The judge in the Menendez murder case gave the defense a strategic victory Tuesday, ruling that Lyle Menendez will have to take the witness stand before prosecutors can play a tape recording of his jailhouse phone conversation with a San Fernando Valley woman who wrote a book about him.
Prosecutors said they consider the ruling a setback. But, Deputy Dist. Atty. David R. Conn added, “Once Lyle’s on the witness stand, we’ll be in a different position.”
Charles A. Gessler, defense attorney for Lyle Menendez, said, however, that there is no guarantee that his client will take the stand during the upcoming retrial.
According to court records, Lyle Menendez discussed with author Norma Novelli the testimony of prosecution witness L. Jerome Oziel, a former Beverly Hills psychiatrist to whom he and his brother, Erik, allegedly confessed. Oziel was a prosecution witness during the first trial but is not expected to testify during the retrial.
Lyle and Erik Menendez, 27 and 24, are charged with murder and could face the death penalty for the Aug. 20, 1989, slayings of their parents in the family’s Beverly Hills mansion. Jury selection is continuing and testimony is to begin in early October.
In his ruling, the judge noted that the tape’s evidentiary value was outweighed “by its potential danger for confusion of issues and of misleading the jury.”