LIFE IN PRISON : BROTHERS SPARED DEATH PENALTY FOR KILLING PARENTS.Byline: Anne Burke Daily News Staff Writer
Jurors decided Wednesday to spare the lives of Erik and Lyle Menendez, recommending prison terms over death for the brothers in the brutal murders of their parents nearly seven years ago.
The eight-man, four-woman Van Nuys Superior Court jury sentenced the pair to life in prison without possibility of parole. The jury reached its verdict on the first ballot after 13 hours of deliberations over three days. From the beginning, no jurors argued in favor of death.
As the decisions were announced, female defense supporters in the front row gasped and wept. Lyle, 28, was visibly relieved and embraced his lawyers, Deputy Public Defenders public defender, governmental official who represents indigent persons accused of crime. U.S. Supreme Court decisions expanding the right to counsel to pretrial proceedings and holding that a person cannot be sentenced to even one day in jail unless a lawyer was Charles Gessler and Terri Towery, then smiled wanly at jurors.
Erik's lawyer, Leslie Abramson Leslie Abramson (born c. 1944) is a famous American criminal defense attorney best known for her role in the legal defense of Lyle and Erik Menendez. In 2004, she was hired by Phil Spector, who is charged with fatally shooting actress Lana Clarkson at his suburban Alhambra mansion, , who may be facing a lawyer misconduct inquiry stemming from note-doctoring allegations, smiled at Erik and shook her head, as if in disbelief.
``There was no way we could put them to death,'' said juror juror n. any person who actually serves on a jury. Lists of potential jurors are chosen from various sources such as registered voters, automobile registration or telephone directories. Bruce Seitz, 34, of Sylmar. ``Even though that horrible crime happened . . . there were good things about them that warranted life.''
Erik, he said, seemed to be a ``very nice person.''
Jurors said they were split about whether the brothers were sexually abused by their parents. That claim formed the core of the siblings' abuse defense. They also said that greed did not appear to be the primary motive for the Aug. 20, 1989, killings.
``It could have been that they wanted to be free,'' Seitz said.
District Attorney Gil Garcetti Gilbert "Gil" Garcetti (b. August 5, 1941) served as Los Angeles County's 39th District Attorney for two terms, from 1992 until November 7, 2000. Background
Gil Garcetti received a bachelor's degree in Management from the University of Southern California and a Juris , whose prosecution team fought hard for the death penalty, put a positive spin on the verdict.
``The important thing, I think, to remember here is the jury has convicted the Menendez brothers of first-degree murder with special circumstances special circumstances n. in criminal cases, particularly homicides, actions of the accused or the situation under which the crime was committed for which state statutes allow or require imposition of a more severe punishment. . As a result of that, they will spend the rest of their lives in prison,'' Garcetti said.
``Death is always a very difficult decision for any jury to reach,'' added the chief prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney David P. Conn. ``You really can't quarrel with a jury when they choose life instead of death.''
Prosecutors argued that the brothers killed for their parents' $14 million fortune.
Abramson said she did not consider the penalty phase a success, despite the verdict. She has insisted since the brothers were first arrested in 1990 that they killed their parents in panic and fear following years of abuse.
``What's a win? They're going to spend the rest of their lives in prison,'' she said.
Abramson's co-counsel, Barry Levin, said Erik, 25, was relieved but ``still has to deal daily with the agony and grief and remorse that he has.''
``He just hopes he can find some peace,'' Levin said.
Even though he will spend the rest of his life behind bars, the younger brother Wiki is aware of the following uses of "'Younger Brother":
``I could see Erik becoming a history researcher, a writer of books. He will never give up trying to be better,'' she said, noting that Erik already has penned one book while in jail.
Murder victim Kitty Menendez's brother, Brian Andersen of Downers Grove Downers Grove, village (1990 pop. 46,858), Du Page co., NE Ill.; settled 1832, inc. 1873. Downers Grove has undergone population growth and commercial development that include the construction of new office complexes. , Ill., said in a telephone interview that he was disappointed by the jury's decision.
``If any case was one where the death penalty was deserved, this was definitely the case,'' Andersen said.
Judge Stanley Weisberg scheduled a hearing for July 2 to hear motions for a new trial and to pronounce sentence.
While the jury's decision is only a recommendation, the judge does not have the option to impose a death sentence in contradiction of the jurors' wishes. Had they pronounced death, he could have reduced it to life.
