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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Larry King Interviews Tammi Menendez, wife of jailed murderer Erik Menendez
Aired July 15, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you answer the question.
ERIK MENENDEZ, CONVICTED OF MURDERING HIS PARENTS: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You telling Lyle, what.
E. MENENDEZ: My dad had been molesting me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight exclusive, the woman who married Erik Menendez after he was jailed for life for the brutal murder of his own parents. What's it like to be married to a convicted killer who may never go free. Tammi Menendez tells it all, exclusive, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Tammi Menendez, the wife of convicted double murderer Erik Menendez. She married Erik in prison after his conviction and sentence of life without parole. In a little while, we'll meet Chris Pixley, the famed Atlanta based defense attorney brought in by Tammi to consult with Erik's attorney on the newest appeal. And also Nancy Grace, former prosecutor and host of Court TV "Closing Arguments." They'll both be joining us, but we will begin with Tammi Menendez.
How did you and Erik make -- how did that start?
TAMMI MENENDEZ, MARRIED ERIK MENENDEZ: I started writing to him when the first trial was going on. And I wrote him one letter and he wrote back like a month later.
KING: What prompted the writing?
T. MENENDEZ: I was watching the first trial. My heart went out to him. I really supported him, and I felt sorry for what he was going through. And I wanted to reach out and say I supported him. Then he wrote back, so.
KING: So, you wrote it as letter of sympathy?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, sympathy.
KING: You were married at the time?
T. MENENDEZ: I was married.
KING: Your husband eventually died.
Did he know you were writing?
T. MENENDEZ: He did. He told his family and friends, that -- people knew that, you know, I had corresponded with Erik and he was OK with it. He read the letters and...
KING: Was he kind of surprised?
T. MENENDEZ: No. He thought it was kind of cool. I mean, you know, it's a small town I came from. And he had just thought it was kind of cool, he would watch Eric too on TV and he supported him.
KING: Where were you living at the time?
T. MENENDEZ: I was in a small town in Minnesota.
KING: You now live near the prison where he's at?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes.
KING: OK, you were writing a letter of support because of what, believing he didn't do what he was said he did -- what did you believe that prompted you?
T. MENENDEZ: I knew what he did, but I -- the child abuse, and there was -- I saw a sincerity in him that I just felt compelled to write and say I believed him.
KING: Any feelings for Lyle?
T. MENENDEZ: Not at all. No. Not at all.
KING: You separated the two brothers then?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes.
KING: With the sympathy factor.
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, a lot of people that wrote to the brothers usually wrote to the both of them. I never did. So...
KING: What was it about Erik that touched you?
T. MENENDEZ: He was the younger brother. I was just -- When I saw him on TV, I was more focused on the things that he was saying, and what he was feeling more so than his brother.
KING: You feel that Lyle was more the instigator?
T. MENENDEZ: I know that Erik wouldn't have committed the crimes without him, but I don't know that he was the instigator.
KING: All right, then what happened? He answers your letter, then what?
T. MENENDEZ: Then...
KING: First trial is a mistrial, right?
T. MENENDEZ: First trial is a mistrial.
KING: You only had the one letter back and forth during the first trial?
T. MENENDEZ: No we had many letters.
KING: You started writing him (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, it was monthly. It was, you know, not every week, it was just monthly.
KING: And what would you write about?
T. MENENDEZ: He would tell me what he was going through in prison. He would -- he wrote a little bit about what was going on in the trial, but the prison they read everything that goes in and out of there so he...
KING: He was in jail than right, not the prison, awaiting trial?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes.
KING: When did this develop into a relationship?
Did it happen while your husband was still alive?
T. MENENDEZ: It was after -- I lost touch with Erik for a few months, probably six months. And in the meantime he had moved to Sacramento state prison. And then after my husband died, I wrote him a letter, and he wrote me back. That's when we started corresponding more and then he asked me to come out and visit.
KING: I see. Were you surprised a little at yourself?
T. MENENDEZ: Very, very surprised. Yes.
KING: What am I doing?
T. MENENDEZ: Every time I would drive there, I would think to myself, what am I doing, just like you said. It was very surprising for me to be in that situation.
KING: Was your husband a young man?
T. MENENDEZ: He was 33 when he died.
KING: Of what?
T. MENENDEZ: Out of respect for his family I really don't want to go into that. I just -- they would prefer me not to.
KING: Do you have children?
T. MENENDEZ: I have a daughter.
KING: How old is she?
