After last week’s harrowing episode in which the Menendez brothers took the stand in their defense, this week’s episode of Law & Order True Crime focused on the jury deliberations and the difficulties they faced in determining the correct verdict, either First Degree murder or Manslaughter.
Keep in mind these trials have been going on for months and putting yourself in the place of a juror who has not been able to spend much time, if any, with their families, deciding a case of this nature must be difficult. Do you try to come to a reasonable decision based on the evidence or do you see this as the finish line and just want to come to a verdict so you can get on with your life again?
Both juries had a difficult time with the initial votes coming up six for First Degree and six for Manslaughter. The chore then becomes swaying those from the other side to your way of thinking, and it seems the juries were equally split down gender lines. The men saw the brothers as cold-blooded killers only out for the money while the women, especially those with children of their own, were more impacted by the stories of parental abuse. One of the women suggested the men just refused to believe a father could do that to his son.
And then there was one juror on Erik’s case who believed what he believed and no one could change his mind, at one point handing out his own manifesto detailing what he felt were the facts of the case. He wasn’t too happy when one juror told him that what he felt did not constitute a fact. He even tried to sway the jurors by pinning the crime scene photos to the bulletin board, clearly violating whatever rules that had been set forth. He could pass them around, but he was not allowed to post them, and he also refused to take them down. It got quite heated in those jury deliberation rooms.
Meanwhile the District Attorney was pushing for a conviction, even going so far as to threaten the judge with his position in the coming election. If Judge Weisberg was already in a bad mood about the case, plus his pure hatred for Leslie Abramson, thinking he was going to be primaried was not something he could tolerate. After three months of deliberations, both juries came back deadlocked, giving the Menendez team the hope for a mistrial. But Weisberg insisted the jurors continue deliberations, to the shock and objections of Abramson and the dismay of the jurors, who had already worked through Christmas.
And to make matters worse, Los Angeles was struck by a massive earthquake that damaged the courthouse so when they returned to deliberate, the jurors had to work from a trailer that had been set up outside that was not in the best shape. One juror said it smelled like raw sewage. And then it was suggested that perhaps they could all compromise on Second Degree murder which would give them time to serve but also an eventual release. Everyone finally agreed on that verdict … except that one guy. So with an 11-1 vote, the jury was once again deadlocked (as was Lyle’s jury) forcing Weisberg at this point to declare a mistrial.
The DA was not happy and removed prosecutor Pam Bozanich from the case, putting David Conn, a real bulldog when it comes to prosecution, in her place. Garcetti wanted that conviction and knew Conn would do whatever it took, including refusing to even consider a plea agreement with Abramson’s team. After years of working on these cases, Abramson lost both of her defense team members including Jill Lansing, Lyle’s lawyer. With the departures, Lyle received two court appointed lawyers including Barry Levin (played by Harry Hamlin), which would take some of the financial burden off of the Menendez family.
But the lengthy trial completely wiped out whatever money the jury assumed the brothers would inherit, and their family home had to be sold to cover Abramson’s fees. With no way to pay her, Abramson asked the court to move to appoint her as Erik’s lawyer so she would be paid by the state, but Erik kind of screwed that up by saying he wouldn’t be able to open up to a new attorney. The judge refused, so Leslie started a defense fund beginning with a few bucks that had been sent to her unsolicited. Announcing her plan, Garcetti decided he’d also set up a fund for the prosecution which really cheesed the judge who refused to appoint Leslie, so much so that he reversed his decision, so she is back on the case … at half of her normal fee.
But Judge Weisberg, already angry at the brothers, Leslie, Court TV, and the DA, this time insisted that instead of “wasting” any more taxpayer dollars, the new trial would be combined. One jury and that’s that. It seems pretty clear that, as Levin put it, “the fix is in.” With the length of the trial so far and all of the news coverage, it was going to be nearly impossible to find potential jurors who didn’t already have an opinion about the brothers. Getting a fair outcome from a hostile court seems to be quite the longshot at this point.
Outside of the trial, there were two points of note this week. Sr. Oziel came to a financial settlement with Judalon Smith with her calling it almost like a divorce settlement. Oziel said it was but without the pain of having being married to her. Then she wondered if she could sure Playboy for the article they wrote about her. And Oziel also wondered if he could sue Vanity Fair for a similar assault on his character.
In jail, it was decided that Lyle would be moved away from Erik and the newest occupant of his cell — O.J. Simpson! Erik spoke to Simpson (who was not seen but heard on the show) and told him about the time he came to the Menendez home, and he also warned him not to believe anything his attorney Robert Shapiro told him. Erik claimed Shapiro had done something that screwed up his voluntary surrender when he arrived back in LA. It seems though that while the brothers and Simpson did share some close quarters while jailed, it was actually Lyle who spoke more with Simpson than Erik. What seems to be true though, as Leslie Abramson pointed out, Simpson was getting much better treatment than her boys because of his celebrity.
The Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders series finale airs Tuesday at 10 PM on NBC.
What did you think of this episode? Can Lyle and Erik get a fair trial? Tell us what you think!