Everything from the '90s is new again — including our fascination with certain famous murderers. Last night ABC aired a special titled Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers — American Sons, American Murderers, which rexamined one of the nation's most scandalous public trials from two decades ago.
Back in 1994, Jose and Kitty Menendez were murdered by their two sons, Lyle and Erik Menendez. While the nation was quick to see the boys as ruthless sociopaths, another story emerged: had they, in fact, been avenging themselves after a lifetime of sexual abuse?
“We’re a different society today than we were back in 1993,” says ABC News chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran. “If the Menendez brothers were sisters, I think they’d be free today because people would have believed their traumatic, intense and emotional testimony [about being sexually abused]. They each had corroborating witnesses regarding the sexual abuse. We didn’t want to believe it happened to boys."
Even back then, public opinion was rather split — so much so that the original trial resulted in a hung jury. A retrial in 96 led to a more definitive decision and landed the pair in prison for the rest of their lives.
The new documentary re-examines the narrative of the original headline-grabbing story and features phone interviews with Lyle (but not Erik).
“The Menendez trial was about an intense, horrific family drama. We didn’t really stay with [Lyle and Erik] once the trial was over. We saw what happened, debated it, and were done. But the issues it raised will never go away," says Moran.
[Photo: Wikimedia Commons]