Hung Jury: The Diary of a Menendez Juror

Menendez Brothers

First Edition 1995

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, a media circus which was covered in full by Court TV and which sparked a national “abuse excuse” debate. The juries were not treated kindly by the media. Although not written for public consumption, I eventually agreed to the publication of my journal, along with legal and psychological commentaries. Before the first 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.


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 just a few days, four things happened. 1.) I was released from having to serve on another high-profile jury, the police shooting of 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’s the 20 year anniversary of the murder convictions, and true crime is 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. LOOK!


Reissued 20 years later 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 several copies!


If you have read the book…

…and if you feel like doing me a favor, 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 the 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 (not so much the “imperfect self defense” story, though) 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. If you get a chance to see them, the shows I like best so far (there are several more currently in production) are the original 1994 2-hr Court TV special, and the 2015 Barbara Walters Presents American Scandals Season 1, Episode 4.

If you have questions, click here to contact me.

Here is a short (11:40) interview I did in the middle of the second trial that summed up the main issues pretty well, I thought:



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