Barbara Walters interviews the Menendez brothers in 1996

June 28, 1996: Erik and Lyle Menendez open up to Barbara Walters from prison.
30:47 | 01/05/17

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Transcript for Barbara Walters interviews the Menendez brothers in 1996
Erik and Lyle Menendez. This savagery of their crime the mood as of both their mother and father seemed beyond comprehension. Tonight for the very first time out of court you will hit this story. Tonight watching our interviewed you can reach your own verdict about them. We begin with the prime itself. A hot August night in 1980 near Beverly Hills mansion of entertainment executive Jose Menendez. He and his wife Eugenia watching television in the family room. Suddenly in the brutal bombing a shotgun in my and Jose Menendez is killed by pleasant shock to the head he has I've got a shotgun wound. Kitty Menendez body is riddled with shotgun pellets. Two at ten hours. She was getting blasted all. Who let me. Pardon. The voice of Lyle Menendez and arguing is known. Who tells police that he and his brother Eric is an eighteen discovered the bodies as they be turned home from a movie. Lyle and Erik Menendez slide successfully for months but if their crime was a horror movie there undoing was the stuff of soap opera. And Eck in twelve and confessed his crime to his therapist doctor Jerome Hosea. Smiled and also admitted to the negatives that confession was overheard by owes you missed his doodle on Smith and she went to the police. Lot of was arrested in California. Eric who had been traveling overseas. Voluntarily flew home to cement. Three years later the Menendez Brothers went on trial of their lives. I was just firing as a went into the room went to started firing in what direction in front of me what was in front of you. My parents. And I remember firing directly ahead of me. Yes yes. Wouldn't you do refuge in. They're in around some animal. This is the woman who gave birth to pass this is what they get to their mother. Did you meet her tapes of the Brothers confession to doctor museum. When did turn came Erik and Lyle Menendez told a rapt courtroom. That the murder of their parents was an act of self defense. They said they were in fear of their lives from a controlling father who had been sexually abusing them. Britain. Did you cry. Leans forward. There. Last said his abuse stopped when he was eight is that he didn't know until just before the marriages that Eric is being molested two. What do you believe. Was the originating cause. I view in your brother ultimately winding up shooting at him. Me through it. You're telling one. He telling Lyle that. You telling a lot. It telling Lyle about something that was. Went dead. But of the dead have been lost in the. The Brothers testimony was compelling and effective. Relatives testified and Debbie Haas about incidents in which their father treated the sun's harsh later. Though none of them could actually concerned the allegations of sexual abuse stop the jurist could not decide between genetics at Ritter and men's and. I find that the jury is hopelessly deadlocked. And the court declares a mistrial. In. In August of 1995. Not sixty years after their parents met his the Menendez Brothers went on trial again this time there were no video cameras. Addict testified but Lyle chose not to. Judge Stanley vice big again preside. But in a major blow for them limited the broadest claims to self defense there Arafat few aground this time for a possible verdict of manslaughter. The jury deliberated for less than four days the verdict Lyle and Erik Menendez both guilty of first degree mr. The jury spent three more days deciding between life and death verdict here was life in prison with no Provo. The Menendez Brothers have spent more than six years of disputing the Los Angeles County Jail. Harrick who lives in the identical cell next to this ad measures seven and a half by ninety. Wild sent out in another opened at the jail is slightly smaller spoke about business segregated from the general population. Each of the Brothers separately is allowed up to three hours of exercise a week and the deal would. Erik and Lyle Menendez will be moved to state prison perhaps even to separate peasants this summer. I'll interview took place in the jail's administrator between some distance from themselves. You may find Eric and Lyle Menendez to be cunning and manipulative. As this 2 June seems to have. Pronouncing them guilty of first degree murder. Well not many of the jurors at their first child you may decide that they aren't credible. And that this story strikes a sympathetic chord that is perhaps for you to determine my job was to ask. The questions beginning with this one. What went through your words when your head that verdict. For this to be met her guilty. That I was going to spend the rest of my life in prison. Without any possibility. Of ever getting released. And you just you're devastated I was devastated. Could have been death. Did you think that I was terrified that. That they would give either one of us that that's that's scary. It's important to you to stay together when you get moved to a state prison. Very important that's what's gotten us through these six years. And there are a lot. The Fam Loy. Eric and I grew up in. We had to be there for each other throughout and I really created a bond that that gets us through very wrong here. Some people might say why should we put them together I mean yeah what they did they should be punished as much as possible let's separate the but he same. You know people say some. There's an there's nothing to say that. What we did. It was awful. And I wish I go back. We will spend the rest of our life and pressed. If I'm. I'm not corn output in the same. Person. This good probability they'll never see him