Los Angeles Times – February 11, 1994: Purported Lyle Menendez Letter Sparks Controversy
The letter is mentioned in two of Dominick Dunne’s Vanity Fair articles:
March 1994: Menendez Justice
April 1994: Menendez Withdrawal
It is a partial, not complete, document. One or more pages are missing. It has no complete date. Identified as the handwriting of Lyle Menendez through expert handwriting analysis.
The letter reads as follows:
LAW OFFICES Feb 5
Alright Traci this is the information we discussed on the phone about visiting Erik. Im going to get right to the point because after you read this and feel youve absorbed it, I want you to throw it away. Do that right away so you dont forget. Maybe you can take some notes in your own hand writing. OK well basically there are two incidents. They may seem strange and irrelavent to my case but I assure you they will be very helpful. Youll just have to trust me on it. Later on I can explain why but for now Ill just lay them out. I have given alot of thought to this and I really feel that you can do it however just let me know if youd rather not. Alright the first incident is as follows. You were at my Beverly Hills house about to eat dinner with me, my parents and my brother. Ed wasnt there. We will decide later around what date this incident occurred. It was a weekend however. (I hate writing in pen) You and I had spent the day together. Mrs. Menendez had cooked dinner and it was served in the dining room. Everyone was seated except Mrs. Menendez. She was still bringing this and that in from the kitchen . . . next to me with your back to the . . . seated at the head of the table to my left. Erik was seated accross from us. Behind Mr Menendez were the doors that open to the foyer. All the food was on the table. There was lots of it but you don’t remember what the food was. Anyway all of a sudden Mr Menendez said in a stern voice to Mrs. Menendez who was standing behind you, “what did you do to the food?!” There was a long silence or at least it seemed long and then Mr Menendez shoved his plate forward, knocking over some stuff. He got up and said something like “go out and wait for me by the car boys, we’re going out to eat.” Then I got up immediately and said “come on Traci” and we both walked out into the foyer. Erik walked out too. You got your purse and jacket. We walked outside and stood in front of the big mercedes. Erik and I were discussing something, whispering. You were just kind of standing there confused and embarassed. Then Mr Menendez came storming out of the house. He seemed upset. Either Erik or I (you cant remember which) said to him “What’s the matter Dad, you think she tried something?” As Mr Menendez was getting into the front seat he said, “I don’t know, but I dont trust her today.” We all got in the car, you and I in the back seats and we drove in silence listening to some radio station. We made a right coming out of our house but youre unsure the way we went after that. Anyway we ended up parking somewhere and eating at Hamburger Hamlet. It was a big one. We all ate dinner talking about various things. Mr Menendez was charming. He paid the bill. We drove back home. You and I stayed out front and kissed for a long time. You didnt feel you should ask about what had happened earlier. You then left in your car. It wasn’t that late. You never saw Mrs Menendez. (It had just gotten dark when we left for Hamburger Hamlet.) You drove home still confused about what had happened in the dining room, although it seemed obvious Mr Menendez thought Mrs Menendez did something to the food. You were dying to ask me what it was all about but you just couldn’t. OK, that’s the first incident. You really dont need to know anymore detail than Ive provided here. It was a long time ago. It would be strange if you remember things too well. However you do remember the statements I mentioned above very well–who said what to whom. You dont remember the unimportant conversations like what was said at Hamburger Hamlet ect. The best answer to any question you dont know the answer to is, “I dont remember.” Its obvious why you remember certain things and certain statements. It was scarey and confusing . . .
Erik Menendez testified about the dinner incident on redirect in the first trial. (Testimony here: https://www.courttv.com/title/67-ca-v-menendez-erik-menendez-pt9/ at 57:52 – 1:01:47)
At a pretrial hearing in April 1995, Judge Weisberg ruled that the letter wouldn’t be admissible in the prosecution’s case-in-chief at the retrial, but rather was material that could be used in impeachment of Lyle if he testified. Lyle did not testify at the retrial. Erik did, and while he couldn’t be impeached with the letter, he was cross-examined about the incident: Cross-examination of Erik Menendez – December 18, 1995.
Semi-related court opinions:
Decided: December 8, 1997: Gabbert v. Conn (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals)
Decided: April 5, 1999: Conn v. Gabbert (Supreme Court of the United States)
In her testimony in the first trial, Traci Baker described three incidents that she allegedly experienced at the Menendez house. (Testimony here: https://www.courttv.com/title/68-ca-v-menendez-witness-testimony/ at 58:43 – 1:34:16.)
The first incident was observing Jose Menendez threatening to kill Craig Cignarelli. The second was about an unsettling dinner. The third was an incident involving Kitty confronting Baker and becoming enraged when Baker confirmed she had a sexual relationship with Lyle. Kitty even got physical by shoving Baker down on the couch.
In the letter above, Lyle Menendez writes that there “two” incidents he needs Baker to testify to. The incomplete copy of the letter that the police obtained contains only a description of the incident concerning the dinner. In my opinion, it’s a virtual certainty that the missing page(s) of the letter describes how Lyle wants Baker to testify (falsely) that she was confronted by Kitty.
The fabricated incidents were highly significant to the defense case. The dinner incident helped the defense bridge a huge gap in their case in that it portrayed Kitty as capable of murder – If Kitty would poison her own sons, she would likely also be willing to shoot them to death on August 20.
Furthermore, the incidents helped bolster the defense’s portrayal of Kitty as an erratic, crazy, and dangerous woman. As defense attorney Jill Lansing told the jury: “She was threatening to poison the family. A crazy woman got even crazier.”
We know this wasn’t the only attempt by Lyle Menendez to get witnesses to fabricate evidence. We know about the Jamie Pisarcik incident, the letter to Amir Eslaminia, and Lyle’s willingness to fabricate a story about being blackmailed by Dr. Oziel. (Personally, I believe there were more than just these documented attempts, and I believe Erik Menendez was fully involved in this scheme to present false testimony.)
The fact that Lyle is willing to fabricate evidence time and time again raises the inevitable question: Was his own testimony true or false?
In my opinion it was largely false. Feel free to disagree.