Dick Wolf and NBC are looking to further expand the Law & Order brand into the anthology drama space with Law & Order: True Crime. The scripted series, now in development, will chronicle famous real-life criminal cases in the vein of FX’s American Crime Story, whose highly-rated first installment focused on the O.J. Simpson trial.
The first eight-episode installment of the NBC anthology series will be Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Brothers Murders. It will center on Lyle and Erik Menendez, who were convicted of murdering their parents and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 1996. The brothers, who were 21 and 18 years old, respectively, at the time of the 1989 murders, were tried separately but eventually convicted in a third trial after no verdicts were rendered in the first two trials because of hung juries.
“We’ve been talking with Dick about how to create an event series coming out of the Law & Order ripped-from-the-headlines brand,” said Jennifer Salke, President ofNBC Entertainment. “This case captured the public’s attention like nothing before it as it examined taboo issues such as patricide and matricide in gruesome detail, all against a backdrop of privilege and wealth. We will re-create the cultural and societal surroundings of both the murders and trials when people were not only obsessed with the case but examining how and why these brothers committed these heinous crimes.”
At NBC, Law & Order: True Crime joins another recent offshoot from the venerable Law & Order franchise, Law & Order: You the Jury, a one-hour live courtroom docu-drama series from Wolf and Magical Elves. It was picked up in September and is still active but has not been scheduled. Wolf, who recently re-upped his deal with NBCUniversal, has four scripted series on NBC, all of them renewed for next season: Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med, with another Chicago spinoff, Chicago Justice, in the works.
“Bob (Greenblatt), Jen and I have been focused on the natural evolution of the Law & Order brand for the last several years and are excited to extend the franchise with a scripted limited anthology series that focuses on a high-profile trial,” said Wolf, who will executive produce through Wolf Entertainment in association with Universal Television. “There is no shortage of compelling real-life criminal cases, and the Menendez trial was more scintillating than most crime fiction.”
Home in their Beverly Hills mansion on the night of August 20, 1989, Jose Menendez, a movie executive, was shot in the head, and police found Kitty Menendez with bullet holes throughout her body. The crime scene was so gruesome that police initially suspected a mafia hit.
After spending lavishly for six months following the murders, the brothers were arrested. Erik Menendez had confessed to his psychologist, and the tapes of those conversations later were ruled admissible. Lyle Menendez was arrested after police believed he was attempting to flee the country.
Defense attorney Leslie Abramson represented the brothers through the three trials and claimed they had suffered a lifetime of abuse from their parents. Their father Jose was accused of sexual abuse as well as being unusually cruel, while Kitty was accused of being mentally unstable and a violent drug and alcohol abuser. Jurors ultimately rejected those claims. Following the conviction, jurors said they believed the brothers’ motive was to gain their parents’ immense wealth and fortune.
As of 2008, both were serving their life sentences in the California Department of Corrections.