again. And can bet. That I. Some things that you cannot pick and some things that you can endure. With everything taken away. People lest that's the last thing can take. Do you think the media has portrayed you fairly. Watch out. I don't know if and when can be portrayed fairly and media who they are. Let me say. There are people. Great empathy. With think that you too as well perhaps. That you thought you vote. That you are rural states. What he said. That's not who I am but. I can't defend. Because I. Came from famine well. And doesn't make me spoiled I would be surprised if anybody that was present at that trial and and saw the whole thing rather than snippets on the news. Would feel that. And Jerry aren't you both guilty. Right but I don't think. You are guilty because they found spoiled. Evil or evil person normal. Anderson normal kid. Act you're no long and who your parents. And he's just saying you know. I didn't have normal experiences and I think I am. I did that. And there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about what happened. And wish that I could I could take that moment back. We'll change what happened but. Him. It's. It's hard to live. With that. Didn't feel remorse. Tremendous remorse. And I think there's tremendous thing I mean. From the second. That I got back to the house after the shootings. I saw what happened and I said this is wrong this is awful how could this have happened I didn't accept it. You couldn't accept it but should call the police. You attended the two hadn't hit you you try it. You. Went off from the spending spree Amelio read about it about Rolex as you bought Costa fire. You didn't say oh my what have I done in turn yourself and. Well. That's not that's not really would but since I don't yet but. Yeah I did a good job. We've got back to the house the police were there and it was a matter for. Telling him you did or or just saying I don't know didn't and that's what we did and talking Iraq. Perhaps I'd say did it in part of that started when the fact that we waited. Afterwards and the police did not come and in note in that time that we waited and waited. You know we didn't make a bad this decision to. Not have to we expected to post of this. You expected the police to come they are there rescue. Hot shots the middle of Beverly Hills in the Sunday night and no one calls the police were waiting it perhaps no one chosen. And I still can't believe that you call the police but at that point you had already decided. We had decided not only gonna say anything we were very. Stunned and we felt that. We would go to jail obviously and and we. It was a selfish reason to just not want to have to to go through that what about spending the money. You know watches and festival businesses. The good life. But the news it was the same life before or afterward with more money. With with more money but didn't want to do with the money went to the got to a point where haven't I have all this money and so much pain. I don't know what to do with it and eventually. I'm really losing me. I would think that you would be in such beliefs that you wouldn't be able to buy rollodexes and then questions. I don't I didn't let me understand I don't get on the public. I don't think that is understandable roaming. People react to it. And some traumatic event like ten different ways it. You. Went to US psychologist. Doctor Lucy Liu and told him. That you had committed to spare. Got to a point where I could no longer live. Felt that I was the worst person on earth. I think got to a point where I couldn't live with myself and morning news help and so I went to him and that's what the catalyst for us from getting arrested them. You've got a lot of therapy. Six years of intense there and how are you different. And demanding anything from six years older. A lot more mature came in Harrison eighteen year old kid who did you know. Anything about doing it back to sell. I learned that. I learned what love was about. And learned when love was about because of my grandmother because of all my relatives who who didn't say I can't believe you did this instead they said. Erica I knew who you want you're not this type of person not the type of person who could do this for no reason and you had happy line. Saying the same fair opinion. Has. Him and really works to just have someone you can communicate with that's going to listen. All our lives. It was just sort of fending off things here are my sons like prison was a good thing you. It was you know at first. Hit I killed my parents. And I spent six months out there in the horrible agony and because I have done this I mean. A year before I told my mother how much I loved what kind of imagine doing this even we reform to her. And door and then suddenly arrested. And everyone can know you did it and you can finally tell people had some relief. While you're looking at your brother like you almost never heard this before tell me thank you felt. For me. Emotionally and being in prison. Conditions was. Was really not emotionally was not a shocking difference from life we have lived because we we live really very. Stressful. Fearful. Life and to me. It was kind of life. I felt this should be punished and it didn't feel good but there was a part of you that feels like trial it's this better. You got a lot of mail. We we started it tremendous amount now hundreds. Hundreds thousands of the years we asked. Your lawyers to get necessary let's Gladys a great many of them seem to deal wins than people who have been abused themselves and relate to you. I what do you say to people who write to you. A lot of people that have written word. Very. They've been through a lot of strength from Washington triumphant. Thing Erica time and I do I've gotten mail after the verdict people discouraged. And I wanted to say to