Who could have guessed there would be a resurgence of interest in this case almost 3 decades later?
It’s a never-ending story, and this page will be updated as events continue to unfold!
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Miracles do happen!
Menendez Miracle #1: Law & Order True Crime
On August 3, 2017, Dick Wolf revealed his point of view for Law & Order True Crime by publicly stating that he thought the Menendez brothers received too harsh a punishment and that there was collusion in the second trial between the judge and the DA to ensure murder convictions! The 8-episode series itself was a revelation to many watchers who were being introduced to the case for the first time, or who had previously been exposed only to prosecution-biased versions.
Menendez Miracle #2: The Reunion
On April 4, 2018, Lyle & Erik were reunited in prison after being separated for 22 years!
Menendez Miracle #3: The Resurrected First Trial Videos
On June 20, 2020, Court TV uploaded the complete first trial courtroom video footage to their website for all to watch for themselves!
Menendez Miracle #4: The New Menendez Supporter Movement
On Feb 9, 2021, the New York Times published an article about the new tidal wave of young people who support the brothers! Subsequent articles and TV shows featured TikTok creators and others involved in the movement.
Future Menendez Miracle: The Release
Erik and Lyle walking free after 30+ years? Why not? Miracles happen every day!
May 13, 2021: Group of TikTok users leading push to free Menendez Brothers — FOX11 Los Angeles news report (6:22 video)
April 5, 2021: Instagram Live#1 with Robert Rand and Hazel Thornton on @imrobertrand — The Juror & The Journalist
March 31, 2021: The Menendez brothers are back in the zeitgeist thanks to teens on TikTok — ABC News article by Erin Murtha
February 9, 2021: The New Menendez Defenders — “Young people are making impassioned arguments for the release of Lyle and Erik Menendez. Why now?” — The New York Times article by Ezra Marcus. (Menendez Miracle #4)
January 28, 2021: The Menendez Mistrial 27 Years Later. 27th Anniversary of the two deadlocked first-trial juries. Vinnie Politan interviewed me and journalist Robert Rand on Court TV Live.
December 2020: A new documentary explores how the media affected the Menendez trials. I was interviewed COVID-style (audio-only), with me in Albuquerque, and my interviewers in London. The Crimes That Changed Us (episode 4) — ID Investigation Discovery.
July 2020: Court TV has uploaded the complete first trial courtroom video footage to their website. It is conveniently separated into 121 segments. So now, at long last, if you are so inclined, you can see for yourself what happened in court. There is also a new Court TV 6-part podcast, featuring soundbites from me. I call this Menendez Miracle #3.
March 13, 2020: Menendez brothers deserve a second chance (by Chandra Bozelko, for Daily Press)
March 8, 2020: Lyle and Erik have spent a full 30 years behind bars, with no possibility of parole. After being separated for 22 years, they have spent the last 2 years together at the same prison in San Diego. Had they been sentenced to manslaughter, instead of murder, they would have both served a maximum of 22 years and would have been free now for 8 years. #JusticeforErikandLyle
February 14, 2020: 10News Article + Video — Menendez brothers help paint massive mural as part of innovative prison program. Lyle and Erik have made it their mission (for years now) to improve the lives of their fellow inmates.
June 2019: Read Robert Rand’s blog post: A day in the life of Lyle Menendez at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility
January 2019: 25th anniversary of two hung juries, one for Erik, one for Lyle, after the first trial. My #Menendez25 “25 Years Ago Today” Facebook and Twitter campaign spanned 7 months from jury selection in June 2018 to the two deadlocked juries in January 2019.
Sept 2018: Release of journalist Robert Rand’s long-awaited book, The Menendez Murders. The manuscript for this book was the primary source material for NBC’s 2017 Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders 8-part series. Click here to learn more about The Juror & The Journalist.
April 4, 2018: After a cruel and unnecessary 22-year separation, 6 years of petitioning, and 28 years behind bars, Erik & Lyle were reunited on April 4 at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. They are both now living in the experimental Echo Yard, where they get to see each other every day. (Menendez Miracle #2)
August 3, 2017: Dick Wolf revealed his point of view for Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders by publicly stating that he thought the Menendez brothers received too harsh a punishment and that there was collusion in the second trial between the judge and the DA to ensure murder convictions! The 8-episode series itself was a revelation to many watchers who were being introduced to the case for the first time, or who had previously been exposed only to prosecution-biased versions. (Menendez Miracle #1) Here is a link to the Variety article. And here’s how it affected me personally.
Menendez Juror FAQ:
Q1: This first one is actually a whole category of questions: Are you in touch with Erik, Lyle, Leslie, other jurors, and/or family members? Is Leslie in touch with Erik and/or Lyle? Has so-and-so visited Lyle and/or Erik in prison? What do Erik, Lyle, Leslie, other jurors, or family members think of fill-in-the-blank?
