For several years, Erik and Lyle Menendez have been portrayed as cold-blooded killers who murdered their parents for money, but the movie “Menendez: Blood Brothers?” depicts the brothers in a different way.
The Lifetime movie aired on June 12, 2017 and focuses on the Menendez brothers and their motive for killing their parents, Jose and Kitty, in 1989 in the den of their Beverly Hills Mansion.
It seemed like the Menendez brothers would get away with the crime because they had a solid alibi and Lyle’s frantic 911 call depicted them as grieving children. But, Erik’s taped confession to his therapist and the brothers’ spending sprees resulted in their arrest in March 1990.
When it was revealed that the brothers spent some of their inheritance money on clothes, cars and money, many believed their greed caused them to murder their parents, but the 1993 trial proved there was more to the story, which the movie primarily focused on.
The movie included graphic scenes of sexual abuse and portrayed Jose Menendez as a strict father and Kitty as an alcoholic who turned a blind eye toward the issues in the household. The movie also portrayed the brothers as helpless victims who believed murder was the only way to escape their fears.
The Menendez brothers said they were sexually abused by their parents for several years, mainly from their father, Jose, a successful entertainment executive and believed he would kill them if they revealed the truth.
“I did not kill them out of hatred, or money, or even because of the abuse,” Erik said during his testimony. “We killed our parents because we were afraid.”
The next day, Erik said his father sexually abused him from the ages of 6 to 18. During the trial, family members of the Menendez brothers confirmed the brothers’ allegations of sexual abuse.
Diane Vander Molen, a cousin of the Menendez brothers testified that Lyle confided in her about the sexual abuse in the summer of 1976.
“Lyle asked if he could sleep in the bed next to mine because he said he was afraid to sleep in his own, because his father and him had been touching each other down there, indicating that it was his genital area,” Molen said.
Molen said she told Kitty Menendez but Molen could tell by Kitty’s demeanor that she did not believe any of it, which coinicided with the brothers’ allegations that their mom overlooked the abuse.
Andres Cano, another cousin of the brothers, said that Erik was 13 when he told him he was being sexually abused. Cano said Erik told him that Jose was giving him genital massages and Erik wanted to know if it was normal for fathers and sons to do this.
After hearing the Menendez brothers’ testimonies and the witnesses’ accounts, the jurors questioned the severity of the abuse and to which extent the abuse justified their actions. Jurors were unable to find a verdict and declared a mistrial on Jan. 13, 1994.
The second trial began in August 1995 and Judge Stanley Weisberg restricted the defense attorneys from focusing on the alleged sexual abuse and barred witnesses from the previous trial to testify, which created a different outcome.
The jury accepted the prosecution’s argument that the brothers murdered their parents to receive the family fortune and rejected the defense’s contention that the killings were a response to abuse.
The brothers were found guilty of first-degree murder on March 1996 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Erik and Lyle were separated after their conviction-Lyle is in the California Mule Creek State Prison and Erik is in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional facility. The brothers appealed their verdict in September 2005, but were denied parole.
“Menendez: Blood Brothers?” provided the audience with insight on the life of Erik and Lyle Menendez and caused some viewers to have sympathy for the brothers and criticize their conviction.