Three decades after the infamous Menendez brothers killed their parents and were sentenced to life, who gives a damn about what happened to them?
One former Philadelphian does, disturbed by a perceived miscarriage of justice.
Robert Rand is a latter-day Don Quixote, a journalistic knight errant carrying a pen rather than a broken lance. He has no Sancho Panza as a sidekick, just an unquenchable pursuit for justice.
He joins a long list of journalists who have devoted time and effort to clearing people who they thought were innocent, wrongly convicted, or wrongly sentenced. Rand believes that Erik and Lyle Menendez should have been convicted of manslaughter rather than homicide, but understands that he's working the margins, trying to help two brothers who don't have the sympathy of the public.
His quest has resulted in a 320-page paperback to be published Tuesday, The Menendez Murders: The Shocking Untold Story of the Menendez Family and the Killings That Stunned the Nation (BenBella Books). Rand's manuscript was the primary source used by NBC's Law and Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, which aired in the fall of 2017.
Rand, 67, a native of Toledo, Ohio, attended the Hill School in Pottstown and then the University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, he interned at 6ABC, and after graduation went to CBS3, where he joined the investigatory I-Team, then headed by former Inquirer City Hall bureau chief Tony Lame and Daily News reporter Tyree Johnson. In its six years, the I-Team won 36 national, state, and local awards.
Since the day the brothers were charged in the shotgun murder of their parents, Rand says, "most of the mainstream media got this story wrong." He was the only reporter, he says, to cover every day of both trials — the first of which ended in a hung jury, the second in a conviction, after wrongfully excluding many of the Menendez defense claims, he says.
Rand would like to see a new trial — can you imagine a third trial? — which would include new information he has uncovered: "Intergenerational sexual abuse that began with the molestation of the brothers' grandmother, Maria," and then was transmitted to their father, José, he says. Even their mother, Kitty, Rand reports, was sexually molested when she was a child.
This kind of reporting resonates in the era of #MeToo, says Rand, who lives in L.A. and does freelance producing for several TV stations.
Even as he concludes that the deaths were manslaughter and not homicide, he says, "nothing gives you a free pass to kill mom and dad — even if you had a videotape of your dad molesting you."
One thing we know is that the Menendez brothers were accomplished liars. I asked Rand how he could be sure they hadn't snookered him with their claims of abuse.
They lied to police, they lied to their families, they lied to him, he says, because of "the shame that haunts most victims of sexual molestation."
Rand interviewed other family members who "had bits and pieces of the chaotic puzzle," he says.
"The most important thing I want is for people to become more open about discussing domestic violence and molestation that goes on within families," Rand says.