T. MENENDEZ: She's 8-years-old.
KING: How does she feel about this or is it still a learning process?
T. MENENDEZ: Well, it's a learning process. She loves to visit Erik at the prison and she has fun there. She never once has told me she doesn't want to go, and Erik's very good to her. He reads to her. He helps her with her homework and he's very supportive.
KING: What was your first visit like?
T. MENENDEZ: Very scary for me. I had never been in a prison before or even seen a big prison. So when I went there, there's lots of restrictions on getting in. There's certain clothing that you can't wear. You can't take anything in the prison.
KING: What do you mean take? You can't take a purse?
T. MENENDEZ: You can't take a purse. You can take one key and you can take dollar bills for the vending machine, and that's about it, everything else stays behind. And so, the first them time I went in I had black jeans on, they turned me away.
KING: Did they ask you why you couldn't wear black jeans?
T. MENENDEZ: They said that it resembles inmate clothes that they wear.
KING: What situation is Erik in? Does have a -- is he in a cell?
What is the setup?
T. MENENDEZ: He's in a cell with another inmate, a double cell, very small, very constricted.
KING: He's in the general population?
T. MENENDEZ: He is, but a softer yard. It's a yard where people in danger of -- they can't be in with the other inmates.
KING: Where they might be harmed?
T. MENENDEZ: So, it's softer yard.
KING: When, Tammi, did you realize you were falling?
T. MENENDEZ: It was probably into our third or fourth visit because I was drawn there. I could find myself, when I would go back home, I would fly back home, and I wanted to go back to see him.
KING: What did your friends say?
T. MENENDEZ: My friends were kind of in shocked.
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, a little curious, kind of...
KING: What about relatives, you have brothers, sisters, parents?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, my mother is very supportive. She visited Erik. She really likes him. And she's fine, but my other relatives don't understand. And I just don't really have the energy to explain it to them.
KING: Are they angry at you?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, some of them. Some of them are, yes.
KING: When you realized you were falling in love, did he sort of realize it at the same time?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, I think, more so than me.
KING: But the problem which has to be on everyone's mind, you can't have physical contact right,
T. MENENDEZ: No.
KING: There's no cohabitation in California. I think Mississippi allows it.
T. MENENDEZ: Right, there's some states that do, but there are conjugal visits for inmates. There are conjugal visits, but not for Erik, so.
KING: So, what then Tammi, do you get out of this?
T. MENENDEZ: The biggest thing is I get emotional support for him. And he's always there for me emotionally. And I didn't have that with my first marriage, so that was a big thing for me.
KING: How often do you talk?
T. MENENDEZ: Well, we talk -- because he has a job, he gets to the phone more, so we talk sometimes a couple times a day. But it's very difficult because the phone bills are very expensive.
KING: He has to call collect right?
T. MENENDEZ: Collect and it's very expensive.
KING: Do you get to visit him frequently?
T. MENENDEZ: Two days a week, Saturdays and Sundays. And I work on Saturdays, so I can only see him on Sunday. So, that's a big restriction, you know, for us.
KING: What do you do?
T. MENENDEZ: I own a pet shop.
KING: You do.
T. MENENDEZ: Pet shop -- I own a pet shop and I also do animal communications.
KING: Now, you're a young attractive smart lady.
T. MENENDEZ: Yes.
KING: Don't you have a desire to go out, hold hands with someone, be with someone, just normal?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, it is. I don't really have a desire to do that. I find being with Erik really fulfills that need. The holding of the hands, when I'm with him, is a big, big thing. You wouldn't think so, but just being next to him. And it would be different if I was sitting across the table from him and holding the hands and just...
KING: You get to touch?
T. MENENDEZ: You get to touch, yes. And when you come in you can kiss and then when you go out, you can kiss briefly, very brief.
KING: Is that only as a wife or could a girlfriend do that, too?
T. MENENDEZ: A girlfriend could.
KING: We'll take a break. We'll spend a couple more minutes with Tammi and then we'll bring in Chris Pixley and Nancy Grace. We're talking with Tammi Menendez, your watching Larry King LIVE, we'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E. MENENDEZ: At one point, I just started screaming, you know, I started saying stop, it hurts, it hurts.
L. MENENDEZ: I told her to tell dad to leave me alone. And he keeps touching me.
E. MENENDEZ: I had to give him a message, on my knees, until he started to have an orgasm.
L. MENENDEZ: He just said that it was our secret we should it just between us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
L. MENENDEZ: We just burst through the doors and I started firing.
E. MENENDEZ: I just fired as much as I could.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you empty the gun?
E. MENENDEZ: Every shell I had.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did you do after you reloaded?
L. MENENDEZ: I ran around and shot my mom.
E. MENENDEZ: I was just firing as I went into the room, I just started firing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Tammi Menendez. Did you ever get to see Lyle?
