A state appeals court has upheld the murder convictions of Lyle and Erik Menendez, the tennis-playing Beverly Hills brothers who shot their parents to death in 1989.
Issuing a 112-page opinion Friday that established no new precedents, the 2nd District Court of Appeal found that a Superior Court judge made no errors in a series of controversial rulings limiting defense testimony about the brothers’ upbringing and mental states during a retrial that ended in first-degree murder convictions and life sentences in 1996.
The brothers’ appellate lawyers had raised myriad issues--ranging from the admissibility of tape recordings in which the brothers admit to a psychotherapist that they committed the shotgun slayings, to the judge’s alleged bias against the defendants.
“We find no abuse of discretion in the rulings of the trial court and affirm the convictions based upon the overwhelming evidence presented against the defendants at trial,” the court found.
The ruling upholding the convictions came as no surprise.
“It’s pretty much what we expected. We knew which way the wind would blow,” said attorney Leslie Abramson, who defended Erik Menendez during the two trials in Van Nuys.
The prosecutor in the case, David Conn, said he was pleased. He since has left the district attorney’s office.
The opinion states that it is not to be published in official law reports, indicating that the justices did not intend to create any legal precedents that could apply to future cases.
Some legal experts had feared that some findings in the case could undermine the battered woman’s defense, which is invoked in killings by women who are victims of domestic violence.
“If it’s an unpublished decision, then it hasn’t made new law and should have no effect on the battered woman’s defense,” said attorney Barry Levin, another defense attorney for Erik Menendez.
Erik, 27, and Lyle, 30, were sentenced in July 1996 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. They are serving those sentences in state prisons hundreds of miles apart.
Erik was 18 and Lyle was 21 at the time of the Aug. 20, 1989, slayings of their father, Jose, a demanding entertainment executive, and mother, Kitty, a homemaker.
Superior Court Judge Stanley M. Weisberg had also presided over the brothers’ first trial, which ended in 1994 with hung juries.