On the night of August 20, 1989, the last night in the lives of Jose and Kitty Menendez, their elegant residential street in Beverly Hills was so still you could hear a leaf drop. That in itself was neither unusual nor something to arouse suspicion. People pay a steep price to live in such neighborhoods, and they cherish their peace and quiet.
On March 20, 1996, 23 years ago today, a jury of eight men and four women returned with a verdict after deliberating less than four days:
Erik and Lyle Menendez were both found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
It was a miscarriage of justice.
On March 8, 1990, Lyle Menendez was arrested in Beverly Hills and charged with killing his parents.
Brother Erik Menendez surrendered several days later.
The Menendez brothers have been in jail for more than half their lives.
On Monday, March 12, 1990, Erik and Lyle Menendez – who were being held without bail – were arraigned at Beverly Hills Municipal Court.
The charges against the brothers were read to a packed courtroom that included many supportive family members.
Erik Menendez looked exhausted because he hadn’t slept since his voluntary surrender and return from Israel a day before.
It was the beginning of the end the lives the boys once knew.
Yes, Erik Menendez was the co-author of a screenplay about a young man who kills his parents and inherits $157,000,000. The script that was completed — and shopped around Hollywood — before the murders.
No, it was never included as evidence in either of the two trials.
Did the media firestorm influence the verdicts?
On the Donnie and Grace In Your Face podcast, I explain why the second trial was so different from the first trial, what happened at the April 2018 reunion of the brothers after not seeing each other for 22 years, and why I believe that manslaughter – not murder – should have been the resolution of the case.
I was a guest on GDLA – the local morning show on Fox 11 in Los Angeles – with co-hosts Megan Colarossi and Elex Michaelson where we discussed was how different the media is today with the Internet, the 24-hour news cycle and social media compared to 1993 when the first Menendez trial took place.
If the trial were held today, I believe the verdict would have been manslaughter – not a murder.
In the current era of #MeToo, #MenToo, and the report by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office about abuse in the Catholic Church, people are more open and willing today to believe that boys as well as girls can be abuse victims.
It has been two months since the release of The Menendez Murders.
I am grateful for all the TV shows, podcasts, radio interviews, newspapers, and websites that have helped me share a new version of this story – the truth.
In the 2018 era of #MeToo, #MenToo, and the revelations about the Catholic Church, people are more willing to accept that Erik and Lyle Menendez’s emotional testimony of being abused was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Glenn Yeffeth, the boss at my publisher BenBella Books, interviewed me for the company’s podcast, Building Books, and we talked how most of the mainstream media got the original Menendez story wrong in the 1990s.
My first draft was 250,000 words and BenBella only wanted to publish 100,000 words.
Obviously, some some major editing was in store!
The mainstream media signed on to the District Attorney’s 1993 theory that Erik and Lyle Menendez were a pair of greedy rich kids, and that included NBC’s Jay Leno.
Leno’s monologues on The Tonight Show often featured at least one joke based on the Menendez testimony of the day.
When Erik admitted that he had a hard time getting dates, this was Jay’s gag:
Yesterday, Erik said his parents made fun of him because he never had a girlfriend. You know, I don’t know how to break it to him, but shooting your Mom and Dad isn’t really going to help your chances.