The Menendez Brothers: The Crimes that Changed Us

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The Menendez Brothers: The Crimes that Changed Us

José and Kitty Menendez were the embodiment of the American Dream. The husband, a Cuban whose family lost everything and made it big in America. The wife, daughter to an abusive father who married rich and became a stay-at-home mum. The couple raised two handsome, successful sons who attended Ivy-League schools and were star tennis players.

Their dream became a nightmare when, on a fateful Sunday evening, two men armed with shotguns stormed into their Beverly Hills home and killed both parents. Their sons, Lyle and Erik, came home later that night and called 911.

Due to the nature of the crime, the police expected a mob hit. When Lyle and Eric started spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on luxury items and expensive holidays, suspicion shifted to them.

Warrants of arrest for both brothers were issued after recordings of their confessions were handed over to police. Because the confessions happened in therapy sessions, a two-year legal battle ensued as to whether the evidence was admissible in court. The Supreme Court of California finally decided that it was.

Thanks to constant television coverage, the trials became a national obsession. The perfect American family turned out to be quite the opposite. The brothers testified that their father was abusive and impossible to please, and their mother was a complacent drunk. Self-defence was their reason for killing their parents, not the $14 million in inheritance.

Even now, half a century later, there are two different public opinions of the brothers. Most, see the two as evil, monstrous, spoilt brats who killed their parents for money. Some, see them as victims who were defending themselves against a rapist and his accomplice by striking first.

The Menendez Brothers: The Crimes that Changed Us will delve into the details of this case and show us how it changed American society forever.

Thursdays at 9 PM on ID (ch 223) from Thursday, 14 January

Author: Jan Hendrik Harmse