Summary: On August 20th 1989, Jose and Kitty Menendez were murdered in their own home. Their sons, Lyle who was 21 at the time and Erik who was 18, were the ones who called the police about the murder. The victims had been shot numerous times in their living room while watching television. There was no indication that a robbery had taken place or forced entry. At first, the Menendez brothers were not suspected of committing the crime. However, after the brothers went on outlandish shopping sprees with the money they inherited, did the police begin to expect them. On October 31st 1989, Erik went to see a therapist named Jerome Oziel. He confessed to the therapist that he and his brother murdered their parents. The therapist wanted Lyle to come in the same day. Lyle was furious that Erik had confessed. Lyle threatened the therapist, that if he told anyone, they would kill him.
Mr. Oziel never did tell anyone, although he continued to counsel them. However, he did ask his secretary, Judalon Smyth, to eavesdrop on their sessions, and she went on her own to the police. This occurred on March 5th 1990. On March 7th 1990, Lyle and Erik Menendez were arrested for the murder of their parents.
Referral Question: Were there any indications that their memory was not as accurate as the defense hoped? What factors might have impaired their memory? What are the pros and cons of the Menendez brothers taking a polygraph test?Areas of Concern: On July 20th 1993, the trial began for the Menendez brothers on charges that they murdered Jose and Kitty Menendez (TruTV, n.d). The defense was ready to admit that the Menendez brothers had murdered their parents. However, they only did so out of fear. The brothers claimed that they were both sexually and emotionally abused by their parents since a young age. The brothers feared their parents who were brutal, manipulative and sexually perverse (TruTV, n.d).
One concern that many had about the abuse claims is the time in which they were admitted. The brothers never confided with therapists or to the police before the arrest that they had been abused. This made others wonder if they were only making these claims to avoid the more serious charges that they could face. When a person comes out and says that they were abused many years after the incident, this is referred to as Repressed Memory. Repressed Memory is described as an event or series of events that are so shocking that the mind pushes the memory of it into an inaccessible corner in the unconscious mind. Then one day, out of the blue, the memory of the event or series of events come into consciousness (Loftus. 1993).
It is important to be aware of tactics used by clients in their cases. Generally, the severity of the crime will increase the clients need to deceive and lie. There is a lot at stake in their lives, as a result, they try to cover things up to lessen the end result. This being said, there have been many studies that indicate it is difficult to perceive if a person is being dishonest. It was found that people who believed they were great at picking up on these tactics, were generally only 50% accurate most of the time (Bartol & Bartol. 2004). You must combine non-verbal cues as well as verbal cues to get a better idea if the person is being dishonest. One study found that people who talked about something negative, tended to exaggerate their facial expressions while talking about it (Bartol & Bartol. 2004).
There are many pros to utilizing a polygraph test with the Menendez brothers. The polygraph test is "an instrument that measures and records physiological responses like breathing rate, pulse, blood pressure and perspiration (Smith, n.d)." It is believed that when people lie, they become anxious. When the test is given, the client is hooked up to sensors that measure physiological data from the body. This helps the examiner determine how anxious the client is. There are three phases to this test. The control question test, which helps the examiner gather preliminary information (Smith, n.d). Then there is a directed lie test. Where the client is asked a question that will probably end up as a lie. One example is asking the client if they have ever stolen something. Everyone has stolen something at some time, like a pen from work. But the clients initial stress about the question provides valuable information to the examiner. Lastly, the client is given the guilty knowledge test. These are multiple choice questions. The examiner compares the physiological responses to particular information that only you and the examiner would know (Smith, n.d).
The polygraph test is still very controversial. The test can be manipulated at times. The client would have to get to a place of calm during the test. Guilty clients have passed these tests just by getting a good nights rest, being well-fed and being cordial at all times. Some clients have also controlled their breathing or raised their heart rate during control questions in order to manipulate the test (Smith, n.d). Regardless, this test can provide information that cannot be obtained by other test methods.
Conclusion: It will be crucial to provide evidence that would support the Menendez brothers claims. By talking to experts and have them take tests, the information may help sway jurors during the court case.
References:Bartol & Bartol. 2004. Psychology and Law: Theory, Research and Application.
Loftus, Elizabeth. 1993. The Reality of Repressed Memories. APA. Retrieved on June 23, 2009 from http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/lof93.htmSmith, Betsy. N.D. Taking the Mystery out of the Polygraph Test. Police Link. Retrieved on July 23, 2009 from http://www.policelink.com/education/articles/104652-taking-the-mystery-out-of-the-polygraph-testTruTV. N.D. The Menendez Brothers. Retrieved on July 23, 2009 from http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/famous/menendez/index_1.html