Shopping at the Beverly Center

On August 20, 1989, Perry Berman got home around 1 p.m. and found a message on his answering machine from Lyle Menendez. Berman returned the message and Jose Menendez answered. Jose told Berman that Lyle and Erik were out shopping at the Beverly Center. Berman received a call from Lyle around 5 p.m. Lyle suggested they get together that evening. Berman told Lyle he already had plans to go to the “Taste of L.A.”, a food festival. Lyle said he and Erik had plans to go to the movies to see “Batman.” Lyle suggsted they all get together at about 10 p.m. at the food festival.

Perry Berman’s testimony mainly focused on the prosecution’s theory that the brothers intended Berman to be their alibi witness for that night, i.e. that the brothers planned to kill their parents that night and wanted to meet up with Berman afterwards. This post, however, will not address that subject. Instead this post is limited to one topic; the topic about Lyle and Erik supposedly being out shopping at the Beverly Center.

Lyle testified that he learned from Berman in their 5 p.m. phone call that Jose had told Berman that Lyle and Erik were out shopping. Lyle testified he hadn’t gone anywhere. Upon learning that Jose had told this lie to Berman, Lyle was sure something was going to happen that night. Erik, who testified he returned home at 9:30 p.m., said he became concerned when Lyle told him that Jose had lied to Berman about the brothers being out shopping. According to the brothers’ testimony, this led to their decision to leave the house right away which led to the supposed confrontation with their parents right before the shootings.

On October 17, 1995, Perry Berman was called as a witness in the retrial. His testimony about the phone calls with Jose and Lyle on direct examination and cross-examination was basically similar to his prior testimony.

However, during examination by Judge Weisberg, Berman testified that Lyle told him in their 5 p.m. phone call that he had been out shopping with Erik.

The defense on further recross-examination zeroed in on this statement, and the prosecution in a one-question further redirect examination emphasized it.

In a hearing on October 30, the defense attempted to get the prosecution to stipulate, or the Court to take judicial notice, that Berman “had never testified prior to the Court’s inquiry at the end of his testimony that Lyle Menendez told him that he had been at the Beverly Hills Center shopping.” The prosecution countered that Berman in prior testimony “was never specifically directed to this specific issue before.”

Perry Berman’s recollection about Lyle Menendez telling him that he had been out shopping with his brother in the afternoon of August 20 added Berman to the list of witnesses who contradict aspects of the Menendez brothers’ version of events of the last week in the lives of Jose and Kitty Menendez; the so-called “Week of crisis.” (Summarized in Robert Rand’s book “The Menendez Murders” pp. 82-94.)

Is Perry Berman’s recollection accurate? Or was he, “beyond tired” after several exhausting hours on the witness stand, confusing what Lyle said in their phone call with what Jose had said to him in their phone call earlier?

Draw your own conclusion.