T. MENENDEZ: I was at Lyle's wedding. He just got remarried and I was there. But I don't visit him. He's not far from me. He's in Neal Creek (ph), which is not far.
KING: He's not in the same prison?
T. MENENDEZ: No. He never has been.
KING: Are you friendly with his wife?
T. MENENDEZ: No. Well, I know her, but we're not friends.
KING: Is it the hardest thing to know the fact that your husband killed 2 people? Isn't that the hardest part?
T. MENENDEZ: It's very difficult, because of the judgment of people. I find myself in a situation where everybody judges. Because I understand what happened, I understand how he could possibly do what he did.
KING: You give him a lot of understanding, because of the way he was abused?
T. MENENDEZ: Because of the way he was abused, it was so severe, there was so much to it, you know. I can understand, you know.
KING: How about the killing of the mother, though?
T. MENENDEZ: I understand it. I'm a very -- a person that is very understanding, I guess.
T. MENENDEZ: I understand. He tries to explain it to me, what happened, and he has a hard time.
KING: The mother part?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, the mother.
KING: Don't you have a hard time?
T. MENENDEZ: I do. I mean, I do. We talked about it. And you know his...
KING: What rationale does he come to?
T. MENENDEZ: He doesn't really know exactly why, because he thinks differently than a lot of people. And so he's -- his fear level is very high. He had -- you know, he had a hard time dealing with what he did.
KING; Does he miss his brother?
T. MENENDEZ: He misses his brother.
KING: They were very close.
T. MENENDEZ: They were very close, yes.
KING: There is an appeal, we're going to talk to Chris Pixley about that, to try to get, what, a new trial?
T. MENENDEZ: To get a new trial
KING: Based on?
T. MENENDEZ: Based on the second trial, he wasn't able to -- it was very unfair. And he wasn't able to have the witnesses he had in the first trial and there was so many things that happened in the second trial that were very unfair.
KING: Including the same judge, right?
T. MENENDEZ: Same judge, a lot of pressure to convict them.
KING: So we'll get the opinions of Chris Pixley and Nancy Grace on that and you'll remain with us and get into a discussion on that.
Is he -- where does the appeal stand now? Where are you in the process?
T. MENENDEZ: We are in the 9th Circuit. It's the most liberal circuit. And so what we wanted to do through -- the appeal process is a very long process. What we wanted to do was hurry up and lose in the state level, because they really never admit they've done anything wrong so you want to get through that and get to the ninth and see what they...
KING: That's the one in San Francisco.
T. MENENDEZ: Yes. Yes.
KING: And hope they rule in your favor. And you think this is a Supreme Court case, a constitutional case?
T. MENENDEZ: I don't think so.
KING: Is Erik confident?
T. MENENDEZ: He is -- I'm more into the issues than he is. He has a hard time dealing with the issues. He doesn't like to think about it or talk about it.
KING: Do you have problems with prison, the system?
T. MENENDEZ: Many problems.
KING: What's the No. 1 -- give me some of the things that are wrong with the prison system, as you see it?
T. MENENDEZ: The prison system, in general for people that visit, a is a very difficult place to go. They do things that chase the families away from the inmates. That's a big deal when the inmates get out, because they're going to commit crimes again.
KING: What do you mean by chase them away?
T. MENENDEZ: They make it really difficult for the families to visit, they make it difficult, the phone calls, for the inmates to call home, a lot of them can't call home because it's too expensive. It's like calling oversees, it costs that much.
KING: You say the punishment's severe?
T. MENENDEZ: Very, yes.
KING: Do they treat you warmly when you come?
T. MENENDEZ: No.
KING: They do not.
T. MENENDEZ: Not at all. No.
Some of them do. I should say, some of the guards are, you know decent and they are friendly and they are nice. But I would say 80 percent of them try to make your day miserable.
KING: Do you ever ask them why?
T. MENENDEZ: I kind of know why. They're kind of on a power trip and they just really don't want you there. They don't want to deal with visitors, because a lot of the visitors make waves for them, and you know, it's a difficult situation. There's a lot of animosity between the visitors and guards.
KING: Does he get punished, does he ever get in the solitary? T. MENENDEZ: Yes. He's in solitary right now.
