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Menendez brothers complain about their long prison sentence in jailhouse interview 34 years after shooting their parents dead in ‘self-defense’

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The Menendez brothers, who were convicted of murdering their parents in their Beverly Hills mansion 34 years ago, claim they have been portrayed as heartless criminals without consideration they may have been victims of abuse.

Erik, now 53, and his brother Lyle, 56, are serving life without parole for fatally shooting their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, in 1989 in the den of their Beverly Hills mansion. 

Jose was shot in the back of the head while Kitty was shot 15 times.

Lyle, who was then 21, and Erik, then 18, admitted they fatally shot-gunned their entertainment executive father and their mother, but said they feared their parents were about to kill them to prevent the disclosure of the father’s long-term sexual molestation of Erik.

During their televised trial, the brothers claimed they had been molested by both parents for years. Prosecutors contended there was no evidence of any molestation. 

They said the sons were after their parents’ multimillion-dollar estate with jurors rejecting a death sentence in favor of life without parole.

But a new four-part Fox Nation documentary suggests that the media’s portrayal of the case might have been flawed.

Lyle Menendez seen in 2023

Erik Menendez seen in 2023

The Menendez brothers, serving life for murdering their parents in 1989, claim media coverage depicted them as criminals rather than abuse victims. Lyle, left, and Erik, right, are pictured in recent mugshots from 2023

The brothers were moved into the same housing unit at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego in 2018

The brothers were moved into the same housing unit at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego in 2018

‘This was never a case about actual innocence. It’s always been a case about why this tragedy occurred and how Eric and I can ever reach a place emotionally,’ Lyle Menendez said during the film.

‘I know as an adult, sexual violence in a household create space which, otherwise non-violent people can do the unthinkable.’

During their trial, the brothers did not deny the killings but claimed that they had endured years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their music executive father, forcing them to live in constant fear, leading to their eventual decision to murder their parents.

The pair claimed they acted in self-defense, namely out of fear their father would kill them. 

Arguments put forward by their defense team described the pair as ‘not harboring the mental state needed for first-degree murder and were therefore guilty of manslaughter’, but a Los Angeles jury found the brothers guilty of first-degree murder in March 1996.

Menendez argues had the pair been tried on charges of manslaughter rather than first-degree murder, the brothers would have been released years ago after serving  an 8-10 year sentence.  

‘I think looking back 34 years now on the trials Eric and I and our family thought we were going into a manslaughter case with the district attorney that understood the dramatic impact that sexual violence creates in a person,’ Menendez said to Fox Nation. 

‘We ended up with the same sentence as a serial killer. Every day we watch People parole and 34 years later, you know Eric and I are still watching.’

Erik, right, and Lyle Menendez, left, are seen during their 1990 murder trial

Erik, right, and Lyle Menendez, left, are seen during their 1990 murder trial 

The home is pictured in this evidence photo that was used during the trial

The home is pictured in this evidence photo that was used during the trial

On August 20, 1989, Lyle and Erik walked into the den of their $5 million Beverly Hills mansion and shot Jose point blank in the back of the head. A photo of the crime scene is seen above

Chilling crime scene photos showing the blood-soaked couch where Jose Menendez was shot five times by his own sons became central to the prosecution

The brothers, who initially blamed the killings on the mob, later claimed they shot their parents in self-defense after years of horrible sexual and emotional abuse by their father, Jose

The brothers, who initially blamed the killings on the mob, later claimed they shot their parents in self-defense after years of horrible sexual and emotional abuse by their father, Jose

The TV special entitled ‘Menendez Brothers: Victims or Villains,’ challenges the conventional narrative surrounding killings which saw the pair painted as ‘greedy rich kids’ and callous killers.

‘If they [the brothers] were ‘the sisters,’ they wouldn’t have done that,’ their attorney Mark Geragos while speaking of the media’s mockery. ‘They would never do that today.

‘It’s ludicrous. They were already living in the lap of luxury. It wasn’t like luxury or wealth was aspirational, because they were already wealthy. You don’t get wealthier than Beverly Hills,’ Geragos continued.

‘People have strong opinions, and yet they’re not based on the actual facts. They’re based on their recollections of the press, and the narrative that was run, which was ‘rich Beverly Hills kids kill their parents for money,’ added their post-conviction attorney Cliff Gardner.

During the trial, there was limited testimony about claims of sexual abuse.

Erik Menendez, left, and is brother Lyle, in front of their Beverly Hills home

Erik Menendez, left, and is brother Lyle, in front of their Beverly Hills home

Erik, left, and Lyle Menendez were responsible for the brutal killings. At the time of the killings, Lyle was 21 and Erik was 18

Erik, left, and Lyle Menendez were responsible for the brutal killings. At the time of the killings, Lyle was 21 and Erik was 18

The siblings fatally shot their mom Kitty, a socialite, and dad Jose Menendez, a wealthy record company executive at their Beverly Hills home. The brothers claimed it was self-defense

The siblings fatally shot their mom Kitty, a socialite, and dad Jose Menendez, a wealthy record company executive. The family is seen above in an undated photo

Erik, left, and Lyle Menendez, right, are seen in more recent 2016 and 2018 mugshots

Erik, left, and Lyle Menendez, right, are seen in more recent 2016 and 2018 mugshots

Jurors were only allowed to vote on murder charges rather than manslaughter.

Last year, the brothers filed court papers seeking to overturn their convictions based on new evidence, including a letter written to a cousin of the brothers.

Andy Cano, claim how Erik had confided in him of being abused by their father, well before they were shot dead.

‘I’ve been trying to avoid dad. It’s still happening, Andy, but it’s worse for me now,’ a letter written by Eric reads. ‘Every night I stay up thinking he might come in. … I’m afraid… He’s crazy. He’s warned me a hundred times about telling anyone, especially Lyle.’

Both lawyers, Gardner and Geragos, filed a writ last May of habeas corpus citing the letter asserting the brothers’ convictions should be vacated.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon now has until April 11 to respond to the petition.

Should the brothers’ convictions be vacated, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office will then need to decide whether to retry the case.



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