CNN LARRY KING LIVE
A Look Back at the Menendez Brothers Murder Case
Aired August 20, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Fourteen years ago on this very day, the grisly double murder in Beverly Hills of Jose and Kitty Menendez. Two trials later, their own sons, Lyle and Erik Menendez, the rich and handsome brothers, are sentenced to life in prison for killing their own parents with over a dozen shotgun blasts.
Joining us with intimate details of the case, Dr. Will Vicary, the psychiatrist who testified for the defense in both trials and the first person Erik Menendez told that he'd been molested. David Conn, lead prosecutor in the 1996 retrial that convicted both Lyle and Erik Menendez. Dr. Cyril Wecht, the renown pathologist, who testified for the defense in the retrial. Mary Jane Stevenson -- she covered both trials. And then in a while, Court TV anchor Nancy Grace, a former prosecutor, and high-profile defense attorney Chris Pixley.
The sensational Menendez brothers murder case next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It was made into a major TV movie. It was an incredible story. Fourteen years ago today, August 20th, 1989, the bodies of entertainment executive Jose Menendez and his wife, Kitty, found in their Beverly Hills mansion, victims of fatal shotgun blasts. Their two sons, Lyle and Erik, told police they discovered the bodies. The pair would eventually confess to the heinous double murder, claimed their father had sexually abused them. After first a mistrial, the second trial eventually convicted both.
Here, before we ask Mary Jane to get us up to date on the story, we want you to hear the 911 call that Lyle placed to the 911 operator. You can hear Erik in the background. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: Hello (UNINTELLIGIBLE) emergency.
LYLE MENENDEZ: Yes, police...
911 OPERATOR: What's the problem?
LYLE MENENDEZ: We're the sons of...
911 OPERATOR: What's the problem? What's the problem?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Someone killed my parents!
911 OPERATOR: Pardon me? LYLE MENENDEZ: Someone killed my parents!
911 OPERATOR: Were they shot?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Yes!
911 OPERATOR: They were shot?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Yes! (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
911 OPERATOR: What happened?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Shut up! Erik, shut up!
911 OPERATOR: What happened? We have units en route. What happened?
LYLE MENENDEZ: I don't know!
911 OPERATOR: Who shot who?
LYLE MENENDEZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I just came home!
911 OPERATOR: You came home and found who shot?
LYLE MENENDEZ: My mom and dad!
911 OPERATOR: Do you know if they're still in the house, the people that did the shooting?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Erik, get away from them!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Mary Jane Stevenson covered the first trial for "The Los Angeles Daily Journal" and covered the retrial for Court TV. How long did it take between them making that call and all the fuss they were going through to them being accused or suspected?
MARY JANE STEVENSON, REPORTER, COVERED BOTH TRIALS: I don't remember exactly how many months, but it was a long time. What happened was, the Beverly Hills police, they did not do what they normally would have done in a case like this, and that is check out the people who were home, the people who are related to the deceased right away. What they could have done was check Erik and Lyle Menendez that night for shotgun residue on their hands. And had they done that, they probably would have arrested them that night. But because they didn't do that, they believed the stories of the two brothers. And it took months before they realized that, in fact, their suspects were the two kids who were sitting right under their noses.
KING: It is automatic, if you come upon a murder scene, even if the family is frantic, to take those things? If a wife is frantic...
STEVENSON: It's not automatic, but... KING: ... with her husband dead?
STEVENSON: ... you know, really, the rule of thumb of what police are supposed to do in this kind of situation is you have a circle of people. And you're really supposed to start with the people who are closest to the deceased, especially in a situation like this. But they didn't. They started with the people who were furthest away and slowly, slowly moved toward and finally, you know, discovered it was Lyle and Erik.
KING: And what led them to be suspicious?
STEVENSON: Well, there were a number of things. Lyle and Erik went out and spent a boatload of money after the murders, and this sort of cast suspicion on them immediately. A lot of people thought they weren't acting like two mourning sons. And then there were two reporters for "The LA Times" who were investigating the case, and they cast suspicion on Lyle and Erik. And then finally, what happened was, Erik confessed to his psychiatrist and the psychiatrist...
KING: Dr. Vicary.
STEVENSON: No, no, no. This was...
KING: Another psychiatrist.
STEVENSON: Right, Dr. Oziel. And then there was this whole shenanigan with Dr. Oziel and his girlfriend, and Dr. Oziel claimed that the brothers threatened his life. And so he -- or actually, first this girlfriend went to police and told them that Erik had confessed. Then the case went up to the supreme court to see if they could use the confessions. But it was after that confession that police were finally able to arrest them.
KING: Now, you had nothing to do with the first trial, right, David?