T. MENENDEZ: First, I want to make it clear that he -- you don't have to do a lot to get into solitary. You can be out on the yard and if somebody throws a punch at you, you get into solitary, just pending investigation.
He had a friend that's under investigation, and they put him in there because he would not talk. And they also tried to get me to talk to them, see if I had any information, and I wouldn't talk to them, so they retaliated, and took my visits away.
KING: For how long?
T. MENENDEZ: They won't tell me.
KING: You can't go?
T. MENENDEZ: I can't see him.
KING: Until what?
T. MENENDEZ: They say until the investigation is over with. But the investigations can drag out for a year.
KING: What is solitary like?
T. MENENDEZ: He's in a cell 24 hours a day. He gets an hour of yard and they go out, it's like a cage that they go out into. But they have nothing. He's got a pen and paper, but there's nothing to do in there. He has some reading materials, but that's it.
So, they're in there. And they also don't feed them very well so he comes out very hungry. He's very thin.
KING: How is he emotionally dealing with all this?
T. MENENDEZ: He's very strong-minded. He gets by. He's very spiritual, he meditates a lot. And he does get by. It takes a toll on him, though.
KING: Does he have remorse?
T. MENENDEZ: Very much remorse, yes.
KING: So, if he's in solitary, you can't talk to him?
T. MENENDEZ: Not at all, and that's very difficult. We write letters, but of course, they hold up the mail. There's three weeks behind in mail and some pieces of mail disappear. And if you call there and ask them any questions, they don't know anything.
KING: So, he would know you're on this show, right?
You could write and say, I'm going on?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, and we talked about it. And he wanted me to.
KING: We are going to take a break. And when we come back, Chris Pixley and Nancy Grace will join us, Tammi Menendez will remain. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long from the time you were 6, when your father started to molest you, how long did that go on?
E. MENENDEZ: 12 years.
L. MENENDEZ: I just told him I didn't want to do this and that it hurt me.
E. MENENDEZ: I felt very depressed and very lonely because I lost my dad's love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court finds that is there no reasonable probability that a verdict can be reached in this matter as to any count, and as to any verdict, and therefore the court finds that the jury is hopelessly deadlocked and declares a mistrial in this matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Tammi Menendez the wife of convicted murderer Erik Menendez remains with us in Los Angeles.
Also joining us here in L.A. is, Chris Pixley, a frequent guest on this program, the Atlanta based defense attorney who was brought in by Tammi to consult with Erik's attorney on the newest appeal.
And in New York is Nancy Grace, the former prosecutor and host of Court TV's "Closing Arguments."
What is your role, Chris in this?
CHRIS PIXLEY, ATTORNEY: Really look to the constitutional issues that back up the facts. There is a very strong factual argument on a number of levels that the second trial which deviated tremendously from the first wasn't constitutionally fair. And the problem becomes, can you find support for that, can you find a way, other than simply arguing the facts, to say to the Court of Appeals, at this point in time, to the federal Court of Appeals, this is just wrong. We've got conflicting rulings between the first and second trial, they result in a gutting of the defense the second time around.
Can you find legal support for that to really make that stick? KING: With the hopes for a...
PIXLEY: With the hopes for rematch (ph) or new trial.
KING: Nancy Grace, before we talk about prison system and lots of other things, what do -- I know you studied this case, what do you make of the concept of that argument?
NANCY GRACE, COURT TV: Out of two cases, remember, this wasn't a conviction on the first time around. Erik and Lyle Menendez have had two very, very thorough and sifting trials, trials that cost millions of dollars with some of the best experts, frankly, in the world. And I think Chris Pixley is right this time in saying they're not going to argue the facts here. And they better not argue the facts because Erik and Lyle Menendez were convicted of murdering their parents. Their parents at that time defenseless and unarmed. If I were them, I wouldn't argue the facts either.
KING: What about the constitutional issue, though?
GRACE: I agree with Mrs. Menendez, I do not see a constitutional issue. And you know, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, Larry, the reality is that the first trial ended in a mistrial. And I think this judge bent over backwards to ensure a fair trial and a verdict that would not be reversed on appeal. I think as tough as it is for Mrs. Menendez, I don't think there's going to be a reversal, even in the Ninth Circuit.
T. MENENDEZ: It's easy for Nancy to say that. I mean, statistics say once you get to habeas corpus petitions, there is a very small percentage that are ultimately successful. But the fact remains, if you want to really have a litmus test for how strong an appeal is at the federal level, you look at the number of issues that the Court of Appeals has accepted. It's a victory if they accept one or two. In this case, they've accepted five separate issues.
