Hung Jury: The Diary of a Menendez Juror

Menendez Brothers

First Edition 1995


Reissued in 2017 with add’l material: 20 Years Later, and Menendez Retrial: Rehash or Revelation? E-book & Audio book t00! CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER


I didn’t talk about it for 20 years.  And now I can’t shut up about it!

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What is YOUR verdict? Need help deciding?Click image to view and print full-sized chart.

Once upon a time…

…when I lived in Los Angeles… I reported to jury duty one day and stayed for 7 months. The first Menendez brothers murder trial resulted in two hung juries (one for each brother). I kept a journal as a way of dealing with the stress of the trial. It was a media circus, covered in full by Court TV, and the brothers’ defense story sparked a national “abuse excuse” debate. The juries were not treated kindly by the media. In particular, the women who voted for voluntary manslaughter were ridiculed and thought to be indecisive, emotional, enamored of the brothers, and too stupid to understand the jury instructions.

This John Callahan cartoon appeared in the LA Times Magazine during the first trial, in 1993.


Although not originally written for public consumption, I eventually agreed to the publication of my journal, along with legal and psychological commentaries. Before the first small printing sold out, the O.J. Simpson double murder trial took center stage. In their second trial, Lyle and Erik Menendez were convicted of first degree murder for killing their parents. They were sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

From “Judging the Jury System” – Los Angeles Times, 25 Sep 1994. The Reginald Denny beating trial ended with a hung jury during the first Menendez trial.

20 years passed…

…during which I moved to Albuquerque, started my organizing business, and DID NOT talk about the Menendez trial. Why not? Well, for one thing, there were no more books. It was simply TOO HARD to talk about my experience without being able to end a conversation by suggesting that you read the book to learn more. And, really, what was I supposed to do? Introduce myself to new clients, colleagues, neighbors, friends, co-volunteers, and book club members as, “Hi, I’m Hazel Thornton, owner of Organized for Life and the author of an out-of-print book about the highly controversial first Menendez brothers trial”…???


…in the space of a week…several amazing things happened. 1.) I was released from having to serve on another high-profile trial — the biggest NM has even seen (what were the odds?) —  the police shooting of homeless and mentally ill James Boyd in the foothills of Albuquerque. 2.) I “came out” on Facebook as having served on the Menendez trial. 3.) ABC 20/20 contacted my publisher looking for me, and Temple University Press (from whom I had not heard in 20 years) asked me if I wanted to do the interview. It was the 20 year anniversary of the murder convictions, and true crime was all the rage again on TV. I knew this from turning down interview requests earlier in the year. I told them that one of the reasons I wasn’t interested was that there were no more books, so… 4.) They agreed to republish it with new material.


The new edition…

…features an old, but never-published, essay comparing the first and second trials (Menendez Retrial: Rehash or Revelation?), and a new introduction (20 Years Later).

Order your copy from AmazonBookworks Albuquerque, or any local or chain bookstore. Check your local library. If they don’t have it, you can request that they order it. The Albuquerque Public Library has 5 copies! UPDATE: Now available in paperback, e-book, and audio book formats!

And then a miracle occurred…

We got to see the first two episodes on 9/11/17, followed by a panel discussion with the director, show runner, and cast.

On August 3, 2017, Dick Wolf, Executive Producer of the 8-part series Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, made a public statement that changed my life. He believes the Menendez brothers received too harsh a penalty and that there was collusion between the judge and the DA in the second trial to ensure murder convictions.

O.M.G.! That’s what I think, too, and wrote about in my book, but I had never heard anyone (other than defense attorney Leslie Abramson, of course) say it publicly, and in front of such a large audience.

Dick Wolf’s statement gave me courage and hope. I didn’t talk about my experience for 20 years, and now I can’t shut up about it!

Now that I have seen Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, I can say I wholeheartedly recommend it. And Edie Falco deserves an Emmy for her portrayal of Leslie Abramson!

Since then I have done interviews for several new news programs and documentaries (some linked to below). It’s hard to believe there is such a resurgence of interest. None of it is likely to change the legal status of Erik & Lyle Menendez, but the way I figure it is this: Any degree of validation and understanding for the Menendez brothers equals validation and understanding for me, a female “manslaughter juror” on the first trial. And who knows what the future may bring?

KEEP SCROLLING for upcoming events, photos, and links!

 If you have read Hung Jury

…and found it to be worthwhile, please click here. Scroll down past the reviews, until you see the “Write a customer review” button. You must be an Amazon customer to leave a review — and who isn’t? — but you need not have purchased this book from them. The first edition was never sold new on Amazon, a fledgling company in 1995. Therefore, most people who read and enjoyed it never got a chance to write reviews. Thank you for doing so now!


Prosecution v. Defense

Over the years the public has been inundated with  prosecution-biased headlines, articles, books, news stories, documentaries, comedy sketches, and dramatizations.

It is only recently that the tide has turned somewhat in favor of the defense point of view.

If you get a chance to see them, the shows I like best prior to 2017 are the original 1994 2-hr Court TV special (Part 1Part 2), and the 2015 Barbara Walters Presents American Scandals Season 1, Episode 4 (available here).

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CHECK BACK often for updates!

My courtroom notebooks are ready for their close-ups at NBC4 in Los Angeles. August 2017

Breaking News & Upcoming events

Photo albums:

Selected Interviews

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders

OMG. I’m a character in the LOTC series!!! Lily Rains will be playing 36-year-old me in Episodes 5, 6, and 7.

Stay in Touch

Hazel Thornton
Hazel Thornton is Organized for Life

September 2017 lunch with my jury friend Betty Oldfield (left), and defense attorney Leslie Abramson (right). In 1994 we were called “Leslie’s Girls”. It wasn’t meant as a compliment, but I’m proud to have been one of them. Click here to read an article called “Tried and True – True Crime Details from Local Menendez Juror” from the Sand Canyon Journal, Oct. 5, 2017

Best endorsement ever? Lyle doesn’t have the internet in prison, but his family administers his Facebook page with daily telephone input from him.









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