DAVID CONN, PROSECUTOR WHO CONVICTED BROTHERS IN 1996: That's right, Larry. I came in for the retrial after the -- both juries -- each defendant had a separate jury. Both juries hung up. It was set for a retrial. And then I retried the case with just one jury.
KING: For both of them.
CONN: That's right.
KING: OK. Were you in the prosecutor's office at the time of the first trial?
CONN: Oh, yes. Certainly.
KING: Were you shocked at the mistrial?
CONN: Well, I think we all were. We all looked at the evidence and thought it was a very strong case. I think we were all taken aback somewhat by the strength of the defense. It was a fabulous defense. It was extremely successful.
KING: This was Leslie Abramson.
CONN: Leslie Abramson...
KING: And who defended the other one?
CONN: ... did a fantastic job. And there was...
CONN: Joe Lansing (ph) was the co-counsel on the case. And they just did a fabulous job in convincing a jury there was truly a reasonable doubt in this case, not so much as to whether they killed their parents but what was the degree of homicide involved.
KING: How was the jury split? Do they know?
CONN: The jury came very close to...
CONN: ... convicting the defendants for lesser crimes, for second-degree murder. And if it hadn't been for just one holdout on Lyle's jury, Lyle would have been convicted of second-degree murder.
KING: Therefore, not gotten life in prison.
CONN: That's right.
KING: Right? How, Dr. Vicary, did you get involved?
DR. WILLIAM VICARY, PSYCHIATRIST WHO TESTIFIED FOR DEFENSE: I was asked by Leslie Abramson at the very beginning to interview both brothers, with the notion that there must be something going on in the family that provided a motive for these killings. And I was quite shocked that both brothers tearfully told me how wonderful their father and mother were and how much they loved them and respected them.
KING: At that time, were they saying they didn't do it, or had they already confessed?
VICARY: No, they had already confessed.
KING: So why did they -- why did the -- what reason did they give you for killing them, if they loved them?
VICARY: It was a bewildering state of affairs which...
KING: ... they said?
VICARY: I was bewildered that they both expressed such love for these parents that they had brutally murdered with multiple gunshot wounds.
KING: And they gave you no reason why they loved them and killed them?
VICARY: That's right. So I was in abeyance, but I kept going back every week, once or twice a week, and talking.
KING: They were in jail at the time, right?
VICARY: Right. And so on the maximum-security unit, I would sit there and -- mainly with Erik, but also with Lyle. And Erik would cry and cry and cry and just tell me how wonderful his parents were. And I'd try and ask him specific questions to learn the motive. And I really went week after week, month after month, before the details of what was going on in that family slowly began to trickle out. And what would happen is that he would trickle out a little bit, and then he would break down. He couldn't go any further.
KING: And the story was they were sexually abused.
VICARY: They were verbally terrorized, physically tortured, and both sexually abused, but primarily Erik.
KING: And do you believe that?
VICARY: Well, it was very convincing, not only to me, but to four or five of the most prominent, well-respected researchers and experts in child sexual abuse in the United States.
KING: Dr. Wecht, what was the role of you, as a pathologist, in the second trial?
DR. CYRIL WECHT, PATHOLOGIST, TESTIFIED FOR DEFENSE IN 1996: In the second trial, following the amazing inability of the prosecution to obtain verdicts against these two boys in the first trial, the prosecution spent a huge amount of money. Perhaps Mr. Conn can tell you. I understand it was maybe around or over $1 million -- in any event, a large amount of money to have things reconstructed.
Dr. Roger McCarthy, who was an eminent scientist, whom I respect very much -- at that time, I think, CEO of Failure Analysis Associates, an organization which determines, you know, why did your stepladder collapse or why did your car go off the road, why did the roof cave in on you -- they do all of these marvelous things, an excellent group of Ph.d.'s They had entered into this situation, I believe, at the invitation of the district attorney's office to reconstruct this shooting and to bring it down to the final point.
Dr. McCarthy expressed an opinion with his colleagues that FAA, Failure Analysis Associates, could determine the sequence of all 13, 14 shots and the positions of both shooters and both victims with each shot. So I dealt with that, and I testified...
KING: Did you refute that?
WECHT: Well, I would like to believe I did. Again, Mr. Conn is in a better position. It was my understanding that Dr. McCarthy had testified, I think, for about seven days or so. I testified -- Mr. Conn was very effective on cross-examination -- I think for about three hours or so, part of an afternoon. And as I understand it, the jury dismissed Dr. McCarthy's sequence in less than half an hour. I think -- that was what was reported to me. I was...
KING: What was the importance, David, of the sequence.
CONN: Well, what we wanted to do was, we wanted to show just how brutal this crime truly was. So we wanted to give the jury a blow-by- blow account of exactly what happened and the viciousness of both defendants.