KING: They have.
PIXLEY: They have.
KING: What is the strongest one do you think?
PIXLEY: I think there are two related argument, if I had to boil it down, that are the strongest. Again The difference between the first and second trials is night and day. In the second trial, one of the things the judge said is that, if Erik and Lyle want to argue there was sexual abuse and that sexual abuse played a role ultimately in what happened on August 20th, 1989, that they're going to have to waive their fifth amendment right against testifying, get on the stand and lay the foundation for other witnesses otherwise, otherwise those other witnesses' testimony wouldn't be viable.
And then, interestingly enough, the judge turns around and says, you know, actually, with that done and with that testimony in, I don't necessarily think that it's acceptable for you to put up witnesses unless they know about sexual abuse. So all the testimony about the abuse they went through, physical, psychological was inadmissible at the second trial unless the witness knew of sexual abuse. And everyone knows sexual abuse goes on behind closed doors. We had witness whose were going to testify to that just weren't allowed to, and we are talking about expert witnesses as well, psychiatrists, some of the best in the business, Nancy's right, weren't allowed to testify.
KING: That's one (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
And the second biggest one?
PIXLEY: The second argument is the jury didn't even get charged ultimately on this imperfect self-defense theory. The idea was imperfect self-defense is a variation of self-defense. The difference being it's based on the idea that you have a belief, however unreasonable, that your life is in danger. That was the argument.
That's the situation that Erik and Lyle have said from the beginning, once they confessed, have said from the beginning they were in. Things came to a head before August 20th, the week of the murders, Lyle went to his father and said I'm going to expose you. I'm going to expose what's going if you don't stop abusing Erik. And according to their testimony, Jose said, if you do, I'll kill you. Now, All Of that gives them a rationale for saying, I'm in danger. The jury wasn't charged.
KING: Let me hold it right there. We'll be right back with Tammi Menendez, Chris Pixley and Nancy Grace. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that point, Mr. Menendez, what did you think was happening?
E. MENENDEZ: I thought my dad was going to come up to my room and have sex, and I thought they were going to kill us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you love your mom and dad?
E. MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And on August 20th, 1989, did you and your brother kill your mother and father?
E. MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you kill your parents?
E. MENENDEZ: Because we were afraid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Tammi Menendez, Chris Pixley and Nancy Grace. Have you learned a lot about law through all this, Tammi?
T. MENENDEZ: Yes, I have. It's complicated.
KING: Is there an area you feel you have fight chance?
T. MENENDEZ: Well, the appeals. I read what the law says, and I think that they'll be overturned.
KING: You think they will be?
T. MENENDEZ: I think definitely they'll be overturned.
KING: Nancy, abuse can be a defense. I mean, woman who are abused, kill their husbands and very often are found not guilty.
GRACE: It neither necessarily a self-defense as Chris Pixley was saying. You're referring to the battered woman's syndrome defense?
KING: But what about battered son or a battered child or a battered brother or a battered uncle?
GRACE: Well, as I was about to say, the same rules would apply to Erik and Lyle Menendez. But this is how it works, you have to establish a pattern of abuse, a long pattern, in most circumstances, for it to work in front of a jury.
And then the reality is to make it work as far as defense goes, you have to be able to show that you snapped at that moment, and that you killed, out of a fear that you were about to be beaten or killed.
Let me address very quickly the arguments that Chris Pixley has made. No. 1, the reason the judge said that Erik and Lyle Menendez must testify to the abuse is because if someone else testified to what they said, very simply put, that would be hearsay. That's disallowed. That's an age-old principle of criminal law. That's why they had to take the stand and tell it to the jury themselves.
As to the witnesses, the judge said, hey, if you're going to testify about child abuse or sex abuse, you've got to know something about this case. If those witnesses didn't know anything about the alleged sex abuse, then what was the point? I understand the judge's rulings completely.
PIXLEY: Except that you have psychiatrists who have worked with Erik and Lyle for years, by the time you get to these trials. Murders occur in 1989, first trial in 1994, second trial in 1996, there are psychiatrists who testified in the first trial excluded in the second trial, we're talking about imminent psychiatrists in their field. It's not a matter of this being hearsay.
KING: Why would a psychiatrist be excluded who examined the patients?
PIXLEY: There's not a good rationale. The rationale, ultimately, that the judge applied was, I'm not concerned, so much about the physical abuse, the sexual abuse, ultimately, is the focus here. And I'm not going to allow willy-nilly evidence of sexual abuse in. You have got to lay the foundation first. You have to prove it first through your own testimony or through eye-witness and they didn't have it.
