Appeals Court Blocks Release of Counselor’s Tapes
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Taped conversations between a psychotherapist and two brothers accused in the shotgun slayings of their wealthy parents can’t be released, a state appeals court said in a temporary ruling.
The court blocked release of tapes confiscated in connection with the arrests of Erik and Lyle Menendez. The brothers are accused in the Aug. 20, 1989, murders of their father, Jose Menendez, and his wife, Kitty, inside their Beverly Hills mansion.
Prosecutors allege the sons were motivated by the prospect of a $14 million inheritance.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal issued the emergency stay Tuesday and set Aug. 24 for the prosecutors’ rebuttal, said clerk John Lepo.
The recordings are of counseling sessions between the brothers and their psychotherapist, L. Jerome Oziel. Prosecutors, who already have listened to the tapes, consider them key evidence.
Defense attorneys claim the tapes fall under doctor-patient privilege and thus cannot be introduced as evidence.
″We’re delighted by the ruling,″ said defense attorney Gerald Chaleff.
Santa Monica Superior Court Judge James Albracht ruled Aug. 6 that the privilege protection did not apply because Oziel was threatened.
Communication between a therapist and patient is considered confidential unless it involves threats or has been disclosed to a third party.
Albracht said Oziel believed the brothers made threats during the sessions and it was necessary to disclose the conversations to protect himself and others.
In another development, Erik, 19, has refused to give authorities a handwriting sample. Beverly Hills Municipal Judge Charles Rubin warned him Monday that his refusal can be used as evidence.
Prosecutors want to compare the brothers’ handwriting to that found on records used to buy two shotguns in San Diego.
A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 22.