Tapes of Conversations Between Brothers and Therapist
Mar. 13, 1990
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Two brothers charged with killing their millionaire parents delayed entering pleas Monday to give their lawyers time to review the seizure of evidence from the brothers' psychologist.
Attorneys for Erik and Lyle Menendez said they wanted to determine if tape recordings seized from Jerome Oziel were inadmissible in court in what appears to be a key issue developing in the case.
''The concern is that, it is my understanding, that when you talk to a therapist, that that's privileged - as if you were talking to a lawyer - and that privilege might be breached,'' said defense attorney Gerald Chaleff.
The tapes of conversations between Oziel and the brothers were seized last Thursday, the day police arrested Lyle, 22, and launched an international search for Erik, 19, a tennis pro who surrendered over the weekend.
District Attorney Ira Reiner called the tapes ''key evidence'' in the Aug. 20, 1989, shotgun slayings of Hollywood executive Jose Menendez, 45, and Mary Louise ''Kitty'' Menendez, 44.
Reiner alleged that money was the motive in the killings. The brothers, who reported finding their parent's bodies in their Beverly Hills mansion, stood to inherit the $14 million estate of Jose Menendez, a successful executive of Live Entertainment Inc., a Los Angeles-based video distribution company.
Defense attorneys said they wanted to read the search warrant affidavit that authorities filed before they searched Oziel's office. The affidavit, which may indicate what is on the tapes, were ordered sealed by the judge to everyone except attorneys in the case.
State law allows a psychologists' patient records to be used as evidence if there is a threat of continued violence, and Deputy District Attorney Elliot Alhadeff said Oziel was threatened.
Alhadeff would not elaborate and Oziel declined to return a phone message to his Beverly Hills office.
Chaleff said he had no information of a threat against the psychologist or anyone else.
The Menendez brothers' arraignment was rescheduled for March 26, when they will enter pleas and Municipal Court Judge Judith O. Stein will decide whether to release the affidavit.
Attorneys and the prosecutor discussed the affidavit and other matters behind closed doors Monday for more than an hour before the brothers appeared in court.
The brothers listened to Stein read the charges against them: two counts of murder with special circumstance allegations that could make them eligible for the death penalty if they are convicted.
When asked if they understood the charges, the brothers each answered, ''Yes, your honor.''
Sitting in the courtroom were Maria Llanio, the mother of victim Jose Menendez, and Jose's sister, Teresita Baralt and her husband Carlos. The Baralts are executors of the Menendez estate.
Family members declined to comment, but defense attorney Robert Shapiro said, ''Family members are united in support of both these boys.''
Reiner, in a news conference prior to the brothers' court appearance, insisted that the taped conversations were not the only evidence his office had in the case.
He said there was other ''physical evidence,'' which he would not identify.