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Witness Says Menendez Brothers Pressured to Tape Confession

By Alan Abrahamson
Los Angeles Times


Psychologist L. Jerome Oziel often said that he needed to "control" Lyle and Erik Menendez, and pressured them to tape-record an incriminating therapy session, his former lover testified Monday at the brothers' murder trial.

With defense lawyers seeking to diminish the impact of the Dec. 11, 1989, tape-recording, played in court last Friday, Oziel's ex-lover, Judalon Smyth, testified that he told her he "needed to get them to say incriminating things on a tape so we would have the tape to protect us."

Smyth said the therapist gave the brothers a different story: that they could make a tape to "prove to a jury that, you know, they were remorseful or whatever."

Called as a witness by the defense in a continuing bid to discredit Oziel, Smyth produced perhaps the most bizarre day of testimony in the 17-week trial as she described her relationship with the married Oziel. She even played tapes of her own -- made secretly during their stormny affair -- opening up for jurors their sex life, her dress size and even his Elvis Presley impersonation.

Smyth also tried to explain why she had gone from being the person who turned in the brothers -- tipping police to their therapy sessions with Oziel -- to now testifying for the defense. She dismissed her past statements damaging to the brothers by saying that she had been "brainwashed" by Oziel.

Lyle Menendez, 25, and Erik Menendez, 22, are charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 20, 1989, shotgun slayings of their wealthy parents, Jose Menendez, 45, an entertainment executive, and Kitty Menendez, 47.

If convicted, the brothers could be sentenced to death.

The brothers testified at length at the trial that they killed their parents in fear and self-defense after years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

On the Dec. 11 tape, however, they told Oziel that they killed their mother to put her "out of her misery" and that their father deserved to die because his infidelity had led to that misery. There was no mention of abuse or self-defense in the taped therapy session.

Prosecutors are expected to cross-examine Smyth Tuesday.