Amid Appeal Bid, Lyle Menendez Aims to Be 'Productive Person' While Behind Bars for Parents' Killing

From prison, Lyle Menendez spoke over the phone to an audience at CrimeCon in Nashville

<p>California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP</p> Lyle Menendez

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP

Lyle Menendez

Lyle Menendez’s fate is in the hands of the court, which is weighing a petition filed last year that could potentially free him and his brother, Erik. For now though, the man convicted of killing his parents in 1989 is just trying to better himself.

Speaking over the phone from prison, Lyle told a crowd at CrimeCon in Nashville what his life looks like behind bars and shared an update about his educational pursuits.

“I get my bachelor's degree in sociology at UC Irvine,” Lyle told the audience. “It's the first time that a University of California university partnered with corrections to have a very small graduating class. I managed my way into it. So about 23 incarcerated guys will be graduating on June 20th, so it'll be exciting.”

Lyle was interviewed at CrimeCon by Mark Geragos, his longtime attorney, and NewsNation correspondent Laura Ingle.

Related: Menendez Brother Explains Why He Didn't Accuse Parents of Abuse When He Initially Confessed to Killings

The Menendez brothers were convicted of the 1989 murders of their parents, Jose and Kitty, who were shot to death in their Beverly Hills mansion. In 1996, the brothers were sentenced to life in prison without parole, after a second trial. Lyle was 21 and Erik was 18 at the time of the killings.

The brothers do not dispute that they shot their parents, but instead claimed that the killings were self-defense, alleging Jose had sexually abused hem for years and Kitty had enabled the abuse. Prosecutors argued the allegations of abuse were fabricated.

Recognizing he might never get out of prison, Lyle said he has been focusing on improving his life, which includes studying sociology.

“I just decided even though I'm incarcerated and there isn't hope of freedom, I still have a chance to be a productive person and sort of feel like I'm proud of what I'm doing with my day,” Lyle said. “Education seemed like an obvious answer to that question.”

He also said he is trying for a master’s degree in urban planning, which he said fits in with work he has done to help redesign the prison yard, in a way that is less “harsh and oppressive.”

“Not to make prison more fun and less a sentence, but to create a sense of community so that prisoners could learn to function in a sense of community, almost like a campus, and that they might be more open to changing their life,” he said about the redesign.

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Erik and Lyle’s attorney filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Los Angeles Superior Court last year, reviewed by PEOPLE, citing evidence unearthed in a docuseries, Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed.

The evidence put forward includes a claim by Menudo member Roy Rosselló, who alleged that Jose, an executive for RCA Records, raped him.

The writ also included a letter that attorneys claim Erik sent to his cousin before the shooting detailing Jose’s alleged abuse.

Lyle finished the conversation with Geragos and Ingle by thanking everyone who had written to him and Erik.

“We hope for the best,” he told the audience.

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