them. To not. Lose hope because of this one case. And this one Verner very unique situation here and that. This is not does not mean that if they go get help people won't believe them or people treat them partially or they'll be ridiculed. I don't feel they will be. Let's not say do we did it don't do we do that don't value for our Intel people that want to reach out to social workers for however are ashamed or afraid. You also get loud let us. Some find that strange. This strange phenomenon. A lot of while runners come and people that don't know you at all. Driving when have you had and still athletic you have someone in case particularly if I had not just when your life. I do someone. A very much and is. A saint to put up with everything that comes with us. Can you tell us that she is Yahoo! and Amazon Ericsson and I hope that we can. We can get married even though it's a very limited relations because of where we are the exchange of love and Sharon it keeps you. In touch with yourself and softer and you know otherwise you can. Become very hard and cold in here this is selling you knew before prison. Not necessarily have the inside Taylor is and it brought surely many years ago but I've come to know her well. About to someone that I met through now and she was wearing. Gina. Heck. No none of the moment. And I read a lot in prison but no I've probably won't. If it's hard Lyle Lyles more able to have that type of relationship. Acting that the prosecutors brought up the fact that you might have been a reception. And that this might have caused some insecurity on your father spot. Yes good. I didn't I didn't hear about conference. They were there I guess what I just have to say to you is are you today. Now the the prosecutor brought that up because. It was. A sexually molested and he felt in his own thinking that. If I was sodomized by my father that. I must've enjoyed it and therefore. I must be gay and and the people there are jailed them must be sexually molested or they wouldn't is what he felt and it's. It was. Upsetting to hear but. I'm not day. A lot of gay people writing and feel connected to me a problem at the trial of the gender bias that because. There we were doing what males. And incest and of that that this sort of perceptions well maybe. It was something that he won and something that he allowed to happen. That he shouldn't be allowed to feel afraid because he's. Mail I really felt that. People might have seen this case very differently. If they were a sister that I was protecting our that was involved in this and a brother. You know this whole business of abuse excuse that you are abused by their parents sexually abused emotionally abused by this tough. Unyielding father but there lots of people who opt. Abused sexually and otherwise and they don't tell that parents and you've been ridiculed for this abuse excuse. What do you say about. This excuses are worth the founder issuance made up not knowing anything about the case. I'm. To simplify it to its simplest agree if approved for a person is raped man or woman. And she kills the man who raped her as an excuse that the recent should kill them was because she was right. Of course I'm. I certainly never felt that what I did was justified or right. It was just a question of how wrong most. That was a big misperception. About this case that it was about justification. Or excuse. And my brother and I essentially. Pled guilty. That was very hard for me here the ridicule about that because we do I really felt that Eric and I. We could a group have gone to trial it. Most people in just sort of we weren't there was silence at that trial we teaming me I think world file you can go to trial and just say that I was. You know chipping golf balls at the time I wasn't there and Eric and I went to trial and said we've got. I had their tapes are tapes and tapes became admissible because we said we did it mom. Ought. Because. He wanted to he felt that. Telling the world that bad. It was sexual torturer was killing them twice and he did not wanna go that points and he thought you said I don't want to work there America take the stand. I'm not going to do it and then when he did. There was a great out part there was also people laughing and it was strange. Act you able to tell you a psychologist. That you had killed his parents. But you were not able to Doug a psychologist at your father had abused you unless you've been. Molested. You can't realize. How hard it is to tell because of shame because of shame. This story continues now the scene being except for mr. Just grab your relationship with your father. When woods commend you. Hurdle. I. Painful. Torturers. And yes I thought that she was the most powerful and brilliant personal and government. I was his first born son that was very important tone and my bond with him. Was. I thought strong. Because we've been through so much together. It was difficult to seeing. Things were going on. Things are going on that is when you learned that he was sexually molesting your brother. Get sexually molested me before I was a teenager. And it was a different much different experience than parents because you don't because I was a little yes. You know. There's some questions that anybody asks why. Why didn't you run a way. I wish. That I could have. I tried to run away when I was twelve. My father found me. Call me. And said if you ever runway I will kill you will find you. And I'm okay suppose you left in you I don't know what became a waiter who moved away and he's still talking find it you would find me. And probably coming up for certain we can still think that obstacles. In July give mother I like your mother I love my mother and I tried to help hurt my mother was. A person a lot of pain and she was call it. She was suicidal did she know about. Abuse to sexual abuse