KING: The psychiatrist, in a sense, Nancy, is hearsay?
GRACE: Well, yes, in a sense that, this is what Erik and Lyle told them. So, what the defense would have to have done is lay the foundation with Erik or Lyle describing the sex abuse.
And I want to point out that not just the father, Jose Menendez, was murdered, his wife, Kitty, was murdered as well. And I think that when the current Mrs. Menendez was talking, she said that her husband has a hard time discussing that. I guess so. I don't think there was any justification, even under those theories, for murdering his mother.
KING: Logically, do you think, Nancy, this is for everyone, logically, don't you think something had to happen to those boys? Boys just don't go home and kill their parents. I mean, people don't just kill their parents without some motivation to do it right?
GRACE: Larry, I have wrestled with that question since the first murder case I ever came in contact. The question, why? And I've had murder cases that occurred over a $10 bill.
After that case, I quit asking why, and I started looking at the hard facts. And frankly, it's very difficult to swallow they would kill their parents over money. But let me remind you, there were millions at stake. These were grown men, if they didn't like the living conditions and they didn't want to be around their parents anymore, they could leave. Instead, they continued living off their parents. I find their defense very hard to believe.
KING: Why didn't they move, Tammi?
T. MENENDEZ: Why didn't they leave? Because when you're sexually abused, you don't do that. Psychologically, it's hard for somebody like Nancy to understand what they went through.
KING: So, what did you come to understand?
T. MENENDEZ: Well, I came to understand that, you know, I learned a lot psychologically about, you know, battered women, they don't leave. It's just something that was not possible, it wasn't in their minds. The money, that's the best the prosecution could come up with, is they did it for the money.
KING: Financial gain.
T. MENENDEZ: And, it's just so wrong.
KING: Battered women, Nancy, can leave also, can't they?
GRACE: Well, you're right. And I would like to point out to Mrs. Friends I am a victim of violent crime. Also, worked for 10 years working with battered women. I understand their defense very well. And I frankly do not believe, as much as my heart goes out to you, I don't like seeing you suffering or you in pain or your daughter in pain, but I don't think that battered women syndrome defense applies to Erik an Lyle Menendez.
PIXLEY: I also don't think the prosecution's theory, this greed theory, makes any sense, especially when it comes out at the first trial Erik and Lyle thought they were out of the will. That means if their parents are dead, they get nothing.
And yet the prosecution marched right back into the courthouse two years later at the second trial and made the same argument. The reason was there wasn't any explanation other than the one Leslie Abrahamson (ph) offered, other than the defense argument, that they were being abused, that it came to a head, that, as their psychiatrist said, they're at their wits end, and now they're being told, if they reveal it, they're dead.
KING: Why the spending spree?
PIXLEY: I think there were, obviously, a number of things they did wrong after the fact. But, I also think they went through so much during the course of their life, they were pinned down so much by Jose Menendez.
GRACE: That's not fair, Larry.
PIXLEY: Any number of things for them were a release now. And, of course, they were hiding this. There's a lot that Nancy can say that the Menendez brothers did wrong that hurts them when they sit in front of a jury. And one of those things is the spending spree.
Another one is the fact they hid this crime. They committed the crime and they had the wherewithal to hide it. It doesn't mean that they weren't being abused, it doesn't mean that there isn't an explanation.
GRACE: It was a minute guys.
KING; Nancy, respond, OK?
GRACE: Larry, that's not fair, out of one side of your mouth to say, it had nothing to do with money. And after they murdered their parents, unarmed defenseless, just sitting there on the sofa at the time they were murdered, to then run and spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars, like drunken soldiers immediately after they murdered their parents, that is cold-blooded.
And Ms. Menendez, I don't mean to hurt your feelings here, the way they ran through their parents' money, they weren't grieving, they weren't upset, they spent money left and right, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
KING: Tammi is shaking her head no.
T. MENENDEZ: No, they did not spent tons of money.
T. MENENDEZ: They did spend some money. They were used to spending money. And they did. Erik went out and bought a Jeep and he hired a tennis coach. He did not go out and spend tons of money. So that's a fallacy in the case.
KING: I'm going to get a break. We'll be back with more of Tammi Menendez, Chris Pixley and Nancy Grace. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you say to your mom?
L. MENENDEZ: I told her to tell dad to leave me alone and he keeps touching me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did your mom say?
