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Menendez Jurors View Grim Photos : Trial: Color images of fatal shotgun wounds are introduced over objections of defense, which claims move is aimed at inflaming jury. Prosecutors say they used restraint in choice of exhibits.

August 04, 1993|LINDA DEUTSCH | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Two brothers on trial for murder sat grimly with their heads bowed as color pictures of their parents' shotgun-blasted bodies were pinned up in court for jurors to examine Tuesday.

The autopsy photos included one of Kitty Menendez's nude body laid out to show the crimson wounds where shotgun pellets tore through her face, chest, collarbone and rib cage.

Jose Menendez's head was seen from the back with a gaping hole in the top of his scalp.

"It's a fatal wound, massive injury to the skull and brain," Deputy Medical Examiner Irwin Golden testified, recounting the autopsies he performed on the couple, who were slain Aug. 20, 1989.

The Menendezes were killed in the den of their $4-million Beverly Hills mansion, where they had been watching television.

Golden said it appeared that the entertainment executive had been shot at close range with the muzzle of the gun against his head.

However, he said most of the shots were fired at a distance.

Jose Menendez also was hit in the arms and thigh.

The victims' sons, Erik and Lyle, admit shooting their parents but claim it was self-defense after years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

Erik, 22, appeared distressed as he listened to the coroner's testimony. His lawyer, Leslie Abramson, patted his back in a comforting manner. Lyle, 25, sat holding a hand to his forehead.

Both defendants kept their heads down and did not look at the photographs displayed on two bulletin boards for the two juries hearing the brothers' cases simultaneously.

The courtroom was hushed as Golden told how Jose Menendez was shot five times and his wife 10 times by blasts that scattered pellets through their bodies.

"The cause of death," said Golden, "was multiple gunshot wounds."

The defense argued to keep the pictures from being shown, maintaining that the prosecution's purpose was to inflame the jury, not to shed light on the cause of death.

Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg said the prosecution offered the smallest number of photos needed to show the violence that occurred.

"The prosecution has been very circumspect in not offering photographs showing the blood and gore that was there," he said.

He also noted that the defense has raised the issue of "overkill," contending that the brothers were so consumed by fear of their parents that they shot them many more times than was necessary to kill them.

"Aren't these photographs evidence of that overkill?" asked the judge.

Defense lawyer Michael Burt said Golden would not be giving an opinion on overkill and said the issue easily could be addressed by other experts from reading an autopsy report rather than showing gruesome pictures.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Pamela Bozanich said she was being restrained in her presentation of the six photos.

"We could use 10 more to illustrate this, but we're using the minimum number necessary," she said.

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