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Erik Menendez's Testimony on Sexual Identity Reviewed : Trial: Jury takes notes while listening to defendant's earlier description of confusion about his orientation.


Erik Menendez's jury was read back testimony Friday about his "confused" sexual orientation, an issue that emerged late in the Menendez brothers' murder trial as prosecutors suggested that it might provide a motive to kill.

The jury, in its 15th day of deliberations, sent a note asking to hear "all testimony about or allusions to Erik's homosexuality."

Most of the jurors then took copious notes of Erik Menendez's testimony that he was "real confused" about his sexual identity, that his father called him "faggot" and that his mother gave him a deadline to get a girlfriend.

As the testimony was read back, Erik Menendez, 23, sat silently, showing no emotion.

He and his brother, Lyle Menendez, 25, are charged with murder in the Aug. 20, 1989, shotgun slayings of their parents, Jose Menendez, 45, a wealthy entertainment executive, and Kitty Menendez, 47.

The brothers admit the killings but said they fired in fear after years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Prosecutors contend that the brothers killed out of hatred and greed.

In closing arguments Dec. 15, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lester Kuriyama suggested that Erik Menendez is gay, and that his sexual orientation--not molestation by his father--fed the family friction that led to the killings.

If Erik Menendez is gay, Kuriyama said, that would explain how he could have described for jurors various sex acts that he testified his father forced him to perform.

Prosecutors pressed throughout the five-month trial for permission to explore the sensitive issue at length. But defense attorneys fought any explicit references to homosexuality, with Erik Menendez's attorney, Leslie Abramson, calling the tactic "disgusting."

Without explaining why, Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Stanley M. Weisberg limited the prosecution's questioning, though he did allow Kuriyama to offer his theory during closing arguments.

In the testimony read back Friday, Erik Menendez denied he that he is a homosexual, but said--during Sept. 29 questioning by Abramson--that he was confused because of the alleged molestation.

His father also taunted him, calling him "faggot," he said, so he imagined a retort in his own mind: "Then what the hell are you?"

His mother, Erik Menendez said, "made it sound worse than death to be gay," and once ordered him to find a girlfriend within a few months--which, he said, he did.

In other testimony read back Friday, jurors heard how Beverly Hills psychologist L. Jerome Oziel described for the Menendez brothers the difference between premeditated murder and a killing committed in the heat of passion.

Oziel, who testified for the prosecution, said Lyle Menendez then indicated that they had killed with premeditation. But jurors also heard Lyle Menendez's testimony that he never said that.

The Lyle Menendez jury worked through a 17th day of deliberations without asking any questions.

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