L. MENENDEZ: She told me to stop it, and that I was exaggerating. And that my dad has to punish me when I do things wrong.
(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.
L. MENENDEZ: There was things shattering and the noise was phenomenal. And we fired many, many times. There was just glass and you could hear things breaking and hear the ringing noises from the booms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. Nancy, in another era, I know the prosecutor doesn't have anything to do with what happens in the prison after the prison, after the person goes there, that's not their responsibility. What do you make though of why the prison system is, as Tammi describes it, so rough on the wife, the relative, the brother?
GRACE: I tell you why. I think it's transferred animosity. Larry, I've been in more prisons than I can even count. One thing that always disturbed me was when I would walk through and see the visitation area and see little children and wives there trying to see the person they love. They are being punished. Yes, they are. But they're not being punished necessarily because of the prison system, they're being punished and tortured like Ms. Menendez is here tonight because their husbands committed murder.
It's not the prisoner -- the prison facility that's evil and horrible. But I do, Larry, I do think that the prison staff gets so fed up, they're dealing, frankly, with dregs of society, rapists, murderers, child molesters. And I think that that feeling is transferred to the family. It's wrong. Yes, of course, it is wrong but the reality is Erik and Lyle Menendez are behind bars for a reason and that is that they murdered their parents, including their mother.
KING: But Tammi didn't do anything.
GRACE: Of course not, no.
T. MENENDEZ: When you take away the families from the inmates and go back out on the streets, they're going to commit crime, there's a 99 percent chance when their families are gone they will recommit crimes. That's the sad part about it because the recidivism rate in California is over 70 percent.
KING: In other words if you make it hard on the family structure and the family draws farther away and then when the person gets out...
T. MENENDEZ: And they do it in many number of ways. It's very, very difficult. If they go in with a family, they normally come out without one.
KING: Is there a progressive prison system anywhere, Chris? I think in the Nordic states, Denmark?
PIXLEY: Exactly. Abroad, there's completely different systems in place. One of the tragedies here in the United States, even just the state of California alone, the number of prisoners that we have behind bars in the state of California rivals every other country but Russia internationally. So the number of people that we're warehousing in prisons -- and it's been recognized across the board, just as Kennedy came out last year in his report on mandatory sentencing. He said sentencing guidelines are not the problem, but mandatory sentencing at the federal level that's not what Erik has and Lyle has here but it's certainly pervasive and our system -- our sentencing guidelines, the approach that we take, locking people away and throwing away the key is not the answer. And of course, the numbers continue to increase around the country.
KING: Are they eligible for parole, Nancy?
GRACE: It's my understanding they've got life without parole. I would like to ask Mrs. Menendez a question. I just -- the dichotomy of shooting your mother dead and then going out and hiring a private tennis coach. You know, when I was that age, I was working two jobs and going to school. A private tennis coach. Your mother is dead? I just have a real problem with that. I know that you say your husband is sensitive, and I believe you, but do you ever allow yourself -- I know love is blind but do you ever allow yourself to think about the brutal nature of Mrs. Menendez, Kitty Menendez?
T. MENENDEZ: I think about it a lot and I think about the crimes and I think about what happened. But there again, I understand the abuse that he went through. And...
KING: But the mother didn't do any of the abuse, did she?
T. MENENDEZ: No. But psychologically, you know...
KING: She supported the father.
T. MENENDEZ: There was no -- whenever Erik was in trouble at home, she would always tell on him. There was no protection whatsoever. That's not a good reason to kill her, I'm not saying that, but I understand psychologically, you know, what drove him to do that.
KING: That was strange house?
T. MENENDEZ: Very bizarre. Very bizarre house. A lot going on. Very dominant father. There were many witnesses that testified to that.
KING: Isn't the appeal even hampered by the fact that it got so much publicity that that name is a dreaded name?
PIXLEY: I think it's good and bad. It hurts the appeal in one respect because any success for the Menendez brothers is viewed by many as a failure for our judicial system. There were so many people, as with many high profile cases that decided very early on, lock them up, throw away the key. But I also think that it can help. It helps in this regard. The court of appeals has to give this a thorough review. It's not OK for them to be flippant. And I don't think that they have been.
Tammi says you try to get to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals so that you get a fair hearing. It's the best opportunity you have to get a fair hearing. I agree with that, the fact that they're taking up these five issues, issues that include the fact that a privileged conversation with a psychiatrist that's taped. It's taped only after they go in with counsel and there's a long conversation about the confidentiality of this communication. They're suspects in a crime, they're having communications that deal with their mental health. Under U.S. Supreme Court decisions (UNINTELLIGIBLE) v. Oklahoma, they have a right to have confidential communications with their psychiatrist. Those tapes are played in the opening statement for the prosecution.
