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Menendez brothers on trial: Erik testifies about father

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(Court TV) -- Developments in the retrial of Lyle and Erik Menendez from December 4-8, 1995

A prominent pathologist testified that any reconstruction of the shootings was "doomed to failure" because the victims and the assailants were moving during the incident.

"The falling, ducking, twisting and turning" made it so "there's no way in the world to know what someone was doing when a particular shot was fired," Dr. Cyril Wecht told jurors.

During his testimony, Wecht focused on one particular shot: the first shot which prosecutors said was fired while Jose and Kitty Menendez were sitting in the den of their Beverly Hills home. According to the state, shotgun pellets from the shot tore through Jose Menendez's right and left arms and then into Kitty Menendez's left breast. Wecht said the wound patterns made the state's scenario of the first shot impossible.

Wecht also testified about the autopsy written by Dr. Irwin Golden, the Los Angeles Deputy Medical Examiner. He vouched for Golden when the autopsy finding were at odds with the prosecution's reconstruction. But, on cross-examination, Wecht admitted that Golden's reports were replete with inconsistencies.

Golden testified in the first trial that he could not say for sure how many shots were fired or the sequence of the shots that killed the couple.

Wecht also criticized Golden for performing the autopsies two days after the August 20, 1989, shootings. "Only in L.A.," he quipped.

Defense criminalist Charles Morton testified that blood patterns and shotgun pellet holes in the clothes of Jose and Kitty Menendez contradicted the prosecution's reconstruction of the crime scene.

Morton, a criminalist with the Institute of Forensic Science in Oakland, said the physical evidence at the scene indicated that Kitty Menendez was standing when she was shot. In addition, Morton said, the blood patterns on and around the living room couch and on Jose Menendez's clothes indicated he took all the shots, except for the one to the back of the head, while he was standing.

During cross-examination, prosecutor David Conn pointed out that although Morton had criticized prosecution witness Roger McCarthy of Failure Analysis Associates for developing a reconstruction of the shooting, Morton had offered a reconstruction of his own which supported the defense theory of the shootings.

Erik Menendez took the witness stand late in the day and began what could be at least a week of testimony about why he and his brother killed their parents.

Defense attorney Barry Levin methodically questioned him about the alleged battering, belittling and rape he suffered at the hands of the father.

During his testimony, Erik created for jurors an image of a double life he led at home from the time he was six years old until he was 18: one life inside the bedroom and the other outside the bedroom. Inside the bedroom, he testified, his father was kind, gentle, patient and loving. At the same time, his father molested him, massaging his back and thighs, then his genitals and performing oral copulation on him when he was six years old, Erik said.

"He told me that this was love," Erik said, while appearing to fight back tears.

But outside the bedroom, Erik testified his father was a domineering brute. He said his father would slap him, punch him and hit him with a belt. And when he cried, Erik testified, his father would hit him again. "He hated it when I cried," he testified.

Erik began his testimony much the same way he did during the first trial -- dealing with the ugly details of sexual abuse. His brother Lyle watched him intently during the testimony, leaning on the counsel table with his head in his hands.

Erik started to weave together the pieces of his life which he hopes will prove created in him a heightened state of fear of his parents -- a fear so great that he felt he had no other choice but to kill them.

He said his parents were violent. His mother humiliated and degraded him. His father beat and molested him. But he said, he loved his parents. He did not kill them out of hatred, or money, or even because of the abuse, he said.

Instead, Erik told the jury, "we killed our parents because we were afraid." The brothers feared their parents would kill them because they threatened to reveal the alleged sexual abuse.

Before Erik's testimony, the jury heard from boat captain Bob Anderson and his shipmate, Leslie Gaskill, who took the Menendez family on a fishing expedition on August 19, 1989 -- one day before the shootings.

Although Anderson testified for the prosecution during the first trial, he became a key defense witness in this trial. He and Gaskill testified that the Menendez family seemed "gloomy" and did not interact during the outing.

The defense tried to bring out exactly what it had elicited from Anderson during the first trial -- an image of Lyle and Erik, wearing only shorts, staying put huddled at the bow of the boat while the wind blew and the waves pounded the boat. At the start of the trip, Anderson said, a large wave crashed over the front of the boat and soaked the brothers. And he said he could not understand why they stayed there freezing. The defense contends the brothers did not move because they feared the boat trip was a setup by their parents to kill them.

Erik Menendez continued to provide gruesome details of the abuse that made him fear his parents enough to kill them.

During his second day on the witness stand, he explained how he was beat, belittled, raped and threatened by his father. He detailed many of the same childhood horrors that he had on the witness stand during the first trial in 1993 - sexual abuse from ages 6 to 18, beatings and angry outbursts from his father, and name calling.

"Sometimes he would call me a sissy, a coward, that I wasn't worthy to be his son, that I was not a Menendez," he testified.

He cried as he told jurors about the continuous torture that mixed violence with sex and a son's duty to his father. As Erik cried, prosecutor David Conn became increasingly agitated and asked for a recess. Defense attorney Barry Levin interrupted, insisting his client be allowed to continue his testimony. Judge Stanley Weisberg allowed Erik to continue his testimony.

Erik described how his father's "gentle, loving" sex changed suddenly one night into violent sex. His father burst into his room, slapped him against a wall, threw him off his bed and forced him to have oral sex, Erik testified.

Eventually, he said, his father sodomized him.

"It hurt me and made me very confused," Erik told the jury. "I just thought it was something I had to overcome and I would get used to it."

The week ended on a dramatic note when the defense showed the jury a large hunting knife allegedly used by Jose Menendez to force himself sexually on his younger son.

"He put his hand down on my forehead and put the knife at my throat and told me that he should kill me and next time he would," Erik Menendez said, during his third day on the witness stand.

Erik said the knife incident occurred when, at age 17, he finally had the strength to resist his father's sexual advances. The knife, which has a 12-inch blade, was a souvenir from a "Rambo" film. Jose Menendez's company had been involved with the movie. When the knife was brandished, Erik said he submitted to his father's wishes.

"How did you feel?" asked his lawyer, Barry Levin.

"I wanted to die," he responded.

As Erik continued his testimony, Judge Stanley Weisberg followed through with a threat to limit testimony about allegations of early childhood abuse. The judge rejected as irrelevant testimony about Erik becoming injured learning to ride a bicycle.

The judge said he would limit testimony about events that occurred so long ago that they could have little to do with the brothers' state of mind at the time they killed their parents, and warned defense attorney Levin that he would not allow the case to be turned into a trial about child abuse.

The defense contends that the brothers' early childhood trauma is crucial to understanding why they thought that their parents were going to kill them.

On Friday, Erik continued telling the jury the shocking details of events in his childhood.

He said his father stuck pins in him during sexual episodes and threatened to smash his skull if he told anyone. His mother, he said, drank too much, and had angry, violent outbursts. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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