A letter written by Erik Menendez to his cousin eight months before he and his brother Lyle killed their parents at the family’s Beverly Hills mansion corroborates allegations of sexual abuse the brothers have consistently said prompted the slayings.
The new evidence should move the court to consider a new trial, decades after sensational 1989 killings, according to a writ of habeas corpus filed in L.A. Superior Court on Wednesday by the Menendez brothers’ attorneys, Mark Geragos (co-owner of Engine Vision Media, parent company of Los Angeles) and Cliff Gardner.
According to the writ, “newly discovered evidence directly supports the defense presented at trial and just as directly undercuts the state’s case against petitioner.” The attorneys argue that the evidence that has come to light could have led to a different outcome at trial had it been presented in the brothers’ defense.
In a hand-scrawled letter to his cousin Andy Cano, discovered by the brothers’ aunt, Erik Menendez writes: “I’ve been trying to avoid dad. It’s still happening Andy but it’s worse for me now. I can’t explain it. He so overweight that I can’t stand to see him. I never know. When it’s going to happen and it’s driving me crazy. Every night, I stay up thinking he might to come. I need to put it out of my mind. I know what you said before but I’m afraid. You just don’t know dad like I do. He’s crazy! he’s warned me a hundred times about telling anyone, especially Lyle. Am I a serious whimpus? I don’t know I’ll make it through this. I can handle it, Andy. I need to stop thinking about it.”
Less than a year later, on August 20, 1989, Eric and Lyle shot and killed Jose Menendez and their mother, Kitty Menendez. The killing made headlines around the world. Prosecutors presented the brothers as greedy, spoiled monsters who slaughtered their parents in cold blood and then went on a spending spree. Their defense countered the shootings were not murder but manslaughter, committed out of an honest though unreasonable belief in the need for self-defense after a lifetime of sexual and physical abuse.
“The crime was manslaughter, not murder,” Gardner tells LA Mag. “That has been the defense position from day one, not that they should walk but their punishment should be commensurate with what they did. These were kids who were sexually abused their whole lives.”
The writ also details the claim from “Roy” Rossello Diaz, a former member of the iconic boy band Menudo, that Jose Menendez anally raped him. Rossello told the producers of the new Peacock documentary Menendez+Menudo that he shared a limousine with Menendez after a concert in New York City when he was 14 that took them to a mansion in New Jersey were “he was given wine,” and “then lost consciousness and woke up back in his hotel. He was bleeding from the anus. He was in unbearable pain for a week.”
Adds Gardener: “Had jurors seen the letter Erik Menendez wrote to Andy Cano, and learned that Jose Menendez anally raped and orally copulated a 13- or 14-year-old boy in 1984, the prosecutor would not have been able to argue that ‘the abuse never happened,’ and repeatedly tell juries that Jose Menendez was not the ‘kind of man that would’ abuse children and was ‘not a violent and brutal man.’”
Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, whose office prosecuted the case at two different trials, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.