Menendez mistrial angers many // `Expensive learning experience'

  Mimi Hall; Haya El Nasser


  USA Today


  Page 03A

  (Copyright 1994)


  VAN NUYS, Calif. - As a mob of reporters formed outside the courthouse here,

  Erik Menendez's jurors - some of them with tears in their eyes - delivered the

  long-awaited but much-predicted bad news:


  After 20 days of agonizing deliberations, after a five-month trial that included

  hundreds of witnesses, after hearing devastating tales of child abuse and a

  gruesome recounting of how Erik and Lyle Menendez shotgunned to death their

  parents, the jurors said they could not reach a verdict.


  Jurors considering charges against Erik first reported an impasse Monday and

  were told by Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg to keep trying. They

  reported Thursday that jurors' opinions had become even "more entrenched."


  Weisberg thanked them for their service: "You've made great sacrifices to be



  The news didn't shock this city, but it angered many.


  "This is an outrage," said Denise Aguinaga, 24, an assistant grocery store

  manager. "Now it's going to cost a fortune to retry them. It just seems ridiculous.

  He is guilty."


  The trial cost about $9,000 a day in court costs and $300,000 for court-appointed



  Because the Menendez brothers admitted shooting their parents while they were

  watching television in their Beverly Hills mansion, many lawyers who watched

  the trial considered the mistrial a victory for the defense.


  "It's right next door to an acquittal," said Charles Carr, a law professor at the

  State University of New York at Buffalo.


  But others warned a second trial would be more difficult for the defense.


  "The prosecution usually does better on a retrial," said widely known defense

  lawyer Barry Levin. "They know the defense strategy."


  Erik's lawyer, Leslie Abramson, said Thursday she did not consider the mistrial a



  "This is unfortunately now a very expensive learning experience," she said.


  Asked whether she will defend Erik again, she noted that his parents' $14 million

  estate - which prosecution maintained the brothers killed for - is completely



  If a defense fund is established to raise money, she said she would take the case.


  Abramson also said she might plea-bargain Erik's case if the district attorney

  made a reasonable offer.


  District Attorney Gil Garcetti has vowed to retry the case. Some experts wonder

  whether he'll stick to that position - especially if Lyle's jury, on its 21st day of

  deliberations today, also cannot reach a verdict or finds the older brother guilty

  of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.


  If that's the case, "I think it's a 50-50 toss whether he retries," says Robert

  Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern University School of Law.


  Until new charges are filed, Erik, a one-time tennis star, will remain in jail,

  where he has been since his 1990 arrest. Contributing: Jonathan T. Lovitt

  PHOTOS,b/w,Bob Halvorsen(2); PHOTO,b/w,Eric Draper(Pool photos)