Rosie O’Donnell has scored a big interview for her I Heart Radio podcast: Lyle Mendendez, who was convicted with his brother Erik of the 1989 murder of their parents — after two trials that gripped this country.
The Menendez brothers said the parents had abused them, raped them, for years. After a mistrial, a second jury sent them to jail for 34 years. In that time, both brothers have been married (Lyle’s wife is a lawyer). Lyle has been such a model prisoner that in 2018, after 18 years, Rosie says, they finally let him see his brother. They now live next door to each other in the same San Diego prison.
O’Donnell has been visiting Lyle for six months, although the podcast was done over the phone. She tells me, “You can hear the woman from the prison on the phone call, checking in.”
Lyle has not done an interview since 2017, and that wasn’t widelycirculated. But there’s new interest in the Menendezes now that a former member of the boy band Menudo has said that Jose Menendez, who was the head of RCA Records in the 80s, raped him. Also a letter has surfaced between one of the brothers and a cousin, written six months before the murders, in which he describes the monstrous abuse they suffered at the parents’ hands.
These two things should be enough not to have another trial — it’s too late for that– but to ask for a resentencing. The brothers hope that after 34 years they would be released with time served.
If you were around in the 90s, you know that Los Angeles was a crazy hotbed of highly publicized trials starting with OJ Simpson, the police beating of Rodney King, and two Menendez trials. Simpson walked, the Jones trial sent LA on fire. So the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office had to make something stick, and the Menendezes — some feel — were railroaded into life in prison.
“This was before we talked about incest or rape in a family, or abuse,” O’Donnell says. “It was before the movie The Burning Bed when we saw a woman fight back against a husband. Things are very different now.”
Famed LA criminal attorney Mark Geragos is now representing the brothers, which means their case will get a lot of attention again. Meanwhile, Lyle Menendez has won a lot of awards in prison, chiefly for running a restoration project for which Erik — an accomplished artist — has painted a 360 degree mural in the prison yard.
“They’ve never been involved in any act of violence,” Rosie says. “Thirty four years is enough.”
There’s more on this subject later. In the meantime, download the I Heart Radio app for Rosie’s “Onward” Podcast. The new one drops on Tuesday morning.