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Erik Menendez Finally Explains His Controversial Smile During The Trial

In 1989, Jose and Kitty Menendez were found murdered with a shotgun in their Beverly Hills home. Police later arrested their two sons, Lyle and Erik, famously known as the Menendez brothers, in connection with the brutal death of their wealthy parents.

Lyle and Erik were accused of murdering their parents as part of a scheme to get their $14 million estate.

The notorious siblings were found guilty of homicide, and at the end of one of the most watched trials in the nation, they were both sentenced to life in prison without parole.

NY Daily News

Even after their conviction, the Menendez case continued to captivate America, and eventually inspired documentaries, TV show plots and biopics, including the 1994 made-for-TV movie Menéndez: A Killing in Beverly Hills, and a documentary titled Truth and Lies: The Menéndez Brothers - American Sons, American Murderers.

More recently, the brothers themselves opened up about their actions during interviews with the media.

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This past September, Lyle, the eldest, expressed regret for his actions while speaking with TODAY's Megyn Kelly during an interview from prison.

"It's really, a regret every day, a regret every day, but at the same time, I can't escape what happened anymore than I can escape the memories of what happened to me," said Lyle, who is currently detained at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California.

Both he and Erik insist that the crime wasn't premeditated, but they did it because they could no longer stand the abuse they suffered at the hands of their father.

"There really wasn't a discussion about killing my parents," he said. "I didn't know the details of what had happened between my brother and my father, and when I first heard about it, I had some of the same reaction that some people have, 'How could you not have resisted? Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you run away? Why didn't you fight back against your father?'"

A few months after Lyle's interview, Erik broke his silence for the first time since the murders.

"I've heard many different versions of my life told in the media, and those stories are fictional. I think it's time people hear the truth in my own words...," said Erik in the A&E documentary The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All.

"From the moment after, I wanted to go back in time to take everything back that Lyle and I did. It was so wrong," he confessed. "I didn't want my parents dead, I just wanted the abuse to stop. Years and years of pain exploded that night in an unimaginable violence. It is my own personal hell."

NY Daily News

Despite his claims that the media portrayed him in the wrong light, many people still don't believe Erik because of something he often did during his arraignment - he walked into the courtroom with a smile on his face. This led critics to believe that he had felt no remorse, and that the prosecutors were right in describing him as a homicidal brat.

Now, Erik is speaking out once again to clarify why he reacted the way he did decades ago.

In a new episode of the A&E docuseries in which Erik attempts to clear up rumors without the "restrictions of a courtroom," the convicted killer says that his behavior during the trial was misunderstood.

"I was being portrayed as a monster "” someone who would kill for money," Erik, now 47, says on the show.

Rolling Stone

Erik says he "was in shock" about the entire situation and had no idea how to react to things people around him were saying.

He continues, "When I first came to the arraignment, I was so nervous. I walked out there and [defense attorney] Leslie [Abramson] made a joke. It was so nerve-wracking that I smiled and it was this defense mechanism that came out. But on the cameras from then to the rest of eternity, [they] have me smiling as if I think the whole thing is a joke."

Although Erik appeared relaxed during the trial and was caught smiling on more than one occasion, he says "ironically, that was exactly the opposite of how I felt."

"Behind the scenes, I can't stop crying," he says. "I'm on massive doses of antidepressants, and I just want to die. Instead, what's portrayed is this arrogant kid who thinks this is all a joke."

In an earlier episode of the special, Erik admitted that being in prison isn't the only punishment he's received. He said that "the tragedy didn't end on that night."

"It didn't end there for my family, and it continues on to this day, and that sadness is something that I am trying to make up for with them and with my parents for the rest of my life. It will never end."

Since cameras aren't allowed in the prison, viewers aren't able to see Erik's reactions during these interviews, but the series features phone interviews, never-before-seen footage and photos, interviews with family members, medical experts, prosecutors, and law enforcement.

The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All airs on Thursday, December 14 (10 p.m. ET) on A&E.

Do you believe Erik's explanation? Let us know!

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.