GRACE: But Chris, isn't it true that a lot of the incriminating statements made to the psychiatrist were then excised from the testimony and the report, and that later came back to bite the defense in the neck? They actually tried to pull the wool over the judge's eyes?
PIXLEY: I absolutely think that is the reason that the judge reversed himself after the first -- after the first trial on that issue. And it came back and did bite the defense, but, you know, again, to allow that in, it was not -- it was not redacting in the way you're describing.
KING: I'll get a break and we'll be back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did rough sex involve your father hurting you with things?
E. MENENDEZ: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what kind of things was he hurting you with?
E. MENENDEZ: Needles, pins, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was he doing with the needle?
E. MENENDEZ: Rope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me?
E. MENENDEZ: Rope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with our remaining moments with Tammi Menendez, Chris Pixley and Nancy Grace. A prosecutor, even though they win a case, don't they want an appeal to be fully heard, Nancy? In other words, I would want everything heard. And if there was a mistake, I'd want to know there was a mistake.
GRACE: I would, too, and I've been thinking about that a lot in the Martha Stewart case. The state has got to be wearing a white hat. They have to be the good guy. If there was an error below, if you believe in your case, retry your case, get rid of that error. We're all adults. I respect Mrs. Menendez, she seems like a kind and gentle person. But I worry about the little girl and what possessed Mrs. Menendez to uproot her little girl and move her down the street from a jail.
T. MENENDEZ: That's a difficult question to answer. You know, for a while, I did not bring her into the prison system. I kept her away from being subjected to that. But I brought her a few times for holidays, and she -- it's not as bad as what people think, as far as the visiting room. She loves to go and she doesn't have problems with it right now.
KING: But she's going to grow up with some understanding of who her stepfather is.
T. MENENDEZ: She will. She sees him on TV every now and then. I don't let her watch anything that's on, but she knows that he's, you know, popular, and she deals with it very well. Psychologically, she seems to be fine with it.
KING: Do you have any worries about Erik with her?
T. MENENDEZ: Not at all.
KING: Bad influence and the lot?
T. MENENDEZ: He's so good with her. He's taught her a lot of good. He's very gentle. He has more patience than I do.
KING: Appeal is not your specialty, is it, Chris?
PIXLEY: No, it's not.
KING: So your here role is...
PIXLEY: It really is secondary. We've handled appeals of this kind, I and my staff in the eleventh circuit, and the fifth circuit and the sixth circuit and now in the ninth circuit. But we're really assisting. Ultimately, this will be decided on the basis of the arguments that Larry Gibbs has made. Again, I think that they're very strong arguments. I think it's very compelling that the ninth circuit accepted five issues.
KING: When do you expect some decisions?
PIXLEY: Not soon. The briefs were just filed and these are extensive briefs so it will be months.
KING: You financed the appeal?
T. MENENDEZ: I have so far, yes.
KING: Nancy, what do you think we learn from all this?
GRACE: I have handled a lot of appeals, Larry, from cases that I tried and other people's appeals and argued them to appellate courts and the reality is that on appeal, the appellate court must look at the facts in the light most favorable to the state. That's the standard by which they are bound. That is why I don't think even the ninth circuit will reverse.
But what have I learned tonight? I learned that a very kind and lovely and gentle woman is in love with someone convicted by a jury of murder. And I find that hard to comprehend, not being -- to love someone and not being able to accept or confront everything about them including murdering their own mother. KING: As you said Nancy earlier, you don't deal with the whys. You can't ask yourself the why. If you had the answer to love, you'd solve the riddle of life.
T. MENDENDEZ: Yes. I'm the type of person that follows my heart. And it led me to him.
KING: What do you think of this romance?
PIXLEY: I think that there's so much more it to than even you've heard here today. I've had the chance to talk to them and learn more about it. Erik was a very young man when this happened.
KING: How old is he now?
T. MENENDEZ: 33.
PIXLEY: 33. It's a lifetime ago.
KING: We're not going to learn it all in this hour but I thank you all very much. Best of luck to you.
T. MENENDEZ: Thank you.
KING: Tammi Menendez, Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley. I'll be back in a couple of minutes. Don't go away.
KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Aaron Brown and "NEWSNIGHT" is next in New York. Good night.
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