'Abuse excuse' killers keep the court show rolling

Edward Helmore in Los Angeles looks at the next legal blockbuster to grip the US

As the trial of OJ Simpson begins to wind down, the Los Angeles courts are bracing themselves for a rerun of another headline-grabbing case, the retrial of Erik and Lyle Menendez for the murder of their millionaire parents.

Jury selection begins today but, unlike the first trial, which ended in two hung juries, this time the proceedings will not be televised.

The original trial set the standards for both the OJ-style gavel-to-gavel television coverage and for what has become known as the abuse excuse. The two brothers, now aged 24 and 27, will again present the defence that they shot their wealthy parents in August 1989 after years of sexual abuse during which they feared for their lives.

They testified that on the night of the murders they believed their parents were about to kill them rather than allow the dark secret out.

So they killed them first, as the couple watched television in the family's Beverly Hills mansion.

The prosecution, which is now better prepared for this line of defence, will contend that the defendants' claims of sexual abuse are just the manipulative machinations of two cynical killers who acted out of hatred and greed.

For the retrial, Judge Stanley Weisberg has said that he intends sharply to limit the defence case and does not intend to hear the same parade of teachers, coaches and friends of the defendants who portrayed the Menendez house as a grim place where hugs and smiles were rare.

In spite of the limitations imposed by the judge, the defence, which will again be presented by the lawyer Leslie Abramson, will turn on the question that Lyle Menendez himself asked in a letter to his brother from jail: To what extent are admitted killers responsible for their actions?

The strategy, according to Mr Abramson, is "absolutely authentic and appropriate and legal and real."

The prosecution has that said it will follow a broad theme that it did not stress in the first trial: even if the brothers were abused, was it necessary to kill their parents?

"Any juror would have to wonder how the defendants would claim it was necessary to kill their parents under these circumstances," said deputy district attorney David Conn.

The prosecution will not call the therapist, L Jerome Oziel, to whom the brothers admitted the killings: in the original trial his credibility as a chief prosecution witness suffered after details of his extramarital affairs were made public.

Instead, the prosecution will present an audiotape which was made by Mr Oziel in which the brothers say that they killed their mother to "put her out of her misery" and that their father deserved to die because of his infidelity.

Despite the ruling that the abuse excuse may be used, the trial of the Menendez brothers appears unlikely to deteriorate into the protracted legal wrangling that has characterised the Simpson case.

The Menendez brothers are now broke and are being defended principally by public defenders.

There is one other difference: instead of favouring yellow sweaters to make themselves look warmer and younger, the brothers have elected to wear shirts and ties.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game