In November 2017 NBC released an eight episode TV series, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. Kudos to NBC for creating a gripping series that shows the facts in this case.
10 out of 10 stars. This should be required viewing.
On August 20, 1989, Lyle (21) and Erik (18) Menendez killed their parents Jose and Kitty Menendez in their Beverly Hills, California home. The ensuing investigation discovered that Jose had begun raping and beating his two sons at the age of 6 and that Kitty had begun raping Lyle at the age of 11. Both parents were verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive to both boys as more than a dozen witnesses stated in depositions and testimony. What most people don’t know is that all of this testimony was prevented from being admitted at trial by the homophobic, sexist, and racist judge in charge of the case, Judge Stanley Weisberg.
Stanley Weisberg is a white Jewish male who was born to a poor blue collar family. He grew up with a chip on his shoulder not only against people of color and those of other religions, but against women. What the NBC series reveals are the very personal attacks he made during the trial against the female attorneys in the case and anyone of color. In particular he spewed prejudicial remarks regarding Erik’s homosexuality and yet refused to remove himself from the case when he was so obviously biased against the two sexually abused kids.
So let’s talk about Judge Stanley Weisberg. Previous to being assigned to the Menendez trial, Judge Weisberg was assigned to the Rodney King trial. If you’ve had your head under a rock, Rodney King was the African American man who was nearly beaten to death by several white police officers in Los Angeles. Judge Stanley Weisberg was appointed to the case and immediately had it moved to the all white suburb of Simi Valley, CA where the white cops were acquitted of all charges. Los Angeles’ black community responded with the ’92 LA Race Riots.
Early on in the Menendez trial, Judge Weisberg was pressured by the District Attorney’s office (where he used to work as a Deputy District Attorney) to help them convict the Menendez brothers. He immediately allowed cameras in the courtroom so daily footage could be televised, hoping to become famous like Judge Lance Ito of the OJ Simpson trial. That footage backfired, however, when the cameras were always focused on Erik’s female attorney, Leslie Abramson. That Judge Weisberg was jealous of Abramson’s attention from the media became obvious from the very beginning as he made derogatory and sexist remarks toward Abramson as well as homophobic and racist remarks toward her homosexual Cuban-American client Erik Menendez.
What the series brings forward are the facts surrounding the murder, namely that Jose Menendez and Kitty Menendez had been sexually molested as children and created a home full of rape, sexual brutality, and fear culminating in the boys killing their parents in self-defense. Jose Menendez had been raping Erik since the age of 6 and while he’d stopped raping Lyle, he hadn’t stopped raping Erik. Two weeks previous to the murder Erik was accepted into college and was moving out of the home. Jose would no longer have access to his sex toy, his 18 year old son. So he threatened to kill Erik and this time he made a point of showing Erik the guns he planned on doing it with. Jose and Kitty planned on taking the boys away on a boating vacation for the weekend and dumping their dead bodies in the ocean where they would never be found. In fear for their lives, they killed their parents.
Jose Menendez was from Cuba and was first raped by his mother at the age of 5 years old. Yes, that’s five years old. Her husband was gone for long periods of time and she took out her sexual frustrations on her child. Kitty Menendez was also raped by a family member at a young age and began raping her son Lyle when he turned 11. It was an agreement between Kitty and Jose that Lyle would stop being Jose’s sex toy and would become Kitty’s while Jose would continue raping Erik. That any parents could make such an agreement is so perverse it’s hard to believe, but the number of witnesses to the depravity of these two parents was long and reputable. Multiple witnesses came forward with testimony that the boys had told them they were being abused but no one would help them. Multiple witnesses gave affidavits of the multiple times they’d witnessed both Jose and Kitty publicly humiliating and shaming the boys followed by beatings. That these two boys were systematically abused for fourteen years and then told by their parents they were going to be killed if they left to go to college is not really disputed. How can it be with so many witnesses? So why was it not allowed to be included in the second trial?
That brings us back to Judge Stanley Weisberg. He wanted to be famous like Judge Lance Ito in the OJ Simpson trial. He allowed cameras in the courtroom and became jealous when those cameras focused on Erik’s attorney, Leslie Abramson. He then proceeded to make derogatory remarks to Abramson and to the two defendants as well as to the female attorneys in the case. How was he not removed for bias? Erik was seeing a psychologist who was recording their sessions. That psychologist’s mistress went public with the tapes and Judge Weisberg allowed them to be admitted as evidence which violates the right to doctor-patient confidentiality. Abramson took the case to California’s Supreme Court which ruled the tapes inadmissible. Judge Weisberg violated court procedure and California law and admitted them anyway in violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling. :0
The District Attorney’s office, which had just botched the OJ Simpson case, urged Judge Weisberg to force a guilty verdict, but they also urged the white police detectives involved to urge witnesses to forget their testimony. In fact, they took two of the witnesses out for a night on the town in LA, paid for their entertainment and liquor, and then told them to say “I don’t remember” when on the witness stand, which they did.
During the first trial, only some of the testimony regarding the sexual abuse was allowed before Judge Stanley Weisberg stopped it. The defense’s entire case revolved around this evidence and still the jury came back with an inability to convict the two brothers because it was obvious the murder was in self-defense and the judge had disallowed a manslaughter charge in favor of first degree murder. The judge ordered a mistrial and they retried the case. The second time around, Judge Weisberg disallowed any evidence or testimony regarding the boys sexual, emotional, and physical abuse by their parents. In essence, he refused to allow them to defend themselves. Since appeals can only be based on evidence provided at trial, he also insured that no appeal would ever be successful, a tactic he’d used on other cases. Only during the penalty phase, AFTER conviction, was the jury allowed to hear that the boys had been emotionally, sexually, and physically abused by their parents for fourteen years or that their parents had told them they were going to kill them that weekend. Even then Judge Weisberg cut off Abramson before she could present all of the testimony regarding the boys’ abuse and accused her of tampering with a witness (which she was found innocent of later). Several members of the jury stated publicly after the trial that if they had been allowed to hear the testimony regarding the boys being sexually and physically abused they never would’ve found them guilty. 🙁
If I’ve learned anything from the debacle of trials in Los Angeles it’s that it’s not safe in southern California. Judge Stanley Weisberg is responsible for some of the worst trials in Los Angeles’ history including the Rodney King trial and the Menendez trial. It is also believed that his racist intervention in these two trials are what provoked the multi-racial jury in the OJ Simpson trial to come back with a not guilty verdict.
This series is free on the NBC channel.