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After Two Decades, the Menendez Brothers Case Returns in “Law & Order True Crime”

Law Order True Crime 2
Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders’ is the first installment to the new ‘True Crime’ series. PHOTO/ NBC

By Bianca Cange

Published: October 4th, 2017

The longest running crime show in television,Law & Order,” brings the Menendez brothers’ names back into the headlines after almost two decades.  The “Law & Order” franchise is already known for its series, “Criminal Intent,” “Special Victims Unit,” “Trial By Jury” and “LA.” Now they have added a new series called “True Crime,” and their first installment, “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders,” is focused on the famous Menendez crime of 1989. Joseph Lyle Menendez and Erik Galen Menendez were accused and sentenced to a life without parole for the brutal murders of their parents José and Mary “Kitty” Menendez.

The events that have occurred in previous “Law & Order” episodes were mainly based on true events, but the scenarios were fictionalized. The difference with thisTrue Crime” series is that it is based on actual crimes and uses the actual names of the victims, the perpetrators, and anyone else who was involved. The first episode covered the basis of the crime. This included the setting, the time period, capturing the first initial reactions of the family members and how the cops narrowed down the suspects.

The episode kicked off with the 911 call made by Joseph “Lyle” Menendez (Miles Gaston Villanueva) himself. In the panicked recording, you can hear Lyle saying, “Someone shot my parents,” over and over again, giving the impression that he and his brother, Erik (Gus Halper), just walked in on the crime scene. Something about this being an actual recording made it all the more chilling.

Looking at the case through Wolf’s eyes gave us the dynamic point of view of both the brothers and how each were coping with the murder of their parents.

On one hand, Lyle, the older brother, was calm and collected during the interrogations. He then shifted the attention of possible suspects to people his father worked with at his movie company. Whenever approached by officials or family members after that, Lyle was the one who would position himself to speak and not his younger brother Erik. Lyle clearly assumed the position of an alpha male. He started to take over the finances of the father and already started thinking about building his own businesses. For the funeral, he bought two Armani suits, a gold watch and a diamond-encrusted silver watch for himself, demonstrating a lack of grievance on his part. He was going about his life as if nothing happened and just kept saying, “This is what my father would have wanted.”

Erik takes on the role of the younger brother. During Erik’s interrogation, he is hysterical. He describes that bloody crime scene and how they should’ve never gone out that night. Ever since the death of the parents, he is always shown sobbing and starts seeing flashbacks of his mother. These flashbacks show how distraught and depressed his mother was. As the cops were going through the house they saw all the medication that was prescribed to her.

Later on as the cops are narrowing down the suspects, they come across Erik’s tennis coach, as he was on the list of recorded phone calls made from the boys’ phones, and he tells the cops that when the boys called him, they insisted that he come over to the house to talk instead of the place they were going to originally meet up, which was in Santa Monica. This gave the lead detective, Detective Zoeller, incentive to believe the boys needed a witness to corroborate their story of walking in on the crime scene.

Leslie Abramson (Edie Falco), the defense attorney, is introduced as defending a teenage boy who killed his abusive father. She was able to get him off on parole due to leniency. Later on at her home, she was watching the breaking news story of the Menendez murders. She instantly knew that the boys had done it. “This murder has anger with a capital ‘A’ written all over it, and there’s only one place where that much emotion can come from and that’s family,” Abramson said.

The structure of previous “Law and Order” episodes is the discovery of the crime, the line-up of potential suspects, discovery of evidence, then the trial and a conviction. However, “True Crime” is a four-part installment. The first part reveals that the main storyline revolves around the two brothers being looked at as the prime suspects. The story is shown through a different lens since everyone already knows the killers; Wolf is just unfolding the process up until the brothers’ sentencing. This opposes the normal plot of trying to figure out, of the many suspects, who is more likely to have done it and not knowing if they were going to get convicted or not at trial.

Wolf did not get permission from the boys to go on with this production; however, it did earn Lyle’s approval after he watched it. “It was painful to watch, but shockingly accurate throughout,” Menendez said in a phone interview with Today.com. For the next three parts we can hope to expect to see the walls of the brothers broken down further, exposing the true feelings they had towards their parents, tales of the abuse of their father and finally, their sentencing.

“Law & Order true Crime: The Menendez Murders” airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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