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Dick Wolf Says Menendez Brothers Should Have Gotten Lighter Sentences

Dick Wolf, executive producer of the upcoming NBC series “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders,” says the real-life brothers at the center of the series should not have been convicted of first degree murder for the deaths of their parents.

“We’ve made some great shows ripped from the headlines. This is on a different level,” Wolf said Thursday at the TCAC summer press tour. “It’s also the only time we’ve had sort of a collective agenda, which is—this is one of the crimes of the century. 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 ten years ago because they probably should have been convicted of first degree manslaughter.”

Series showrunner Rene Balcer echoed Wolf’s sentiments, saying that the series will explore in detail previously unknown aspects of the case.

“The other part of the story that is probably not well known is the degree of implicit political collusion between the judge and the district attorney’s office in the second trial to ensure a conviction,” Balcer said. He went on to say that the DA’s office at the time was reeling from high-profile losses in the OJ Simpson and Rodney King trials and therefore desperately needed a win with the Menendez murders.

The first installment of the new true crime anthology series will consist of eight hourlong episodes focusing on the case of 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.

Wolf will executive produce through his Wolf Entertainment banner in association with Universal Television. Lesli Linka Glatter will executive produce and direct. Peter Jankowski and Arthur W. Forney will also executive produce along with Balcer. As Variety exclusively reported, Edie Falco will star as attorney Leslie Abramson.

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