I didn’t talk about it for 20 years. And now I can’t shut up about it!
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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.
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.
Then 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 Amazon, Bookworks 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 as an e-book! Audio book coming soon.
If you have read the book…
…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!
Here’s a video clip from the 2017 ABC 20/20 Menendez special featuring me: clip from show. They left 99.99% of my interview on the cutting room floor, though, so don’t bother watching if you’re just doing it to see me on TV. It was the price I had to pay to get my book republished. My favorite part of that particular special was journalist Terry Moran, who believed the brothers’ abuse story from the time he first saw Lyle testify in court, as did I.
Over the years there have been a plethora of documentaries and docudramas made about the case. They are mostly prosecution-biased and headlines-oriented. 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 (UPDATE: I have just had my copy digitized and will see about uploading it to YouTube), and the 2015 Barbara Walters Presents American Scandals Season 1, Episode 4.
And then a miracle occurred.
On August 3, 2017, Dick Wolf, Executive Producer of the upcoming 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?
CLICK HERE to contact me.
CHECK BACK often for updates.
- Nov. 30: Premiere of A&E’s Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All series.
- Soon: Audio book recording and release!
- January: Podcast guest (details TBA)
- Jan. 31: A Juror’s Inside Scoop on the Menendez Murders Trials — Oasis Albuquerque lecture.
- Coming in 2018: The Menendez Murders book, by Robert Rand. His manuscript was the basis of the 2017 Law & Order True Crime series. Pre-order it today on Amazon!
- Bookworks Hung Jury Event — Book signing and reading January 2017 Albuquerque
- Callahan Courtroom Cartoons — These cartoons, by the late John Callahan, were published in the LA Times during the first trial.
- The Menendez Boxes organizing project — Investigative journalist Robert Rand, who has followed the case from the beginning, and who interviewed me in 1994, gets Organized for Life.
- Lily Rains as Juror Hazel on TV — Blink and you’ll miss her in episodes 5 & 6, but she plays a prominent role in Episode 7.
- Hazel on Oprah, Dateline, 20/20, A&E, etc. — photo album link coming soon
Tuesday nights at KOB4 — photo album link coming soon
- Hazel on KABC Radio 11-17-95 (11:40 min.) My views on the second trial, during the second trial.
- Hazel on Oprah 2003 #1 of 2 (3:04 min. Oprah and Court TV’s Catherine Crier were not impressed with me.)
- Hazel on Oprah 2003 #2 of 2 (3:54 min. In which I get to say what I wanted to say.)
- Jurors Say Menendez Brothers Served Long Enough (NBC4 Los Angeles, 2017)
Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
- Watch all 8 episodes on NBC.com
- Lily Rains as Juror Hazel on TV (photo album)
- Menendez juror says television series was ’95 percent accurate’ (KOB4 Albuquerque)
- Tuesday nights at KOB4 — photo album link coming soon
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