The case of the Menendez brothers is all over TikTok (Picture:
Stephen Kim/Kim Kulish/Getty)
That’s what some armchair sleuths are trying to do with the case of the Menendez brothers on social media.
The story of a brutal killing, and dramatic testimony, was witnessed live by many on TV in the 1990s, but it’s been rediscovered online, too.
But what did the Menendez brothers actually do, and why is the case in the public eye again?
What did the Menendez brothers do?
In 1989, Lyle and Erik Menendez entered the den of their vast California home, and shot dead their parents Jose and Kitty Menendez.
The pair weren’t initially suspects in the murder – they rang the police to report the murder, and seemed to cooperate with authorities.
Lyle Menendez told his therapist that the pair committed the crime (Picture: Ted Soqui/Sygma via Getty Images)
Suspicions were raised after Lyle Menendez told his therapist, Jerome Oziel, that he and his brother were the killers.
While this isn’t normally admissible evidence in court, it was allowed in a trial because Menendez allegedly threatened the therapist, voiding patient-doctor confidentiality.
In 1992, the brothers were tried separately, in trials that were broadcast on TV.
The brothers plead guilty to the murders, but said it was in self-defense as they claimed their father had been abusing them for years.
The prosecution pointed to the pair’s spending habits after the deaths to suggest that inheriting their family’s wealth was the motivation.
A witness testified that Lyle and Erik both bought Rolex watches and expensive clothes the day before their parents’ funerals, which aroused suspicion.
The juries were deadlocked, and so a second trial was ordered – with Lyle and Erik tried together.
They were found guilty, and in 1996 started life sentences with no possibility of parole. Both appealed, but those were denied by the US District Court.
Initially in separate prisons, they were reunited in the same facility 2018, after over 20 years apart.
Why is Menendez brothers case trending on TikTok?
Accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok are campaigning on behalf of the Menendez brothers.
Often teenagers, the video-creators discussing the trials were likely not alive when they were actually taking place.
The grainy footage of the brothers talking in court about their alleged sexual and emotional abuse has struck a chord, with many sympathising.
As the rhetoric around abuse has changed, as was seen with the #MeToo movement, the younger generation that dominate TikTok appear more inclined to believe the brothers, and feel they didn’t deserve such a harsh punishment.
As this evidence played less of a part in the second court case, many believe the pair deserve a retrial.
However, the same crime cannot be tried twice unless new evidence emerges that may materially change the outcome of the case – this is unlikely to happen as the murders took place decades ago.
For now, the brothers brothers will continue to serve their life sentences at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California.
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