This true-crime installment of the powerhouse "Law & Order" franchise delivers a gripping in-depth dramatization of the notorious murder case that changed America forever. When the Menendez brothers were tried on national TV for brutally killing their parents in Beverly Hills, their story became a national obsession. The first edition of this anthology series delves into the players, the crime and the media circus, detailing the day-to-day battles of the trial and unveiling the shocking truth of what really went down when the cameras stopped rolling.
After Jose and Kitty Menendez are found murdered in their upscale Beverly Hills home, their eldest son, Lyle, maintains a stoic appearance while his younger brother, Erik, struggles to deal with overwhelming grief. As detectives Les Zoeller and Tom Linehan search for the killers, evidence begins to suggest that Lyle and Erik may be the prime suspects. Meanwhile, a tenacious and energetic defense attorney, Leslie Abramson, takes an interest in the case.
Seemingly innocuous comments Lyle previously made about his parents come back to haunt him when detectives Zoeller and Linehan begin to interview the brothers' friends and acquaintances. Erik, overcome by guilt, makes a shocking confession to his psychologist, Dr. Jerome Oziel. Having overheard a therapy session with Lyle and Erik, Oziel's mentally unhinged mistress Judalon Smyth goes to the police with a pivotal tip after Oziel tries to cut ties with her to protect his family. As attorney Leslie Abramson learns more about the Menendez family dynamics, she makes a move to represent the brothers.
With Lyle and Erik in custody for suspicion of murder, defense attorney Leslie Abramson works tirelessly alongside Jill Lansing to understand the motive that could drive two young men to commit such a heinous crime. Meanwhile, the prosecution puts Judalon Smyth on the stand to make a case for releasing Dr. Oziel's audio notes and tapes from his sessions with Lyle and Erik, despite standard doctor-patient privilege. The ensuing media circus - fueled by leaks from the District Attorney's office - creates further complications for the defense and places the extended Menendez family at odds with one another.
After admitting to the murders, Erik and Lyle begin to divulge details of the psychological and sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of their parents. However, a lack of tangible evidence to corroborate the claims leaves Leslie and Jill to wonder how they will convince a jury that the boys truly feared for their lives given the family's picture-perfect public persona. Meanwhile, Leslie makes a case for Dr. Oziel's tapes to be thrown out of court and Pam Ferrero faces increased pressure from the District Attorney's office in the shadow of Ira Reiner's re-election campaign and the polarizing decision to acquit the police in the Rodney King case.
Before the trial begins, Judge Stan Weisberg grants a petition allowing the court proceedings to be broadcast on television, bringing a heightened level of public scrutiny to the case as the prosecution and defense present their arguments. When the prosecution's star witness, Dr. Oziel, takes the stand, his questionable ethics and motives threaten to destroy his credibility. Meanwhile, the defense faces an uphill battle in getting Judge Weisberg to understand the relevance of Lyle and Erik's complicated upbringing. With the trial reaching a pivotal juncture, Leslie struggles with personal demons while she and her husband also move forward in the adoption process.
The jury hears from Lyle and Erik for the first time when the brothers testify in court, recounting in detail the years of sexual abuse that led them to fear for their lives. Leslie makes a surprising move after Judge Weisberg approves the prosecution's request to unseal the tape of the brothers' confession to Dr. Oziel. After closing arguments are made, the jury is left to determine a verdict. Meanwhile, Leslie finds a renewed purpose after she and her husband welcome their adopted son into their home.
With Lyle and Erik's juries both struggling to reach a unanimous decision, the possibility of a mistrial leaves Leslie hopeful for the opportunity to work out a deal with the District Attorney's office. Meanwhile, District Attorney Gil Garcetti takes action to counteract the declining public perception of the justice system. Judge Weisberg's performance in the trial comes under intense media scrutiny given his record of hung juries and controversial verdicts. With the trial having garnered national attention, Lyle uses Norma as a switchboard to connect him with female supporters.
After the first trial ends with a hung jury and the District Attorney refuses to offer the defense a deal, a second trial gets underway with Barry Levin joining the defense team. Political collusion between the District Attorney's office and Judge Weisberg reaches an apex as Garcetti fights to repair the office's reputation following a string of high-visibility losses. When Judge Weisberg disallows Lyle and Erik's family members to testify, it's up to Erik to once again recount the stories of abuse before the jury determines a verdict. As the trial comes to a close, Leslie learns revealing information about Jose and Kitty's childhoods.