Hung Jury: The Diary of a Menendez Juror

Menendez Brothers

First Edition 1995

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

Follow me on Facebook (Hazel Thornton & Hazel Thornton is Organized for Life), and Twitter (@Org4life & @MenendezJuror).

I welcome questions; click here to contact me.

Check back often, because I keep adding to this page.

Scroll down for more photos!

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 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”…???

Suddenly…

…in the space of just a few days, four things happened. 1.) I was released from having to serve on another high-profile trial — the biggest ever in NM —  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. LOOK!

New York Times 1994. CLICK IMAGE TO READ FULL ARTICLE.

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 5 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 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!

Los Angeles Times 1994. CLICK IMAGE TO READ FULL ARTICLE.

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. They are mostly prosecution-biased and headlines oriented. 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.

And then a miracle occurred.

Me, KNBC-4 news anchor Colleen Williams, and my jury friend Betty. August 2017

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 with such a large audience.

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

I am now looking forward to the Law & Order series, rather than dreading it. And Edie Falco as Leslie Abramson — such a genius casting choice!

Me and NBC Dateline’s Keith Morrison. August 2017

Since then. I have done interviews for an un-named, un-scheduled documentary; KNBC-4 News in Los Angeles; and NBC’s Dateline. 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 vindication and understanding for the Menendez brothers equals vindication and understanding for me, a female “manslaughter juror” on the first trial.

Strange twist of fate

My courtroom notebooks are ready for their close-up. August 2017

Meanwhile, I have become reacquainted with Robert Rand, an investigative journalist who was one of the first to interview me after the first trial ended. His book, The Menendez Murders: An American Tragedy, the basis for the Law & Order series, will be released soon. In a strange twist of fate, he has hired me to help him organize his 40 boxes of Menendez notes, interviews, and memorabilia! And, seriously, who better? 🙂

I welcome questions; click here to contact me.

Check back often, because I keep adding to this page.

Scroll down for more photos!

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

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

 

My client, investigative journalist Robert Rand, with his Menendez boxes.

Disorganized audio and video tapes.

 

 

Organized and indexed audio tapes.

 

Best book endorsement ever? Lyle Menendez (via a family member) wrote: “I recently re-read this book to refresh my memory of my first trial since I have blocked a lot of it out (for upcoming interviews). This book is so good! I would recommend reading the new version which has additional chapters which really bring the topic into this century.”

Lunch with my jury friend Betty (left), and defense attorney Leslie Abramson (right). In 1994 we were called “Leslie’s Girls”, and not necessarily kindly, either.

 

 

New box of books. Contact me if you’d like an autographed one. Otherwise, order on Amazon.

 

Panel discussion with producer, showrunner, and actors after episodes 1 & 2 preview at The Paley Center.

We got to see the first two episodes on 9/11/17. So far, so good!

 

 

 

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email