The next step for the brothers will be a state Department of Corrections screening at a Southern California Southern California, also colloquially known as SoCal, is the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. Centered on the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, Southern California is home to nearly 24 million people and is the nation's second most populated region, prison reception center, said department spokeswoman Christine May Christine May (born 23 March 1948, Dublin) is a Labour politician, and was Member of the Scottish Parliament for Fife Central constituency from 2003 to 2007. Raised and educated in Dublin, Christine worked in the catering industry in Dublin and then London, and first moved to .
After that, the brothers will be shipped to one of eight maximum security prisons in California, she said.
``Typically, we try not to put crime partners together. At the same time, if they're family members, occasionally we will,'' May said.
Wednesday's decision brings a close to one of Southern California's most lurid lu·rid
1. Causing shock or horror; gruesome.
2. Marked by sensationalism: a lurid account of the crime. See Synonyms at ghastly.
3. criminal cases.
Although the brothers' retrial retrial n. a new trial granted upon the motion of the losing party, based on obvious error, bias or newly-discovered evidence. (See: newly-discovered evidence) largely was overshadowed by the O.J. Simpson case, the former contained elements that captured nationwide attention: a rich Beverly Hills Beverly Hills, city (1990 pop. 31,971), Los Angeles co., S Calif., completely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles; inc. 1914. The largely residential city is home to many motion-picture and television personalities. family; handsome, tennis-playing sons; Hollywood ties; claims of Mafia links; and allegations of incest.
The first trial ended in a mistrial A courtroom trial that has been terminated prior to its normal conclusion. A mistrial has no legal effect and is considered an invalid or nugatory trial. It differs from a "new trial," which recognizes that a trial was completed but was set aside so that the issues could be , but the case generated frenzied media coverage, TV movies and books. Court TV covered the first trial gavel gavel
small mallet used by judge or presiding officer to signal order. [Western Culture: Misc.]
See : Authority to gavel, fanning the nation's interest.
No television cameras were allowed in the second trial and interest waned until the jury's verdicts March 20.
Wednesday's recommendations came nearly one month after the brothers were found guilty of first-degree murder plus special circumstances of lying in wait and multiple murder.
The brothers, armed with shotguns purchased two days earlier in San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay. , pumped several rounds into Jose Menendez, 45, a wealthy entertainment executive, and Kitty, 47, in the den of the family's Beverly Hills mansion.
The brothers claimed they killed in a blind panic following a lifetime of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Erik maintained that his father sexually abused him for 12 years, while Lyle claimed he was abused by his mother.
At the first trial the abuse defense was deemed a success. After hearing from dozens of defense witnesses who attested to the brothers' allegedly grim upbringing, half the jurors from each of the brothers' separate panels favored manslaughter, the other half murder.
Mistrials were declared in 1994.
The second trial played out much differently, with the defense suffering key setbacks. The first occurred early when Weisberg ruled that the case would not become a ``child abuse'' trial, and threw out most of the negative evidence against Jose and Kitty.
Next, Weisberg all but ruled out the possibility of manslaughter verdicts when he told jurors they could not find that the brothers killed in fear for their lives.
Then, during the trial's penalty phase came a shocking disclosure on the witness stand that catapulted Abramson into the middle of an ethics scandal.
On April 4, just as the defense was wrapping up testimony in the penalty phase, Erik's psychiatrist, William Vicary, stunned stun
tr.v. stunned, stun·ning, stuns
1. To daze or render senseless, by or as if by a blow.
2. To overwhelm or daze with a loud noise.
3. an entire courtroom when he admitted before the jury that - at Abramson's instructions - he had deleted prejudicial prej·u·di·cial
1. Detrimental; injurious.
2. Causing or tending to preconceived judgment or convictions: material from notes that were to be turned over to prosecutors.
Nearly as shocking as the alleged note-doctoring itself was the deleted material, which suggested that the slayings were premeditated pre·med·i·tat·ed
Characterized by deliberate purpose, previous consideration, and some degree of planning: a premeditated crime. rather than carried out in fear and panic, as the brothers claimed.
On Wednesday, Abramson said she would refute Vicary's claims, but jurors said the disclosure on the stand made them feel better about their first-degree murder verdicts.
Among the deleted passages: Erik's recollection - during a jailhouse interview with Vicary - that he hated his parents and wanted them out of his life.
PHOTO (1 -- color) Lyle Menendez glances at the jury Wed nesday as his sentence is announced.
(2 -- color) Erik Menendez gets a smile from his attorney, Leslie Abramson, after the verdicts.
Phil McCarten/Daily News
(3) District Attorney Gil Garcetti, center, and members of the Menendez prosecution team meet reporters.
Hans Gutknecht/Daily News