Two-time Emmy Award-winning television producer Dick Wolf, the creative force behind the “Law & Order” and “Chicago” franchises, is developing the first installment of a bold new anthology series, “Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Brothers Murders,” which will take “Law & Order” into dramatizing actual true stories for the first time.
The eight-episode anthology series currently in development will focus on Lyle and Erik Menendez, brothers 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 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.
Defense attorney Leslie Abramson represented the brothers through the three trials and claimed that the brothers had suffered a lifetime of abuse from their parents. Their father, Jose Menendez, was accused of sexual abuse as well as being unusually cruel while mother Kitty Menendez 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.
“We’ve been talking with Dick about how to create an event series coming out of the ‘Law & Order’ ripped-from-the-headlines brand. 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,” said Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment. “We will recreate 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.”
Wolf added: “Bob, Jen and I have been focused 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. 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 Aug. 20, 1989, Jose Menendez, a movie executive, was shot in the head while Kitty Menendez was found by police 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, both brothers were arrested by police. Erik Menendez had confessed to his psychologist and the tapes of those conversations were later ruled admissible. Lyle Menendez was arrested after police believed he was attempting to flee the country.
As of 2008, both were currently serving their life sentences in the California Department of Corrections.
Dick Wolf will executive produce through Wolf Entertainment in association with Universal Television.