KING: Did Dr. Wecht prove a formidable witness?
CONN: He was, of course, a formidable witness, as he always is. He did a very intelligent analysis, pointing out all of the problems with the evidence that we presented. However, I still think it had its value in persuading the jury of the horror of the crime.
KING: He wasn't there to cover for them or anything. He was just presenting (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as he saw it, right?
CONN: No, he's there to point out the problems with the prosecution's case.
KING: All right, we're going to take a break, come back. Nancy Grace and Chris Pixley will be added to our panel. By the way, Chris Pixley, we understand, spoke to Erik's wife. We'll ask about that. We'll go over this whole case. We'll be including your phone calls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYLE MENENDEZ: He raped me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you cry?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you bleed?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you scared?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Very.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ask him not to?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you ask him not to?
LYLE MENENDEZ: I just told him, I don't -- I don't...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - SEPTEMBER 1993)
ERIK MENENDEZ: Before -- almost all the times with the sex, I would say to myself, I'm not going to let this happen. I'm going to stop it. As soon as he comes into my room, I'm going to fight him. I'm going to jump on him. I imagined myself on the ledge, jumping down on him, all kinds of things to stop sex. And whenever he came into the room, I just -- I just crumbled, and I couldn't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us from New York is the anchor of "Closing Arguments" on Court TV, Nancy Grace, the former prosecutor. And in Atlanta is defense attorney Chris Pixley. I'll get right to them.
But an interesting thing was said during the break by Dr. Vicary, backed up by Mary Jane Stevenson, that if Erik didn't break, Lyle would have gotten away with this.
STEVENSON: I think so. You know, those two bragged that they committed the perfect murder. And it wasn't the perfect murder because they bragged about it. But it was really Erik who broke down. And I don't think Lyle would have broken down. And had he committed the murder by himself, I think he probably would have gotten away with it. They didn't have murder weapons. They didn't have enough physical without those confessions of the brothers that would have led to an arrest, even.
CONN: Yes, I think that that's correct. Lyle was always the stronger of the two. We believe that Erik was the one who actually came up with the idea, but it was just a passing idea. It was Lyle who, in essence, pushed Erik into doing it.
KING: And you were telling us, Dr. Vicary, that the next day, they came back to get the shotgun shells out the trunk, and they said -- they told police it was tennis equipment and the police let them take it?
VICARY: Yes. In the back of the car that they drove on the night of the crime, they had, after the crime, placed the spent shotgun shells, plus some that were not used. And they were in the trunk of the car when the police came the night of the killings. And that car was kept there by the police. The next morning, they came back and they asked the officers guarding the car if they could get their tennis equipment out of the back trunk. And at that time, they...
KING: Let them.
VICARY: ... put the shotgun shells in their tennis equipment and walked away.
KING: Nancy Grace, is this among -- studying this for a career, one of the most bizarre cases?
NANCY GRACE, COURT TV: Larry, it is. And it is not only one of the most bizarre cases I've ever seen or tried, it is one of the most horrendous cases, in that throughout their entire lives, these two boys had been handed everything by their parents. You know, their father came to this country as a Cuban immigrant with absolutely nothing and worked his way all the way up to the top of a major company, Hertz Rental Car, through his own hard work and ingenuity.
But when it came to his sons, one time after the next, whenever they would get into trouble, money trouble, getting kicked out of Princeton, one problem after the next, he would bail them out and try to help them do better.
When I read and learn about the facts, which Mary Jane was there, of this case, the brutality, especially -- even if you wanted to believe, Larry, that their father had molested them -- I spoke to Kitty's family today. But even if you wanted to believe their father molested them, the brutality in which they murdered their mother -- she was crawling away, Larry, when they shot her point blank in the head -- both parents shot in the kneecap of the left knee to make this look like a mob hit. Then they had the wherewithal to pick up the shotgun shells and create this fantastic call to 911.
KING: So you had to be shocked over a mistrial.
GRACE: I was entirely shocked. But you know, Larry, when you get somebody on the jury and you have -- that's sympathetic, and you have an excellent defense, such as, I was abused throughout my childhood, you needed an expert like the one brought on the second time under prosecutor Conn, Parker Dietz, to defuse all that and show the jury that it was simply not true.
KING: Chris Pixley, you spoke today with who, Erik's wife?
CHRIS PIXLEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Erik Menendez's wife, Tammy (ph). Yes.
KING: When did they get married?
PIXLEY: They actually got married after Erik was in prison, and it's a very interesting story. But Tammy is a very strong woman. And I -- you know, she's a delightful person, very well-spoken. And I think she still holds out hope, maybe hope against hope, that the appeal, which is still ongoing and has made its way to the federal habeas process now, could be still possibly successful for Erik.
KING: What's the appeal based on, Chris?
