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ACQUIT ERIK MENENDEZ, JURY ASKED.

Byline: Anne Burke Daily News Staff Writer

Erik Menendez's lawyer asked jurors Tuesday to acquit her client in the killing of his parents, saying the younger brother acted without malice in the 1989 shotgun slayings.

"My client is not a coldblooded killer," Leslie Abramson said during closing arguments. "He was a frightened, anxious, traumatized 18-year-old."

Abramson said Erik, 25, is entitled to acquittal because he did not have the mental state required for a murder finding in the Aug. 20, 1989, slayings of Jose, 45, and Kitty, 47.

The lawyer claims that at the time of the killings, Erik suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of a dozen years of sexual abuse by his father, and physical and psychological abuse by both parents.

"If, because of my client's mental disorder, he was in such a state of mind that he was not harboring malice . . . then you can't find him guilty of murder. Under that analysis, you can't find him guilty of any crime at all," she said.

A finding of malice is a necessary component of murder.

Prosecutors said outside of court they disagree with Abramson's argument. Deputy District Attorney David P. Conn said Erik harbored implied, if not expressed, malice when he burst into the den of the family's Beverly Hills mansion and emptied a shotgun into his parents.

Lyle's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Charles Gessler, is expected to give closing arguments later this week, but would not say what finding he would seek.

When the Menendez brothers retrial started in October, Abramson told jurors she would seek manslaughter convictions, which carry a top penalty of 11 years in prison.

On Tuesday, she told jurors she was not allowed to tell them why she now seeks acquittals.

Left unexplained was Judge Stanley Weisberg's ruling earlier this month barring defense lawyers from arguing imperfect self-defense in the death of either parent.

The judge found that there was insufficient evidence to support the notion that the brothers felt a genuine but unreasonable fear for their lives.

Weisberg also rejected the argument that the brothers killed their mother in the heat of passion, stating that she did nothing to provoke her own killing.

Heat-of-passion and self-defense reduce murder to manslaughter.

During her arguments Tuesday, Abramson told jurors they will have the option of convicting Erik of manslaughter in his father's death, and second-degree murder in their mother's death.

Abramson's plea for acquittal came as she attacked for a second day the prosecution's claim the brothers killed for their parents' $14 million fortune and to stop the couple from meddling in their lives.

"Parricide doesn't happen for money. It happens because abuse is happening and there's an effort to try and escape it," Abramson said.

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PHOTO

Photo Defense attorney Leslie Abramson delivers closing arguments for her client, Erik Menendez. Associated Press
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 28, 1996
Words:472
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