Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, premiering Sept. 26 and starring Edie Falco, is NBC's stab at the true crime drama, but with the Dick Wolf (Law & Order, Chicago Fire) brand attached. But in tackling the famous Menendez brothers trial over eight hours of TV, Wolf and Co. are not actually looking to present a docu-style dramatization. They're taking a stance on the trial and that stance is that the brothers were wrongly convicted of the first-degree murder of their parents.
Wolf told the 2017 TCA Summer press tour audience that this is the first time a show of his has "had a collective agenda," which is to bring to light just how mishandled this case was.
"The research revealed things none of us knew, and that's one of the things that I think is most impactful about the eight hours," says Wolf. "I don't care what attitude you go in with, your mind is going to receive information that I think will change a lot of people's attitudes."
"This is one of the crimes of the century," he continues. "It's absolutely horrible, but when you see the information, I think people are going to realize well, yeah, they did it, but it wasn't first-degree murder with no possibility of parole. They probably should have been out eight or 10 years ago because they should have been convicted of first-degree manslaughter, which is a different punishment than first-degree murder. So yes, this is a show that has an agenda."
One of the things the show is going to focus on is the molestation the brothers alleged they endured at the hands of their parents, which is part of what led them to commit the crime. "Both boys were molested by their father, both boys were molested by their mother, according to their testimony, which is corroborated by testimony from their relatives and photographs that were found," says Wolf.
But another big facet of the trials that Wolf and showrunner Rene Balcer say is largely unknown is how desperate the Los Angeles court was to notch a win in a high-profile case. Balcer pointed out that in the year prior to the Menendez trial, Los Angeles County and District Attorney Gil Garcetti had lost several high-profile cases: Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, and the McMartin preschool child molestation case.
"So the DA's office had a pretty huge chip on its shoulder and was definitely looking for a conviction by any means," said Balcer. Wolf added, "[We will show] the degree of implicit political collusion between the judge and the district attorney's office in the second trial to assure a conviction."
In conclusion, Wolf says that one of the big reasons they wanted to dramatize this case is because "there were major mitigating circumstances" for the crime that the average viewer may not be aware of.