PIXLEY: Well, I -- you know, I haven't seen the appeal itself. I know that there are six grounds. At this point, at this stage, these are constitutional arguments. Basically, Erik will be arguing his due process rights were violated. He may be making bats (ph) and arguments about the jury. He may be making arguments regarding ineffective assistance of counsel. They are fairly well along. This is kind of the last step. They're seeking a certificate of appealability to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. If that is not successful, Larry, that really is the end of the line.
KING: David, have you seen the appeal?
CONN: No, I haven't seen that, but of course, I'm very familiar with the state appeal. And I know that the federal appeal is based on many of the same grounds that they allege in the state appeal. And essentially, the supreme court or the courts of this state had no problem whatsoever rejecting all of their arguments.
KING: Dr. Wecht, pathologically, have you ever seen a case like this?
WECHT: No, I haven't. It should be pointed out that Mr. Menendez sustained five shotgun wounds, and one of them was essentially a contact wound directly in the back of the head, in the midline. And it's my understanding, as I recall, that Lyle stated that he, in fact, did make that shot, knowing that it was in the back of the head. And that shot, by the way, was immediately fatal and it essentially destroyed his head and eviscerated most of the brain. Then there were four other shots.
And it was Lyle, too, by the way, who I believe -- and Mr. Conn will either corroborate or tell me if I'm wrong -- that Lyle is the one who, when the mother still continued to make some sounds and had some slight movement after she had been shot multiple times -- Lyle went out, reloaded his gun...
GRACE: That's right.
WECHT: ... and came back in and shot her again. And she was shot eight times, possibly nine. There are some shots that went through an arm and into the chest.
KING: Mary Jane, was there any sympathy in Los Angeles for the Menendez brothers?
STEVENSON: Oh, sure. I mean, they had a hung jury...
KING: I know, but...
STEVENSON: ... the first time, but...
KING: ... was there a -- like, community-wide...
STEVENSON: I think community-wide, it mirrored the jury. You couldn't find...
STEVENSON: Yes. I couldn't find 12 people in the same room who would agree with what was going on. This is...
KING: Because of the...
STEVENSON: ... in the first trial.
KING: ... believed the testimony...
STEVENSON: The second trial was very different.
STEVENSON: They believed that something went terribly awry in that house. Many believed the sexual abuse. Others just believed that the parents were such tyrants that they deserved to be murdered. And so...
KING: There was evidence the father was a little tyrannical, right?
STEVENSON: Oh, yes. There was definitely evidence of that. And you know, you had family members who testified that, in fact, there was some evidence of molestation.
KING: Let me get a break and come back, and we'll ask Nancy Grace what Kitty Menendez's relatives may be thinking. We'll be taking your calls in a little while. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - SEPTEMBER 1993)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you were about 13, did you think that it might be happening to someone else?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And who did you think it was happening to?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Erik.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did you do something about it?
LYLE MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you do?
LYLE MENENDEZ: I talked to my dad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you say to your dad?
LYLE MENENDEZ: I told him that I knew what was going on with him and Erik, and I heard the noises, and that I wanted him to leave Erik alone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did he say to you?
LYLE MENENDEZ: He told me that Erik was -- that Erik made things up sometimes, but that it -- that it would stop and that we should keep it just between us or he'd kill me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - SEPTEMBER 1993)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you ended up wherever you ended up, was the firing over?
ERIK MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what had stopped the firing? Why did it end?
ERIK MENENDEZ: I just fired as much as I could.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how much was as much -- did you empty the gun or did...
ERIK MENENDEZ: Every shell I had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, Nancy, what is Kitty Menendez's -- what relatives did you speak to?
GRACE: I spoke to her blood side, her brother and other members of that family. And as of today, they say that every year when this day comes, it's as if it has all happened all over again. They say it is like an open wound that never seems to heal, and that even today, on this anniversary, they still are not to the point where they can actually speak of what happened. And the more they hear of Mr. and Mrs. Menendez being dragged through the mud, the portrayal of Kitty as being an alcoholic and the father, Jose, as being a child abuser, is so painful to them, and they believe that it's untrue.
KING: There was a lot of witnesses, right, Dr. Vicary, on their behalf, in the first trial?
KING: That said they were mistreated, right?
VICARY: Yes. There were multiple witnesses from within the family, relatives and other people, such as coaches, teachers, et cetera.
KING: That was about mistreatment, not sexual mistreatment, right? They didn't know about sexual mistreatment.
VICARY: There was a lot of evidence about verbal mistreatment, physical mistreatment, and even some witnesses referring to sexual mistreatment.
