5 Things To Know About The Menendez Brothers Before Watching Law & Order True Crime

Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
Tonight you will have another opportunity to play detective, lawyer, jury, and judge. That’s right, another series in the true crime genre is coming. Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers will premiere on NBC at 10PM EST. It is a dramatized version of the trial of Erik and Lyle Menendez, two brothers who killed their parents with shotguns on August 20, 1989. They weren’t convicted for murders until 1996.
If you’re wondering what took so long, the answer is simple: a lot of privilege. Jose Menendez, the father of Erik and Lyle, was a corporate executive who could afford to move his family to Calabassas a la the Kardashians. As such, the two defendants had access to great legal representation capable of prolonging their case. This same concoction of privilege is also what helped turn their case into national news.
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Not only were the young men siblings and convicted of killing their parents, they were rich and contextually “hotter” than the average joe to stand trial. The result was a media frenzy that has lasted, as you can see over two decades. Prior to Law & Order True Crime, the Menendez brothers’ case has been explored in Lifetime movies, podcasts, and an unsurprisingly, an episode of Snapped. Dominick Dunne also wrote an in-depth piece about the murders and the killers for Vanity Fair.
If you’d like more background on Lyle and Erik before you meet their acted out counterparts, check out these five facts.
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They’re white.
Despite the fact that their father José was a Cuban man who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, he was light-skinned and believed very much in assimilation. Additionally, their mother, Mary Louise, was white and that’s how the Menendez brothers identified as well.

So despite the fact that their last name might be an indicator that there is a racial component involving people of color, that doesn't seem to be the case.
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Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
Their parents were really hard on them.
Apparently Lyle wet the bed into his teenaged years. His mother would put the urine-soaked sheets on the dining table the next morning so that they would have to eat among the sight and smell of it during breakfast as punishment. Their father was known to be domineering, pushing them to their physical limits in sports and making them sleep underneath their beds.

Erik and Lyle used sexual and psychological abuse as their defense for killing Jose and Mary Louise. The jury didn’t buy it and neither did I, they didn’t deserve to die.
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Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
Erik wrote a screenplay about a guy who kills his parents.
Two years before the murders, Erik and a friend started working on a screenplay called “Friends.” Let’s just say this one did not involve a bunch of roommates flourishing in New York. It was about a guy who tried to kill his parents. This was brought up as evidence in the trial against the brothers. Apparently Erik’s defense attorney dismissed it as “good writing.”
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Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
They splurged on their parents’ insurance money.
Because they weren’t immediately arrested for murdering their parents, the Menendez brothers were able to take full advantage of being the beneficiaries on their insurance policy. The two of them splurged on designer suits and Rolex watches for the funeral, a Porsche, two businesses, and a world class tennis coach among other things. These extravagant purchases in the wake of their parents’ murder raised red flags for detectives and prosecutors.
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Photo: Kevork Djansezian/AP/REX/Shutterstock.
They were the precursor for the OJ Simpson trial.
Although Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers is clearly trying to reap the same benefits as the wildly popular The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, the opposite was true when Simpson’s case became a media sensation in 1994. Before this, the Menendez brothers’ trials were a media spectacle when they were broadcast in 1993, proving the popularity of true crime in all forms.
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