Dick Wolf says there are no shortage of brutal murderers to populate future seasons of his new anthology series “Law & Order True Crime.”
Among the names he’s considering for future editions: Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, “Night Stalker” mass killer Richard Ramirez and “Son of Sam” serial killer David Berkowitz.
“This is endless if you get the right case,” he said. “There are a lot of things I’d like to examine for eight hours.”
But first up: Lyle and Erik Melendez, who were tried and sentenced for killing their parents in Beverly Hills. Now, NBC’s “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders” will dredge the case back up to reveal new information that could change viewers’ minds about the verdict.
“I don’t care what attitude you have going into this. Your mind will receive info that I believe will change your attitudes,” executive producer Wolf said on Thursday at the Television Critics Association panel for the series. “They should’ve been convicted of first degree manslaughter, which is a different punishment from first degree murder. Yes, this has an agenda to it.”
Wolf cites the brothers’ molestation at the hands of their parents as mitigating circumstance that should’ve lessened the sentence. The final trial had excluded the molestation, which would’ve been a huge factor in the verdict. Showrunner and executive producers Rene Balcer added that knowledge about molestation wasn’t as advanced in the early 1990s as it is now.
Balcer said that there was a “lack of understanding and psychology of abuse victims” having hyper-vigilance when it came to seeing their parents. “There was an unreasonable but sincere belief that their parents were in imminent danger to their lives… This is 25 years ago. What we understand about molestation and especially of boys [was] primitive.”
The eight-episode series will not shy away from the abuse. “Both boys were molested by they father, both boys were molested by they mother according to their testimony that was corroborated by testimony by relative and in photos that were found,” said Balcer. “This was a very dysfunctional family.” In fact, Erik was 18 years old the last time he was molested, which was two weeks before the murders.
Both Wolf and Balcer point out that there was political solution between the judge and District Attorney’s office, which had lost high-profile castes and needed a conviction by any means. Executive producer and director Lesli Linka Glatter also added that “privilege had played a huge part of this.” Their wealth and status protected the brothers initially, but was used against them later by framing money as a motive for the killings.
On the brothers’ side was defense attorney Leslie Abramson, played by Emmy winner Edie Falco, who found the Abramson fascinating. “The fact that she was as passionate as she was… she was not popular,” said Falco. “It was all about doing a good job. Her job came first. Justice was really what this was about to her. I’m always moved by that.”
Playing the two brothers are Miles Gaston Villanueva as older brother Lyle Menendez and Gus Halper as younger brother Erik.
“Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders” premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.