The Menendez brothers' murder trials: The convicts, attorney, judge and everyone involved, where are they now?
Thirty years later, the Menendez brothers' case continues to both fascinate and perplex people, and it has been adapted into multiple movies, miniseries and documentaries
In 1989, 21-year-old Lyle and Erik Menendez, 18, shot their father, LIVE Entertainment executive José Menéndez, and mother, Kitty, in the den of their Beverly Hills, California home. The brothers then dumped their shotguns in Mullholland Drive before buying tickets at a movie theatre to solidify their alibi. Once home, Lyle called 911 and cried "Somebody killed my parents!" The ensuing court case and trial become a national sensation when Court TV, a new television network, broadcast the trial in 1993. While they weren't immediate suspects in the case, Erik couldn't bear the guilt of his crimes and confessed his role in the murder to his psychotherapist Dr L Jerome Oziel. Violating patient-doctor confidentiality ethics, Oziel recorded the confession on tap in an attempt to impress his mistress, Judalon Smyth, who ended up providing the police with the information, resulting in Lyle and Erik's arrest in 1990.
In the months following the killings, neither of the brothers displayed the behavior of young men that had recently found both of their parents murdered in cold blood. In fact, they acted quite the opposite, spending exorbitant amounts of their father's $14M fortune on a Rolex, Porche, Jeep Wrangler, personal tennis coach and more. They also bought lots of clothing and took exotic vacations thinking they had more money coming in for them, like their father's $5M insurance policy, which wasn't the case. In the confession tapes, Erik said that they'd killed their mother to put her "out of her misery" and Lyle had made it clear that both of them had been involved in the crime. Smyth, who turned the tapes in, said she and Oziel had a rocky relationship, claiming that he was controlling and abusive. She contacted the Beverly Police to reveal the information that she had on the Menendez brothers after Oziel allegedly attacked her.
During the three years after the arrest, the legal battle fought was over the admissibility of Oziel's tapes, and the California Supreme Court eventually ruled that the tapes could be played. The trial began in the summer of 1993 and both brothers gave a compelling testimony that lasted over a month, describing in emotional, graphic and sordid detail the years of sexual abuse they had experienced at the hands of Jose and Kitty Menendez. Their lawyer, Leslie Abramson, maintained that the brothers had murdered their parents in an act of self-defense because they believed their father would rather kill them than have the abuse exposed. The two juries, one for each brother, deadlocked and a mistrial was called, following which the lack of conviction was deemed a travesty.
The retrial began in October 1995, and the judge, Stanley Weisberg, was much more restrictive in allowing the defense attorney to focus on the alleged sexual abuse. Lyle and Erik were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Thirty years later, the Menendez Brothers' case continues to both fascinate and perplex people, and it has been adapted into multiple movies, miniseries and documentaries. Here is what each of those involved in the case is up to now.
Lyle and Erik Menendez
The Menendez brothers last saw each other on September 10, 1996. Although they hoped to be in the same prison, they were taken to different facilities and remained separated for over 20 years. They couldn't talk over the phone, so they sent each other letters and played chess by sending moves to each other. Each brother also got married whilst in prison to women on the outside. They finally reunited in 2018, after Lyle was moved to Richard J Donovan Correctional Facility from the Mule Creek State Prison. They lived in separate housing units until April and shared a teary reunion when they finally met. While at Mule, Lyle, 52, ran a support group for inmates who have suffered sexual abuse, and Erik, 49, works with terminally ill and physically challenged inmates.
Dr Jerome Oziel
The controversial psychotherapist from the Menendez brothers case, Oziel's secret tape recordings of Erik's confession led to the pair's arrest and was admitted as evidence during the infamous 1993 court trial. Oziel was stripped of his psychology license in 1997, after being accused of breaking confidentiality rules and having sex with female patients, as per Los Angeles Times. Currently, he is in the business of hosting relationships, marriage and sex seminars in Portland, Oregan. According to his website, Oziel, who is listed as "Jerry", "focuses on seminars for single, widowed, or divorced women and mother/daughter seminars that provide extensive practical advice on how to deal with men in hundreds of situations in which women tend to make major mistakes".
Judalon Smyth pretty much gained a celebrity reputation after she testified at the 1993 trial for the Menendez brothers case. She had turned in Oziel's tapes of Erik Menendez's confession to his parents' murder that helped further the case. Smyth was having an affair with the married Dr Jerome Oziel at the time that the Menendez brothers had regular consultations with Oziel. She only went to the Beverley police with her information after calling it quits with the psychologist. After the brothers were sentenced, she pretty much lived in obscurity and spoke publically about her involvement for the first time in 2015, for the Reelz Channel true-crime documentary, 'Murder Made Me Famous'. In an interview where she talked about the public scrutiny she received after her testimony, she said “It was a little confusing for me the way the media was,” she said. “I really didn’t understand the attack I was going to come under for doing the right thing.”
Criminal defense attorney, Leslie Abramson, became a star, gaining national attention for her role in the 1993 Menendez brothers murder trial. She represented Erik and presented parental abuse as the defense for the alleged crime. She even stirred controversy when it was revealed that she had Erik's psychiatrist delete and rewrite passages from his doctor's notes. When confronted about it twice by the judge, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. A year after the brothers were convicted for their crimes in 1996, Abramson published a book 'The Defense Is Ready: Life in the Trenches of Criminal Law'. In 2004, she was hired by Phil Spector, who had been charged with fatally shooting actress Lana Clarkson, replacing his former attorney, Robert Shapiro. She stepped down from representing him citing conflicts between them, and Spector went on to be convicted of murder, under different counsel. Abramson is now retired by makes public appearances from time to time.
Judge Stanley Weisberg
Weisberg is a former prosecutor and Los Angeles County Superior Judge known for presiding over the Menendez brothers' trials. In a number of other cases, he made controversial rulings that were subject to criticism. Weisberg was assigned to preside over the trial in 1993 and presided over two trials, with the first ending in a hung jury. The two Menendez brothers trials "engendered a running debate" over Weisberg's conduct as a trial judge, "and the influence that television may, or may not, have had on his rulings". He had allowed cameras in the courtroom for the first trial but banned them from the second. He also disallowed many defense motions that he had allowed in the first trial. After Lyle and Erik Menendez were convicted in the second trial, Weisberg sentenced them to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1996. Weisberg also presided over the trials of the police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King in 1991. He retired from the judgeship in 2008.