Menendez brothers found guilty of murder

A California jury yesterday found Lyle and Erik Menendez guilty of first- degree murder in the brutal shootings of their mother and father nearly seven years ago.

The Menendez brothers, whose first televised trial mesmerised American audiences and ended in a hung jury, could now face execution. With television cameras banned from their retrial, the brothers appeared pale but emotionless as verdicts were read by a court clerk. The jury found "special circumstances" that make the brothers eligible for the death penalty, including lying in wait for their victims and committing multiple killings.

Lyle, 28, and Erik, 25, the pampered children of a wealthy Beverly Hills couple, admitted shooting their mother and father from behind as they watched television. But they said they feared their parents would kill them after Lyle threatened to expose the alleged incest secrets of an unnatural family.

In a hearing expected to last several weeks, the jury will now decide whether they should be sentenced to death. Prosecutors are expected to stress that the brothers left their parents' house and reloaded their weapons before returning to kill their wounded mother.

The bodies of Jose and Kitty Menendez were found on 20 August 1989, in a room drenched with blood. Their two children went on a six-month spending spree with the family's $14m (pounds 9m) fortune, claiming their parents had been murdered by the mafia. They were arrested after evidence leaked from confessions to a psychiatrist, and their inheritance was eaten up by legal fees during their six years in jail.

In 1993 Lyle Menendez transformed a courtroom in which some of the jurors had begun to doze off with a spell-binding performance from the witness stand. He testified, in tears, that his father had raped him and forced him to perform oral sex. Lyle painted a picture of a horribly dysfunctional family where he visited his father's own sexual violence on his younger brother and where his mother, bitterly resenting their relationship, flew into vicious rages.

Sobbing from the witness stand, Lyle admitted killing his parents, and was asked why. "Because we were afraid," he whispered. The defence became notorious as the "abuse excuse". The boys were tried separately, and the result was two hung juries in January 1994. In Erik's trial the jury split six-six on gender lines, women siding with the charismatic defence attorney Leslie Abramson. The prosecution learned its lesson in the second trial. They called one of the US's top forensic psychiatrists to testify that Erik Menendez was acting rationally when the killings occurred. They also hammered what came to be known as the "Kitty factor". While the father was arguably the chief target of the boys' hate, their mother was shot repeatedly as she lay on the floor. Prosecutor David Conn claimed this factor "got lost in the shuffle" of the first trial.

Judge Stanley Weisberg, reacting to the media circus surrounding the OJ Simpson trial, banned cameras from the courtroom and handed down a series of rulings hostile to the defence, despite pleas from Ms Abramson to "Give us a break".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own