Defense rests in case of brothers charged with killing parents

November 19, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Remaining true to its strategy of branding Lyle and Erik Menendez's psychologist and parents as the real villains in the case, the defense in the brothers' murder trial finally has rested.

After three months of testimony and 56 witnesses, the defense concluded yesterday after calling an expert who insisted again that the brothers killed their parents in fear and self-defense, even though they never mentioned either in a taped session with their therapist.

Ann Burgess, a professor and child-abuse expert, told jurors that Erik and Lyle Menendez had agreed before the Dec. 11, 1989, session with the psychologist, L. Jerome Oziel, that they would not trust him with the most painful details of their lives.

As the defense case ended, however, prosecutors also stuck to their strategy of portraying the brothers as self-serving liars and bringing witnesses back to the gory details of the Aug. 20, 1989, slayings of Jose and Kitty Menendez.

Deputy District Attorney Pamela Bozanich challenged Dr. Burgess, for instance, to explain Lyle Menendez's seemingly callous statement to Dr. Oziel that while he missed his dead parents, "I miss not having my dog around."

Dr. Burgess responded, that the comment, which originally drew gasps in the courtroom, merely spotlighted "the isolation of this family."

Lyle Menendez, 25, and Erik Menendez, 22, are charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors contend they killed their parents out of hatred and greed.

The brothers testified they killed in fear after years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. And, as legal experts have stressed throughout the trial, their fate likely depends on whether jurors find that believable.

The defense began with a parade of witnesses telling horror stories about the Menendez household, had the brothers take the stand to tell of being the victims of incest, and then brought in mental health experts -- including Dr. Burgess -- to back their accounts.

"All I know is we put on as much of the truth as we were allowed to," Erik Menendez's attorney, Leslie Abramson, said after court yesterday.

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