What Happened To Leslie Abramson From The Menendez Brothers Trial?

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Police in Beverly Hills responded to a frantic phone call on the evening of August 20, 1989 (per the Daily Mail). The caller was 21-year-old Joseph Lyle Menendez, who told the 911 operator that he and his brother, 18-year-old Eric, had just returned home from an evening out and came home to a brutal double murder. Their parents, Jose and Mary Louise "Kitty" Menendez, had both been shot at close range multiple times and were long dead when the call for help was made.

In the investigation that followed, police determined that the Menendez brothers concocted a scheme to murder their parents for financial gain. The Menendez patriarch was a senior executive for Artisan Entertainment and had built a life of luxury for his family (per the Los Angeles Times). But the money the brothers received and their lavish spending soon after the murder of their parents was not evidence enough to charge them. It wasn't until Lyle made an admission to his therapist that police had what they needed for an arrest warrant. His therapist confided this information to a lover, who went to the police with it when the affair was called off (per the Los Angeles Times). The brothers were arrested and tried separately, each one getting a hung jury and a mistrial. Soon after, they were tried together and found guilty. The murderous brothers were both sentenced to life without parole.

Their defense was led by skilled attorney Leslie Abramson, who argued that years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by their parents had led to the murders. Though the jury didn't buy it, there are some out there who still seek to free the brothers based on those alleged details.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Abramson was accused of pressuring a psychiatrist to alter evidence during the trial

In the aftermath of the defense she is best known for, Leslie Abramson found herself in the hot seat. The California Bar Association opened an investigation into allegations that she pressured Erik Menendez's psychiatrist to change the notes he took regarding his sessions with Erik. Dr. William Vicary was being questioned by prosecutor David Conn when Conn noticed that the notes he had from Erik's sessions were different than the ones in the doctor's possession. When asked about this glaring discrepancy, Vicary stated that he changed the notes after he was pressured to do so by Abramson. Abramson was questioned twice by the judge, invoking her Fifth Amendment rights both times (per Newsweek).

Following a lengthy investigation, the California Bar Association closed its case against Abramson, citing a lack of evidence. Despite being cleared, it may have cost her post-law career opportunities. Already a familiar face from the Menendez trial, Abramson lent her legal expertise during ABC's coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. The legal debacle surrounding the allegations from Vicary limited her options to a career in legal broadcasting before it even started.

She wrote a book in the late 1990s

After a lengthy career defending suspected murderers, Leslie Abramson published "The Defense Is Ready: Life in the Trenches of Criminal Law" in 1997. In it, she details the intricacies of America's criminal justice system and gives in-depth accounts of her most memorable cases as a defense attorney. Her vast legal experience lent to a detailed account of the jury trials she represented clients in. Beginning her career as a public defender, she graduated from private practice and put up a winning record as a trial attorney (per HOME). The book discusses how Abramson views media sensationalism of trials, likening their coverage to a circus. 

Critics gave mixed reviews on the book, with major criticism of her skimming over the William Vicary incident. The New York Times was especially critical of Abramson's blame for the system she alleges creates the criminals rather than taking issue with the criminals themselves. The review charges that Abramson rarely makes the killer the enemy and instead points the finger at crooked cops, incompetent judges, and the lack of rehabilitation in the penal system.

Abramson was hired to represent Phil Spector

Leslie Abramson's most recent higher-profile case was when she was hired to defend famed music producer Phil Spector on charges that he murdered actress Lana Clarkson in 2004 (via CNN). Abramson replaced Spector's first choice, O.J. Simpson trial lead attorney Robert Shapiro. But this arrangement didn't last long, either. After a dispute between her and Spector, Abramson and co-counsel Marcia Morrissey was unceremoniously fired from representing him. Spector hired famed John Gotti attorney Bruce Cutler to replace the duo. Cutler filed a motion with the courts to replace existing counsel when Abramson was traveling abroad. Of the replacement, Abramson told CBS News, "We were put in an untenable position, and we were forced to resign. If we wanted to be ethical and competent, we had to resign."

Abramson is retired from the field of law but remains in the public eye via various speaking engagements. In 2015, Abramson was the keynote speaker at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law's "Women and the Law" conference in San Diego (per the Thomas Jefferson School of Law). The retired attorney was married to Los Angeles Times reporter Tim Rutten before he passed in 2022 (via the Los Angeles Times). The couple resides in a sizable home that they purchased in 2001. Abramson and Rutten together adopted a son in 1996 (per The Washinton Post).