The Menendez Brothers Remain Behind Bars


Public interest in true crime documentaries and docuseries isn't going away any time soon — and the latest case that will get the small screen treatment is that of Lyle and Erik Menendez, who were convicted of murdering their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, two decades ago. ABC's Truth & Lies: The Menendez Brothers premieres on Jan. 5 and it will revisit one of the most high-profile murder cases of the twentieth century. After their first trial resulted in a deadlocked jury, the state retried the Menendez brothers and they were each convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. It's certainly not unheard of for convicted killers to walk free after serving partial sentences, so will Erik and Lyle Menendez ever be released from prison?

On July 23, 1996 The New York Times reported that Lyle and Erik had each been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after the jury decided to not recommend the death penalty. However, they were each sentenced to serve two consecutive life sentences, which prosecutor David Conn said was meant to serve as a statement about the horrific nature of the crimes. The outlet also noted that both Lyle and Erik admitted to killing their parents, but they alleged the crimes were motivated by fear. The brothers, who claimed they had been sexually abused by Jose and Kitty, stated that they were afraid their parents would kill them if they exposed this alleged family secret. (Friends and relatives vigorously denied claims that Lyle and Erik had been abused by their late parents.)

Both Lyle and Erik have made multiple appeals, but to no avail — so they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars. In February 1998, the California Court of Appeal upheld both convictions and in May 1998 the California Supreme Court voted not to review the case, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. After exhausting their appeals in state court, the brothers took their petitions to the United States District Court. In September 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied both Lyle and Erik's petitions for habeas corpus.

The brothers are serving their sentences in separate prisons — in a 2005 jailhouse interview, Erik told NBC News' Rita Cosby that they wanted to be in the same prison, but they were separated and sent to different jails immediately after their convictions. At the time of the interview, Erik also stated that he hadn't seen or spoken to his brother in over 10 years: "[T]he prison system is keeping us apart," he told Cosby. "We fought to be together, and we are not allowed to be together. And they won‘t tell us why." He also expressed that, although he may never see his brother again, nothing could diminish their bond.

In November 2005, People reported that both Erik and Lyle had gotten married during their time behind bars. At the time, the outlet also reported that Erik worked as a janitor on his cell block and spent a great deal of time reading and writing. Aside from these 2005 interviews, updates on the Menendez brothers have been scarce — but, according to the Truth & Lies trailer, viewers will hear Lyle's first jailhouse interview and learn new information about their lives prior to the murders. Although the Menendez brothers will spend the rest of their lives in prison, the ABC documentary will provide an update on what jailhouse life has been like for the pair.