March 20, 1996

March 20, 2007—First day of tech for Betty’s Summer Vacation. With the move to the Zero Arrow Theatre, there are now more observers in the room and its informative to learn how the jokes are landing. One of the reasons why there was no need to update the play’s social commentary on Lorena Bobbitt and the Menendez brothers was that Durang includes in the text all you need to know about the cases to get the joke. We may have forgotten how they got into the national consciousness. Even in the 2004 presidential elections Hardball’s Chris Matthews could joke about Bush-Cheney: “I mean, they‘re not the Menendez brothers.”

March 20, 1996—Lyle and Erik Menendez, sons of a successful Cuban-American business executive, were convicted of first-degree murder on March 20, 1996, for the shotgun killings of their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez.

The scandal began in 1989. (From The Biography Channel)

On Sunday, August 20, 1989 in Beverly Hills two men entered the Menendez mansion and fired upon Jose and his wife Kitty with a shotgun, killing the couple as they dozed in front of the TV. The murders sent shockwaves through the upper echelons of LA society.

The killings were blamed at first on the mafia, but the seemingly distraught Lyle and Erik soon began to spend their inheritances freely living a life of luxury and abandon.

A police investigation prompted by the brothers’ reckless spending was aided by the emotional stress beginning to take its toll on the younger brother, and Erik’s gradual mental breakdown, which led him to confess to his therapist, finally contributed to the arrest of both brothers.

The Menendez brothers confessed to the murders in July 1993, but claimed that they had suffered from years of sexual abuse under their despotic father. In televised trials that garnered much tabloid attention the two were eventually sentenced to life without parole in July 1996.

From the headlines in 1996:

A jury in April recommended life in prison without parole for the brothers instead of a death sentence, the only other option. The judge generally follows the jury’s recommendation…Prosecutors argued that the brothers killed to get the family money: $14 million. Lyle and Erik claimed they were sexually and psychologically abused throughout their childhood and have said in recent interviews they are consumed with remorse and self-hatred. In 1994, separate juries were unable to reach a decision. A single jury heard the second trial. Erik said the brothers are clinging to the hope that they will be sent to the same prison. Both want to get college degrees and hope to do work with victims of abuse.

For entire article fron 1996 news reports.

-Heather Helinsky

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