HUNG JURY: The Diary of a Menendez Juror by Hazel Thornton

HUNG JURY: The Diary of a Menendez Juror

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A juror refutes some common misperceptions about the hopelessly deadlocked juries in the Menendez case. When the Menendez brothers' trial ended on January 13, 1994, with two bung juries (although tried concurrently, the brothers had separate juries), many Americans were appalled: If ever there was a ""slam-dunk case,"" this was it. Rich, young scions Lyle and Erik Menendez had been taped confessing to their therapist how they had burst into the family's Beverly Hills estate and shotgunned their parents to death. At trial, the defense conceded that their clients had done the foul deed--the real question, they argued, was why. The prosecution claimed the boys wanted early payment of their $14 million inheritance, but the defense had a more inspired story to tell: Lyle and Erik slaughtered Jose and Kitty Menendez in self-defense, convinced their tyrannical father and hateful mother were planning to kill them for threatening to publicize Jose's longstanding sexual abuse of his sons. Juror Thornton, an engineer for Pacific Bell, reveals in her lively, astute trial diary that Erik's jury reached an impasse not on the issue of guilt, but on the charge: the six male jurors, unmoved by the tale of sexual abuse, and convinced, however irrelevantly, that Erik was gay, voted to convict him of first-degree murder, while the six female jurors voted for the lesser charge, voluntary manslaughter. Countering the notion that the jurors were hoodwinked and baffled by the parade of psychological experts, Thornton shows a firm grasp of the facts and of legal concepts like ""burden of proof."" Psychological and legal commentaries follow the trial diary, but they minimize the key issue of the case--how attorneys stretched the concept of ""self-defense"" to persuade six jurors that Jose and Kitty, eating ice cream in their TV room, were about to strike first. A highly valuable resource for litigators, and a good read for the expanding army of trial buffs.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 164pp
Publisher: Temple Univ.