KING: And Chris, we understand that part of their appeal is that many of those witnesses were not allowed at the second trial. PIXLEY: Yes. David did an outstanding job at the second trial of excluding, I think it was, 13 witnesses who had testified earlier and either excluding or limiting the testimony of a number of the expert witnesses for the defense. And so much of the defense was effectively gutted. They did not have the opportunity to put up a great deal of evidence about the sexual abuse, which I think led to the jury questioning possibly whether they had or hadn't been sexually abused.
And even then, I think there was no explanation for why they didn't simply leave the home, if they were being abused. They were older. And the jury didn't get answers to a lot of questions that they had, I think, in the second trial. At least, that is what you hear from the defense side.
KING: Key question, based on belief. Do you believe, Mary Jane, that they were sexually abused?
STEVENSON: You know, I don't know. I'm one of those people who believes that something went awry in the house. I don't think that they just killed their parents for the money because, as Nancy said, they got everything they wanted before their parents were dead. They didn't have to kill their parents...
KING: To get money.
STEVENSON: ... to get their hands on the money.
CONN: Absolutely not. I don't think there's a shred of evidence that was ever presented that I would regard as reliable indicating that they were sexually abused. I don't believe it at all.
KING: So you think they killed them why? Hold on, Cyril.
CONN: I think they killed them solely out of greed, solely because they wanted the money.
KING: Dr. Vicary?
VICARY: I side with the reporter from CNN who was there every day from...
KING: Mary Jane, from Court TV.
VICARY: From Court TV.
KING: Dr. Wecht, what do you believe?
WECHT: Larry, I just want to make a comment about one of the elements of the appeal process that was commented upon in passing, ineffective counsel. I think that anybody who -- and Ms. Stevenson certainly is the one to comment on this. The first trial was absolutely incredible, Leslie Abramson and the other woman attorney who was equally fantastic. I think she may have been from the public defender's office. And I think she got out of the second trial, requested for whatever reason. And Leslie Abramson's performance in the second trial was equally fantastic.
Just think, you got more than a dozen shotgun blasts of two parents, and so on, and you have a mistrial in the first trial, and you have the second situation, and a very excellent prosecutor like David Conn, to have it go this route. So if, sometimes, you know, like the attorney in Texas that went to sleep -- and so you don't have ineffective counsel here. That should be commented upon...
GRACE: Hold on!
WECHT: ... and absolutely blasted right out of this case.
GRACE: No, that's not true! That is not true! And Dr. Wecht...
KING: You think they were ineffective, Nancy?
GRACE: I think Leslie Abramson is a fantastic defense attorney. I've admired her for years, and she's on the other side of the fence. But it came up at the time of trial that a psychiatrist's notes for the defense had been redacted by the defense, rewritten and handed over to the state to avoid incriminating statements by the defendant. Now, that came up in trial, Mr. Conn. I'm sure you recall that, discovering that the notes you had had been faked. And when that came out, it led to an immediate motion for mistrial, based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Now, that's the truth! OK? That's...
KING: ... trying to be effective, and it may have been ineffective.
Let me get a break...
GRACE: It's fraud!
KING: We're running a little over time here. I got to get a break. And when we come back, we'll include your phone calls for Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley, Dr. William Vicary, David Conn, Dr. Cyril Wecht and Mary Jane Stevenson.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Tomorrow night, Sr. Charles Barkley discusses Kobe Bryant. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIK MENENDEZ: I ran around, shot my mom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where did you shoot her?
ERIK MENENDEZ: I reached over and I shot her close.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was that the last shot that was fired? Is that yes?
ERIK MENENDEZ: Yes. Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know if you lined up directly with that second figure or if you were off to the side?
E. MENENDEZ: I don't know. I don't know. I just walked into the room. I just started firing. I don't know. I didn't think about these things. I didn't think where was this, where was that. I just started firing. And I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's reintroduce our panel.
In New York, Nancy Grace, the anchor of "Closing Arguments" on Court TV, the former prosecutor.
In Atlanta, the noted defense attorney Chris Pixley.
Here in Los Angeles, Dr. William Vicary, the psychiatrist who testified for the defense at both trials, the first person to whom Erik Menendez confided that he had been molested. He has visited Erik in prison.
David Conn was the lead prosecutor in the retrial that resulted in the murder convictions of the Lyle and Erik Menendez. He's a former deputy district attorney, now a criminal defense attorney. The Menendez brother are in jail for life without parole.
In Pittsburgh is Dr. Cyril Wecht, renowned pathologist, coroner of Allegheny County. He was an expert witness for the defense in the 1996 retrial of Lyle and Erik Menendez.
And in Los Angeles is Mary Jane Stevenson, who covered the first Menendez trial for "The Los Angeles Daily Journal." Separate juries deadlocked, were unable to reach verdicts. She covered the retrial for Court TV, where both brothers were convicted.
Before we go to calls, Dr. Vicary, it was your notes that were changed, right?
