Who Is Judalon Smyth, The Key Witness From The Menendez Brothers Trial?

A key witness in the Menendez brothers murder trial, the testimony of Judalon Smyth added an extra layer of drama to an already shocking case. Smyth's actions led to the brothers' arrest for the murder of their parents in 1989, however, in a bizarre twist she wound up testifying for the defense. Details about Smyth's disturbing relationship with the brother's married psychiatrist came to light as a result of the trial, leaving her open to mockery and abuse.

Erik and Lyle Menendez killed their parents with shotguns on August 20, 1989, and were finally convicted of first-degree murder in 1996. The prosecution argued that the pair killed their parents for money, while the defense maintained that both brothers were victims of abuse. The pair raised suspicions when they went on a spending spree with their parents' fortune in the immediate aftermath of the killings.

Both brothers ultimately confessed their crime to their psychiatrist, Dr. Jerome Oziel. However, it was Smyth, Oziel's lover, who first went to the police about the killings, after the pair broke up.

The Confession

Judalon Smyth reported the Menendez brothers to the police in March 1990. She told investigators that her ex-boyfriend, psychiatrist Dr. Jerome Oziel had got the brothers to confess in one of his sessions. Initially, she also said that she had heard part of the confession herself, stating that she had overheard the brothers describe shooting their mother's eye out of its socket. Smyth only made moves to tell the police after she had broken up with the psychiatrist.

The information she gave the authorities would swiftly lead to an arrest; Smyth claimed that the pair had bought their shotguns in San Diego, and from that information, police were able to trace the purchase of the murder weapons back to one of Lyle Menendez's friends.

During the trial that followed, Oziel claimed that he did not go to the police himself because he feared for his life at the time. Instead, he confided in his wife and mistress and looked for legal advice. Oziel taped his recollections of the confessions but he also taped one of the sessions, on December 11, 1989. On the tape, the brothers can be heard explaining that they wished to put their mother — who was being cheated on by their father — "out of her misery."

Smyth speaks for the defense

The messy relationship between Judalon Smyth and Jerome Oziel would eventually become part of the trial itself. In a surprise twist, Smyth opted to speak for the defense, retracting her previous statement that she had overheard the brothers' confession, and claiming that her lover had "brainwashed" her into saying it, per The New York Times.

During the trial, Smyth said that Oziel plotted to get the boys to confess on tape so that he had some evidence against them, but in the session, he told the brothers that he was recording them so that they would sound remorseful if they were caught. She also added that the adulterous psychiatrist hoped that the drama surrounding the case would give him an excuse to get out of his marriage.

Smyth's testimony was used as part of a tactic by the defense to discredit Oziel, who was painted at the trial as a fundamentally dishonest person with a history of using extortion and blackmail on people he knew. As a result of the case, Oziel was accused of breaking client confidentially, having sex with female patients, and assaulting another woman he was having an affair with. During the uproar, Oziel ultimately surrendered his psychiatry license.

Smyth's abuse claims

Judalon Smyth would make many abuse claims against Jerome Oziel before the trial was over. According to the Los Angeles Times, Smyth revealed that the affair took a strange turn when she moved in with Oziel's wife and children. The surprisingly amicable arrangement led to her becoming close friends with his spouse, Laurel. During her time living in the house, Smyth claimed that Oziel behaved monstrously, raping and beating her, and force-feeding her drugs in a manner violent enough to give her blood blisters at the back of her throat. She also claimed that he attempted to hypnotize her, using the word "thorns" as a trigger phrase. Smyth began secretly recording conversations with Oziel before finally fleeing the house in March 1990.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, actress Heather Graham revealed that she has read the transcripts from Smyth's tapes and that they really are truly bizarre. Graham, who plays Smyth on the show "Law & Order True Crime," noted that Oziel does indeed say "thorns" many times during the course of their conversations for no apparent reason. In another one of the tapes Smyth made, Oziel tells Smyth that her mother was a witch plotting to feed her a poisoned apple, according to the LA Times.

Unfortunately, Smyth's role in the trial earned her a degree of public ridicule; in an interview for the show "Murder Made Me" she stated, "There was one newscaster that called me a 'nutball' on the radio ... It was frightening. Someone comes forward and then you crucify them" (via People).