Menendez Case Returns to Court; Defense Lawyers Try To Bail Out
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The retrial of Erik and Lyle Menendez was left in limbo today as two defense lawyers asked to bail out of the case and a judge postponed a decision on where the trial will be held.
Attorneys Jill Lansing and Michael Burt, representing Lyle Menendez, filed motions under seal asking to be relieved as his counsel in the second trial. They cited personal reasons.
Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg sent the case to Presiding Superior Court Judge Cecil Mills for a March 9 hearing on the attorney matters. Weisberg also scheduled another hearing March 16 for setting of a trial date.
Erik Menendez, 23, and his brother Lyle, 26, were charged with murder in the slayings of their entertainment executive father, Jose, and mother, Kitty, in their Beverly Hills mansion on Aug. 20, 1989.
During the first trial, the brothers testified that they endured a lifetime of sexual and psychological abuse by their parents and killed only after they became convinced their parents planned to murder them.
The trial ended in a deadlock last month when two separate juries were unable to reach agreement on whether it was a case of abuse or, as the prosecution argued, simply greed and hatred.
The first trial was held at the courthouse in surburban Van Nuys, but it was heavily damaged in the Jan. 17 earthquake. Prosecutors have asked that the case be moved downtown to the central Criminal Courts Building. That is one of the issues before the judges.
Wherever it is held, the prosecutors in the case have already been replaced and the lineup of defense lawyers is in doubt.
Lansing, who has a small child, has indicated she can’t devote full time to another six-month trial. Burt has other legal commitments in Northern California where he is a public defender.
Attorney Leslie Abramson, who represented Erik, said earlier that she has asked for reappointment but is uncertain whether she will be paid adequately to remain on the case. She said the Menendez fortune is gone and she has asked the county to pay her ″at a modest rate″ to handle Erik’s case a second time.
The original prosecutors, deputy district attorneys Pamela Bozanich and Lester Kuriyama, were replaced without explanation but are expected to be consultants in the second trial. Bozanich had said she ″would rather eat ground glass for a year than retry this case.″
Deputy District Attorney David Conn, heading the new prosecution team, told reporters today that ″we’re going to present the strongest case we possibly can.″