VICARY: That's correct.
KING: All right. We go to Melrose, Massachusetts, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. We love your show, especially Nancy Grace.
KING: What's the question?
CALLER: The question is, Was the entire Menendez estate of $14 million used for the boy's defense or was it left to others?
KING: Who knows? Mary Jane, do you know?
STEVENSON: Most of it was used for the defense. But, of course, they used a lot of it before they even, went to trial.
KING: How much did they spend?
STEVENSON: I don't remember exactly. It was hundreds of thousands of dollars.
GRACE: I've got a figure for you.
KING: What do you got, Nancy?
GRACE: I got a figure for you, M.J. M.J., does this ring a bell? Within four months of their parents' death they had spent almost $1 million, including within three days of their murder, they went out and spent $15,000 on Rolex watches, new clothes. They got a new car. The Alpha Romeo was not good and within 24 hours of the death, they had their parents' safe on the way to a probate attorney and -- correction -- their parents were so fed up with them, they had threatened to take them out of the will. So that happened the year that these two killed their parents.
KING: Costa Mesa, California, hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry. My question is for the panel. I wanted to know if anyone is familiar with the rumor that Jose Menendez was an alleged serial child molester and I just wanted to know if anyone has ever come forward to substantiate those....
KING: Dr. Vicary.
VICARY: Yes, that's actually a fact.
KING: That is a fact?
VICARY: There were people...
KING: Oh, you mean allegations -- the fact is there were allegations.
VICARY: There were allegations and they were investigated. They were followed up. People were interviewed and admitted that they had been either molested or approached by the father sexually. However, because of their position -- some of these people were in the entertainment business. They did not wish to make this a public statement, and so this information, thus far, has not come out publicly.
GRACE: Wait a minute. With these guys facing the death penalty, Larry? They wouldn't come forward? I find that a little tough to swallow.
CONN: We saw no reliable evidence during the trial that was true. We heard about that rumor and I don't think that was substantiated.
KING: To Detroit, Michigan, hello.
CALLER: Thank you. I'd like to point -- I'd like to point out -- long before the Menendez trial, the story was serialized by Dominic Dunne in "Vanity Fair" magazine and there was never any mention of sexual abuse until the trial started. Why was that never, ever brought out during the trial?
KING: Mary Jane?
STEVENSON: Well, it became public just a few days before trial started. The defense attorneys reported what they were going to argue at trial, and -- but nothing came forward because back then, there weren't the same discovery rules that there are in the courts and the defense didn't really have to come forward with what their defense was going to be until right before the trial. So that's when it all became public.
KING: Chris, what did Erik's wife, Tammy, tell you about what he's doing and how he is?
PIXLEY: Well, Tammy's explained that, you know, not unexpectedly, Erik has a difficult time in prison, that he also holds out hope for the appeal to be successful. You know, they've been going through this for an awful long time.
Erik communicates with her on a regular basis, but for anyone that understands the prison system, you know, the access to the phone is something that's only on a rotational basis. There are only certain days of the week it's allowed. It's very expensive, actually, to even have those conversations. You can only have them for a few minutes. So it's been difficult for Erik, I think, as with all prisoners, having contact with someone on the outside is really the key. And she's been a huge help to him.
KING: Dr. Vicary, she wrote to him from Minnesota, right? And wound up meeting him? Is that the way it started?
VICARY: Yes, this was all an accidental relationship where she just felt an appeal since he was abused and she had been through a lot of difficult times in her life.
KING: She was bused herself?
VICARY: Yes. And so they communicated. Then she came out eventually after a year or so, visited him, went back home and then decided, as they continued to correspond, to move into a little town next to the prison and come to visit him on a regular visit and then finally they decided to get married.
KING: And they were in separate prisons, David?
CONN: They were in separate prisons and they will remain in separate prisons and they probably won't be together for the rest of their lives. KING: Vancouver, British Columbia, hello.
CALLER: Oh, hi, Larry. I have a question for the panel.
CALLER: Have Lyle and Erik kept in touch with each other and if so, are they ever allowed any phone contact?
KING: Dr. Vicary?
VICARY: Yes. They have maintained contact by writing each other and then they can maintain some kind of telephone correspondence by going through Erik's wife.
KING: Oh, I see. She's like the medium?
KING: Ottawa, Canada, hello.
CALLER: Hello. I have a question for Chris Pixley. Certainly not for Nancy Grace, who, no, not everyone thinks walks on water. Isn't it unfair for a prosecutor to be able to retry a case, a second or third time, because eventually -- first of all, the defendants don't have the emotional or financial resources to fight even one case, much less second or third case. For example, a defendant, a witness, can cry in one case, but is hard to cry a second and third time, and assuming the crying is genuine, no one would believe the witness in the second or third case. And eventually...
