Lyle and Erik Menendez went on trial again Wednesday in the brutal slayings of their parents, this time without the TV cameras that made them household names in the first trial.
Jurors were grim-faced as Deputy District Attorney David Conn said the brothers “tore into the bodies” of their parents with shotgun blasts at the family’s Beverly Hills mansion six years ago.
“We will show they were ambushed in a storm of gunfire,” Conn said in his opening statement. “Large pieces of their mother’s body were blown away and they kept firing.”
Separate juries in the brothers’ first trials were unable to reach verdicts last year and mistrials were declared by Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg. One 12-member jury is hearing the retrial.
Conn opened his case by showing graphic pictures of the dead Jose and Kitty Menendez.
“They shot their parents in the arms, legs, torso and heads,” said Conn. “Hundreds of shotgun pellets tore into the bodies of Jose and Kitty Menendez.”
Some jurors looked intently at the photos. Erik, 24, looked down at the table when they were shown while Lyle, 27, looked straight ahead.
Erik’s attorney, Leslie Abramson, reminded jurors that they would be asked to decide between manslaughter and murder in the case.
“Manslaughter is all we’re asking of you,” said Abramson. “We’re not going to get up and say you must acquit because the gloves don’t fit or anything like that,” she added, referring to O.J. Simpson defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran’s closing argument.
She said the defendants did not dispute charges they killed their parents, but that her client and his brother did so because they thought their lives were at risk.
Contending Erik was a lifelong victim of sexual, psychological and physical abuse at the hands of his parents, the abuse “left them believing their parents would have and could have killed them.”
Abramson disputed the prosecution’s claim that the brothers committed the slayings out of greed. She said a $180 monthly allowance her client received from his parents was more than sufficient since Erik was a teen without vices or expensive habits.
She contended the brothers discovered just days before the shotgun slayings that their mother had known all along of the sexual abuse but did nothing to stop it.
Opening statements got a late start Wednesday because one of the six alternate jurors was sick. That alternate was dismissed.
Weisberg banned TV cameras and recording devices from the courtroom for the retrial, saying he feared coverage might taint the unsequestered jury. The brothers’ first trial in 1993-1994 was televised.
The judge is allowing still photography.