she knew and didn't do anything she knew it and it distancing that you didn't thing do you still think about the night of the magic. Investor. Tell me as clearly as you can. Why you limited your parents. Some from some minds terror. I was so afraid. Few days before and said to myself. I'm never gonna probably touch me again virtual while that it had been continuing on. I said to myself African can touch me again. In just before the shootings my dad told me to get to my room. And that he would be there are imminent. He was gonna come up and there was going to be sex. And it was like an explosion in my mind I can. Bought the guns it wasn't something that just happened that lonely kids bottom. You know you bought the guns and facts they just went to his house yes we both instances towels just don't just happen moment. We brought the guns there was a there was minute series of form confrontations in and slopes in the house my dad. When it first was revealed that I had pulled Lyle and about the secret my dad sent to Lyle. You're gonna tell everyone. I'm not can let that happen taking so you learn from. I cannot. Separate can say this is why this happened. My father was threatening us and so there was fear. But there was great in there was anger on my part in. My mother and was aware of and a lighter stuff my father and it was. It was it was a great deal of confusion this happened all in just three days and I just. I wish. I give anything to just term back. That one paid much. The other big question. You killed your father. Who was molesting. What educating America. On Thursday night before. When that one of the explosions. I was running downstairs. I was crying. And my mother was on the couch she had been drinking. And she said what's wrong fitness nothing nothing you wouldn't understand she said or understand. When you think I'm stupid and she told me that she know that she'd known all my life of my father was doing. It was like I didn't even know who she runs anymore. And I just saw dad and mom is the same person at that point I saw him as a single person. Really the first time that this secret about what was happening with that and Eric was discussed openly in the family and a very. Angry way. I don't know whatever but I completely lost control myself. And I in that time like I didn't separate and you're my mother and father just. I was just it was adrenaline and fear and anger. Most of you know there is no explanation. But you had we don't. Had you had thought about this Elliott because you had brought the guns have a thing to. We knew that this could and this could violent confrontation could occur because my father had threatened my life. You still think your father would have children for revealing the secret to both still feel that. I question him. I still believe that I don't believe that he was in the process of killing us that on and even. And I don't think that this it might seem because there are so few cases become the public's attention like this. That this has never occurred ever before in the country and in fact there are over 200. Parasites in here that involved in suspect. And so in I felt it completely van and now. I believe that when I would not she parents that moment. How. Did you have these. Now. I'm a seven obviously. What he's thinking I would never told. I don't allow them to this I'm I'm I went to him and I said Lyle I can't live anymore but what's going on and got him involved he was a way to get. They had bought him a condominium he was going to Princeton. He had all the money so as you have fought for telling your brother Michael and I got him involved it's and I need your help him find his Letterman parents forget. So it's your fault. So. He he was suicidal. At the time and it was just the last thing to reach out obviously can reach out and we knew I decided. To confront my father rather than just so never not say anything. And just have Eric and I leave which if I could go back that's what I would do I would just say Eric's old enough now he wants to leave. Have you forgiven yourself. Obama is possible. And you if any kind of peace. More so than. Than it there it. At this point for some reason it well before the birth I was resigned to bad things. And I have I think. Found a place where I can. Look forward and try to. Have hope and share myself more people in I hope performed. Hope of living a life that I can be more proud of have his. There. You're confined but there you know there must be an even just in writing people that. Need help. If you can help put an end and convince. A single person. That has been through our situation the last thing in the world they should do it's his his act out violent. And you find meaning in life. If you could send me something to you love it here. Issue you have annualized. Approaches. So. So are. Forgive them completely for anything and I haven't done that house. If I had one wish. It would be. You know have one conversation with them. Or to change places with them. I hope someday that I can do it and have some sort of conversation. About what happened it is one of the awful things that I. I can't we couldn't communicate that we can and I still can't and. Just an I love them. And. That I believe. Sprite. On everything that happened they were Avaya a lot of us that things just. Went right. Our interview with out. Deputies now arrived to take Eric and Lyle Menendez back to to sell books they were handcuffed and changed for the long walk back. Their legs have been shackled throughout the interview. This had been one of their infrequent opportunities to savor another in jail. That god would not take each through this separate cells and to district. The best of their lives in Houston.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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