KING: We can answer the question in one sentence. Why was there a second trial -- Chris.
PIXLEY: There was a second trial because the two juries that heard the first trial were hung. And, in fact, they were split right down the center.
KING: Can you try them 100 times if you keep getting hung juries?
PIXLEY: You could. It's not unconstitutional to do that. The question is...
KING: Not double jeopardy?
PIXLEY: No, it's not. You can't be acquitted of a crime and then tried again for it, that's double jeopardy. In this case, where you have a mistrial it can be tried again. I suppose that if there had been a hung jury the second time, the prosecution and David could speak to this more than I can, would have had to make the decision, do they want to go for a third trial.
KING: Would you have?
CONN: I'm sure we would have. We felt all along it was a strong case and eventually they would be convicted of first-degree murder.
KING: Did you have any sympathy for them as the prosecutor?
Any at all when you said, I hate killing, but these kids were treated pretty badly?
CONN: As a fellow human being, you naturally have sympathy for anyone in that situation. But I felt fully justified in seeking the death penalty against them, even though the jury rejected that. And I felt satisfied that they were sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives.
KING: Why do you think Dr. Wecht rejected the death penalty?
WECHT: I think that here, that element of the sympathy did play out. Not to the point that they had a conviction reduced to second- degree murder, but the jury in not going along with first-degree murder, with what apparently seems to be such a heinous crime, to me, is a clear manifestation of some doubt on the part of the jury and some belief by many of them that there was validity to the charges of continuous child sexual abuse.
KING: Nancy, you would have sought the death penalty, too?
GRACE: Yes, in the brutal shooting of your own mother, and that's if you choose to believe the father molested them. I know he was a tyrant, everybody agrees to that. But even if you choose to believe he molested those boys, what about the mother?
What came out at trial was they decided they had to shoot the mother because she was going to be a witness against them. That means when their mother, and try to imagine your own mother was crawling across the floor bleeding, they shot her point blank in the side of the head. And when they ran out of ammo, they went outside and reloaded and shot her again.
KING: Didn't they think, Dr. Vicary, that she knew about the sexual abuse and didn't do anything. That's the reason they used.
VICARY: A critical element occurred the day before the killings when the mother announced, when she was confronted during a family argument with all four present, that she knew all along that the father had been raping Erik and that she was no fool and that she was with the father until the end, no matter what.
KING: We'll be back with more calls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you love your mom and dad?
L. MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On August 20th, 1989, did you and your brother kill your father and mother? Did you kill them for money -- is that no? L. MENENDEZ: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you kill them because you wanted to pay them back for the way they had treated you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, I object (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overruled.
L. MENENDEZ: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you kill your parents?
L. MENENDEZ: Because we were afraid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E. MENENDEZ: I was just firing as I went into the room. I just started firing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In what direction?
E. MENENDEZ: In front of me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was in front of you?
E. MENENDEZ: My parents.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you were firing at your parents?
E. MENENDEZ: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. Before we take another call, Nancy has a question for Dr. Vicary.
Before she asks it, they almost got the death penalty, right -- Mary.
STEVENSON: Yes. The jury was on the eve of delivering their verdict, the jury forewoman had a heart attack. So she had to be taken off the jury and they had to start deliberating all over again. They still came to the same verdict. They voted guilty. When it was time to vote for life or death, all of the jurors all 11 of the 12 jurors wanted the death penalty. And I had interviewed all the jurors later. The woman who had a heart attack ended up living and told me she wanted death for Lyle and they all wanted life for Erik. So, they would have come back with the death penalty for Lyle and life for Erik except for this young woman having a heart attack. She was replaced by a young man who convince the rest of the jury to give Lyle life instead of death, because she felt sorry for Lyle. KING: Nancy, what do you want to ask Dr. Vicary.
Dr. Vicary, I'm intrigued by your thought your belief to this day that these two were molested and what concerns me is that at one point apparently Erik had told you, and I almost hate to repeat this on the air, Erik Menendez had told you, his father's homosexual lover had come to the house shortly before the killings and told the boys their parents were going to murder them. Later, he recanted that. He told you he was lying, that that was an entirely made up story. So if he would lie about such a thing, why would you believe the rest of his story, and why did you change and falsify your notes?
VICARY: Those are two good separate questions. The first was that, both of these kids were quite disturbed and mixed up and had lots of psychological problems. And at times, they did lie. There's no question about that, beginning with the 911 call. So that has to be conceded. With regard to the notes, it was never my idea to ever do anything like that in 25 years, I had never done it. But Leslie Abramson made me an offer that I couldn't refuse.
KING: Which was?
