Menendez brothers sentenced to life without parole for murder of parents

 

A JUDGE sentenced Erik and Lyle Menendez yesterday to two consecutive life prison terms each without the possibility of parole for the 1989 murder of their wealthy parents.

"The evidence is quite clear they considered killing one parent, then both parents, then decided ultimately on killing both as part of a conspiracy," said Judge Stanley Weisberg.

He rejected defence motions to reduce the convictions to second degree murder or voluntary manslaughter for Erik (25) and Lyle (28).

The sentencing ended the seven year drama played out intermittently on national television as the two defendants tearfully testified they killed their parents after years of emotional and sexual abuse. The brothers have 60 days to appeal.

Still unsettled are the wedding plans of Lyle Menendez to his pen pal fiancee, Ms Anna Eriksson, who exchanged smiles with him as he walked into the courtroom. Superior Court Judge Nancy Brown approved prison leave for the Menendez brothers to attend the ceremony set for Monday, but another judge reversed the decision.

In April a jury spared the Menendez brothers the death penalty after defence lawyers argued they killed for fear of their own lives after years of sexual and mental abuse by their parents.

They were convicted for the first degree murders of entertainment executive Jose Menendez (45) and Kitty (47), whose bodies were found in their Beverly Hills mansion.

Jurors later told reporters that, despite the ugliness of their crimes, they unanimously decided that they could not sentence the brothers to death because of the aberrant family life they had endured.

The brothers first denied killing their parents and grieved and sobbed publicly at the mansion on the night of the murders. Days later, they quietly began spending lavishly.

When investigators pieced together the puzzle, the brothers admitted the murders but claimed they killed their parents for fear that they themselves would be killed for revealing mental and sexual abuse.

Abuse was central to the brothers' two earlier trials, which resulted in deadlocked juries that could not decide whether to convict them of manslaughter or first degree murder, which can carry the death penalty.

But the presiding judge during a third, combined trial refused to allow the jurors to hear testimony about allegations of sexual or mental abuse, and the brothers were convicted of first degree murder.

After their conviction in March, the judge allowed abuse allegations to be revealed during the penalty phase, giving the defence a chance to persuade the jury not to order the death penalty.

While defence lawyers insisted past abuse led to the murders, prosecutors said both young men shot their parents to keep them from changing their will.

The Menendez brothers were not initially suspects in the killings but came under scrutiny when investigators learned they carried their dead parents' safe to the home of a probate lawyer the day after the murders. Lyle's arrest followed a police search of a psychologist's home that turned up two incriminating tapes.