Front page, Los Angeles Daily News, July 3, 1996

On July 2, 1996, Judge Stanley Weisberg sentenced Lyle and Erik Menendez to life without parole.

Here’s how I described the scene in my book:

The courtroom became silent when the brothers walked in at 9:25 am.

Judge Stanley Weisberg quickly dismissed the defense motion for a new trial. “The rulings were the subject of extensive litigation, and the court is satisfied each ruling was correct,” he declared. “There are no grounds for a new trial.”

At four minutes past ten, Erik and Lyle Menendez were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, as the jury had recommended. “It is quite clear the defendants considered killing each parent separately,” said the judge. “This was a decision made over several days. They considered killing one parent, or both, and decided on both and followed that decision.” Weisberg called each murder a “separate act of violence.” Because of that, he said, the prison terms would be consecutive. He added on twenty-five years to life for the conspiracy conviction.

Both brothers received credit for the 2,306 days they’d already been in jail since their arrest in March 1990. Neither displayed any reaction. Both Father Ken Deasy and Lyle’s fiancee, Anna, had their hands clasped in prayer. The consecutive sentences meant there would be little chance Erik and Lyle Menendez would ever step foot outside of prison.

In a firm, clear voice, each brother said they understood their right to appeal. At 10:13 am, they were remanded to the custody of the California Department of Corrections. Defense attorney Barry Levin touched Erik’s arm gently. Lyle huddled briefly with his attorneys Charles Gessler and Terri Towery. As he stood to return to the lock-up, Lyle smiled and waved at Anna Eriksson, whose eyes were filled with tears. The brothers’ aunt, Terry Baralt, wearing a bright cranberry blazer, sobbed heavily as she left the courtroom.

Les Zoeller, the lead investigator for the BHPD, approached her with words of comfort. Nearby, four jurors from the second trial made small talk. “I don’t really feel badly for them,” said juror Andrew Wolfberg. “I’m confident we did the right thing, and I can live with it.”

Here’s what the prosecution and defense told reporters outside of the courthouse:

August 20 will be the 30th anniversary of the killing of Jose and Kitty Menendez.

Sketch of Lyle and Erik Menendez from March 20, 1996 – the day they were convicted of first-degree murder. © Bill Robles. All rights reserved.


The Menendez Brothers were sentenced 23 years ago this week