VICARY: You make changes in those notes, even though I said this doesn't make any difference, there's nothing incriminating in here. She said you make those changes or you are off the case. You will not be able to testify on behalf of Erik, who I had been treating for six years and a lot of this information about the sexual abuse would never come out. I should have said fine, but I didn't. I couldn't bear to see him go to the gas chamber while I did nothing.
KING: Los Angeles, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. Hi, love your show.
KING: Fine what's your question.
CALLER: I'd like to ask the doctor if he thinks that Erik was afraid for his life that night, that Lyle was running the show.
KING: Doctor, do you think so?
VICARY: I think they were both terrified that night. This was a horrific scene that was taking place. They were at their wit's end. They felt they had no choice, that if they tried to run away, if they told anybody, that the father would track them down, would have them killed. He had actually warned them about that many times in the past.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments and get in some more phone calls after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) L. MENENDEZ: I just told him that I didn't want to do this, and that it hurt me. And he said that he didn't mean to hurt me. And he loved me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was that important to you, that he loved you?
L. MENENDEZ: Yes, very. But I still didn't want to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All the scenes you've seen were for the first trial. The second one was not telecast. Castro Valley, California hello.
CALLER: Hello, my question is for Nancy. Are they getting very many visits from other relatives and friends? Thank you.
GRACE: I think they are getting visits. One of them is currently married. One of them has been married and divorced behind bars. So I think they still have a pretty steady visitor list.
But, you know, in that last clip that Larry was showing about how much he didn't want to have sex with his dad anymore. You know what they didn't want? They didn't want to go out and get a job. They would play tennis for hours and hours every day while their dad foot the bills. That's what they didn't want. To get disinherited.
KING: They didn't work, Mary Jane?
STEVENSON: No, they didn't work. They did play a lot of tennis. Nancy's right.
KING: This was a weird house. By the way, we're close to leaving, and I can't leave Dr. Cyril Wecht without asking him, can you tell us anything about what you've discovered in the Peterson case?
WECHT: No, I can't, Larry. I can tell you that there's a lot of discovery still to be accomplished and shared with the defense. I can tell you that.
KING: Wait a minute. Are you saying there is still more that you need to discover and Dr. Lee needs to discover?
WECHT: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I don't have any hesitation in saying that. Sure. We're far from finished with our discovery.
KING: Even though the bodies have been turned over to the parents, right?
WECHT: Yes. The bodies. But there's a lot of other physical evidence and a lot of reports and analyses that are forthcoming from various state and I believe, even federal agencies.
KING: Is this going to be a very involved trial?
WECHT: I think so. KING: Long island, New York, hello.
CALLER: Hello. My question is for Nancy. I wanted to know her --
KING: Hello? Go ahead.
CALLER: My question is for Nancy.
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: I want to know Nancy's initial gut feeling when this first happened if she thought it was the brothers because her gut is usually accurate. I watch her all the time. I wanted to know if you think the sentencing is fair and if they were under any drugs or alcohol when this happened.
GRACE: They were not under any drugs or alcohol. The biggest plan they had that evening was to go to the cheese factory and have dinners with their friends. They planned it ahead of time, a year before. One had written a screen play in which a son kills he parents for $150 million inheritance. That was Erik.
At first I did not suspect them, until I found out about their wild spending spree. 1 million bucks in four months, right, M.J.?
KING: David, your explanation for that is what? Why do something so stupid like spend?
CONN: I think it was their greed that got the better of them. It was the greed that drove them to commit the murder in the first place and it was the very same greed that drove them to spend the money immediately. Part of it was the fact that they were arrogant and they learned that arrogance from their father.
KING: So there's no doubt in your mind that this father was not all he's cracked up -- not that he deserved to get killed.
CONN: Right, he was a very strong father, over domineering, very harsh with them. There's a lot that you could say about the father that was not well. But it didn't justify a murder.
KING: How well is he handling prison, Dr. Vicary? We only have 30 seconds.
VICARY: Erik is an exemplary prisoner. He's well regarded by the other prisoners. Well regarded by the guards and even respected by the warden. And he has spent his crime constructively. He's taken college courses. He has been active in a program that has been presented to the California legislature to improve the disciplinary procedures within the prison.
KING: Thank you all very, very much. We'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Strange story. Don't go away.
KING: Tomorrow night we have quite a show in store for you. Our special guest is Sir Charles Barkley. Not just one of the greatest basketball players who ever played, but a man who once considered running for governor of Alabama. And a man who is pretty good with a word. He's here to discuss with Kobe Bryant.
Speaking of being pretty good with the word -- like that? Stand by, New York.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I thought you were going to say that I wanted to run for governor of Alabama.
KING: To hose "NEWSNIGHT" Aaron "the bee" Brown. Hey we got Barkley "the bee" and you.
BROWN: There we go.
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