was playing tournament tennis in Israel when he received the news of Lyle’s arrest. He immediately flew to London, where he debated his next move with relatives and legal advisors back in the US. It was decided that Erik would voluntarily surrender in Los Angeles. He later discovered that had he surrendered in London, where there is no capital punishment, the death penalty would have been ruled out as a condition of his extradition. He blamed Shapiro for making the wrong call.
“Don’t ever believe Bob Shapiro is going to get you a deal, because he isn’t,” Erik said he told O.J. “Nobody knows who’s the best lawyer. Everyone can talk a good line.” Erik felt he’d been fortunate to replace Shapiro with Abramson. What Erik had no way of knowing was that Abramson was at that moment jockeying—along with many other prominent criminal attorneys—to be named to the Simpson defense team.
A handful of people are connected to both murder cases. Faerstein was with O.J. the day he fled from Robert Kardashian’s house. Mark Slotkin, an antique dealer and contractor and friend of O.J.’s who has appeared on numerous TV shows insisting on Simpson’s innocence, was a Menendez defense witness in the first trial. Slotkin had sold Jose Menendez his Beverly Hills mansion, and both brothers approached him for business advice after killing their parents. Kato Kaelin’s attorney, William Genego, also testified as an expert witness on an obscure legal point. Retired porno star Jennifer Peace appeared in front of a grand jury after claiming her former boyfriend, A.C. Cowlings, told her about O.J. Simpson’s involvement in his wife’s murder. Peace camped out overnight with Screw publisher Al Goldstein (who once dated Judalon Smyth) to get a seat for Erik Menendez dramatic testimony. In the ultimate intersection of the stories, Erik and Lyle’s grandmother, Maria Menendez, had a brief meeting with O.J.’s mother, Eunice, in the waiting room at the county jail. The women hugged as they wished each other well.
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