A1: I do have relationships with some of these people! And I have answers to some of these questions. However, many of the trial participants and family members are very private. I’m sure you’ll understand that I’m respecting their privacy — as well as my own — by not answering questions like these. I can only answer questions about what it was like to be a juror on the 1st trial; what I think about the miscarriage of justice in the 2nd trial; what is true or false about what has been reported over the years; and how the trial has impacted my life (short of invading someone else’s privacy).
Q2: Why did you say, “When I first saw Erik Menendez walk into the courtroom my blood went cold”?
A2: Imagine my surprise when I realized that there were HUNDREDS of TikToks superimposing MY VOICE (un-credited) on clips of Erik walking into a courtroom! Sometimes my voice is nearly drowned out by Britney Spears’ “Criminal” (Mama, I’m in love with a criminal). Other times it’s louder, or it’s captioned. Many of the questions in the comments are about who said that and why did she say that? Can you imagine how many books I could have sold had they known who said that? More importantly, and the reason for the book in the first place (I didn’t write it for money, and I make a tiny fraction of what you probably think), can you imagine how many more people could have learned the truth of the case had they been able to read my book?
The audio clip is from a documentary (I forget which one). But the line also appears on Day 1 of my trial journal in Hung Jury: The Diary of a Menendez Juror. Imagine yourself on jury duty, not knowing yet what trial you are there for. You’ve heard rumors it was for the Menendez case, but you are confused because you thought everyone knew they’d done it. Hadn’t they confessed? And it happened years ago! So you’re still not sure until Erik Menendez walks into the courtroom. For all I knew at the time, he WAS a cold-blooded killer! I was willing to be open-minded about the case, but all I had heard was what had been reported in the news all those years, just like everyone else. I had yet to hear their “Imperfect Self-Defense” testimony, and it was 7 months later that I voted for manslaughter, not murder.
Q3: Was it “thrilling” to be on Oprah? And to “corner” her?
A3: Not really. Here’s why…
Q4: Out of all the 30+ years worth of Menendez books, documentaries, dramatizations, podcasts, etc., which ones do you recommend?
A4: Click here: Hazel’s Top Menendez Picks
Q4: Did you base your book on your courtroom notes?
A4: No. Although they did let us take our courtroom notebooks home at the very end of the trial, we had to leave them with the bailiff at the end of each day. I wasn’t writing a book, I was keeping a diary. The judge admonished us on a daily basis to not talk to anyone about the trial, but I had to “talk” to someone, so I went home each evening and wrote a little about what I’d seen and heard that day. Just the highlights, and the things that impressed or bothered me. Just to relieve the stress of the trial so I could sleep at night. The diary is the diary. No more and no less. My first publisher wanted me to add gory details about the case, and gossip about my fellow jurors. I said no, I don’t care if you want it or not. But if you do want it, you have to take it as it is. (Plus commentaries, prefaces, postscripts, chronologies, etc.) The story of how the book came to be is included in the book itself.
Q5: How many times have you served jury duty?
A5: I’ve been summoned 7 times (so far):
1. CA — Selected for a gang rape trial that settled out of court before it began. I like to think the defendants (assuming they were guilty) took one look at me (and heard what I had to say in voir dire) and decided they had no chance. I was the only one who admitted to ever having seen a movie about gang rape (in particular, The Accused, 1988, Jodie Foster).
2. 1993 CA — Selected for 1st Menendez brothers murder trial. Served 7 months and wrote a book: Hung Jury: The Diary of a Menendez Juror. The 2nd, unjust, trial resulted in first-degree murder convictions. They have been behind bars since 3/8/90.
3. 1994 CA — Summoned just weeks after Menendez 1 ended. (Asked for and received a deferral.)
4. CA — Selected for a civil case involving a black man who robbed someone on the street and ran down an alley. Seemed to me (and to others) that he did it, but the black jurors felt there was too great a chance he was mistaken for another black man. (Hung jury.)
5. CA — Civil case involving spray paint. Voir dire question: Have you ever read the directions on a can of spray paint? My answer: You mean the part where you’re not supposed to spray it in your eyes? (Dismissed, lol!)
6. 2016 NM — Biggest Case in NM state history. Or so I heard. James Boyd, the homeless man who was shot and killed in the Sandia foothills by two police officers. (I was eventually, but not quickly, dismissed from the jury pool before voir dire began.)
7. 2018 NM — Not selected for two trials I was called for. First day: The clerk called dozens of names before he called mine. I said, “Here,” like everyone else did, and he replied, “Welcome back Ms. Thornton.” !!!!! Turns out he remembered me from the James Boyd trial (from which I was dismissed), which had a pool of HUNDREDS of jurors. I asked if he remembered anything else about me. He thought for a moment and said, “You were on another trial….in another state…” When pressed, he did NOT remember which trial, LOL! This is not a story about me, it’s a story about the clerk and his amazing memory!
Q6: Was it a hardship for you, taking that much time off from work, and only getting $5 a day as a juror…?
A6: Not at all! The court was careful to not choose any jurors to whom it would be a financial hardship to serve for 7 months. My company, Pacific Bell, paid my full salary the entire time. It was corporate policy for employees to serve when called, and everyone at work was completely supportive of me.
NOTE: If you have a question, please contact me.