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Legal Fiction: Hollywood’s Lucrative and Twisted Revisionist History

Over the past half century, the public’s obsession with crime and courtroom drama (initially just a popular film genre) has frequently—and unsurprisingly—crossed the line from fiction into reality. The intrigue of an actual, true crime and trial with real people, real stakes, and immense unpredictability far surpasses anything a screenwriter could ever script, no matter how compelling.

Additionally, the coverage of true crime continually evolves with the times and technology to best match modern viewing habits and preferences. Comparing the addictive nature of watching true crime with that of a major incident or tragedy during the contemporary 24-hour news cycle, some researchers attribute its undeniable binge-worthiness to a morbid curiosity for out-of-the-ordinary occurrences and an inherent affinity for sensational events.1 Even more engaging for viewers are noteworthy central figures, specifically notorious murderers, often—and ironically—idolized despite the depravity of their actions.2 Desensitized in a world where mass shootings and global warfare grow almost routine in their prevalence, the shock of a person grabbing a knife and stabbing, torturing, sodomizing, or even eating another out of raw, dark emotion elicits not just the expected condemnation and scorn, but also odd senses of empathy, introspection, and admiration as well.3 A particularly cunning, fascinating, or vengeful killer provides audiences with a vicarious look into a world where they could freely act upon the more disturbing impulses and thoughts in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that few would ever openly admit to having.4 This cathartic experience transforms monsters into deified martyrs and their heinous crimes present as modern mythology throughout entertainment media where the lines of fantasy and reality indecipherably blur.5 Pandering to these viewer inclinations in both form and substance, however, as today’s true crime efficiently does, leaves forgotten the very reason such docuseries or dramatizations exist in the first place: innocent people that unlawfully lost their lives.6 In doing so, this genre callously re-victimizes victims and perpetuates in both popular culture and public opinion dangerous and lasting false narratives about the criminal justice system.7

The Jodi Arias trial in 2008 showcased contemporary true crime “production” in full force and effect. The 28-year-old Arias, an attractive photographer from Arizona, was charged with the brutal murder of her ex-boyfriend after an evening engaged in the functional equivalent of an extramarital affair. Adding to the salaciousness of a cast-against-type, young, female defendant and an unfaithful tryst were Arias’s Mormon roots and her obsessive, and arguably successful, stalking of the victim. The case presented all the key ingredients in a recipe for stealing public attention: attractive young people, sex, religion, and violence. Accordingly, not only did HLN breathlessly cover every moment of the murder trial, but it also introduced many new features to further immerse daily viewers in the action.8 “Pause” and “Play” functions were added so that viewers would not miss a single second of the proceedings for a bathroom or snack break; court commentators were employed to overanalyze every minute detail down to Arias’s attire during court recesses; and a recap show that featured lawyers debating a “bold accusation” from the day with 12 mock jurors providing an instant verdict that aired nightly.9 As a result, HLN enjoyed ratings increases to the tune of approximately 500,000 viewers per day over a 17-week span.10 What HLN did not breathlessly cover was the life of victim, Travis Alexander, beyond his intimate relationship with Arias. Jodi Arias’s case however, is only one in a storied history of woefully mis-spun, real-world legal proceedings infiltrating the collective consciousness. Three of the most illustrious, infamous, and influential examples of true-crime courtroom drama that captivated television audiences are the Ted Bundy, Menendez Brothers, and O.J. Simpson cases.

The multiple murder trials of “Ted” Theodore Bundy offered some of the first glimpses into a real courtroom for the public through their television sets during the late 1970s and early 1980s, while the growing presence of Court TV was the unavoidable constant throughout both the Menendez and Simpson cases. Started by Steven Brill in 1991, the cable network floundered for several years before hitting the jackpot with the Menendez Brothers and subsequently discovering an oil reserve underneath its airwaves with O.J. Simpson.11 In the process, it represented a highly lucrative new sector in the entertainment industry, insomuch as by the time O.J. Simpson entered his plea of not guilty, major networks and other cable channels caught on and followed suit.12

Subsequently, and in the absence of a real case to captivate the public interest, scripted crime dramas sprung up en masse and successfully filled the void left by reality. Law & Order, which had premiered years earlier in 1990, experienced its highest Nielsen ratings between 1997 and 2003,13 was awarded the 1997 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series,14 and began launching multiple spin-offs, most notably Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which still airs new episodes today. In the past decade however, while interest in cases like Jodi Arias’s, Casey Anthony’s, and Scott Peterson’s continue to attract viewers, ratings for fictionalized courtroom drama have decreased significantly.15 In response, producers have ironically turned to the very cases that gave new life to the genre in the late 1990s to breathe life back into it. Unsurprisingly, the three best examples are: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which aired on the FX Network in 2016, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers, which aired on NBC in 2017, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, first streamed on Netflix in 2019.

Although these dramatizations were praised by some for their historical and visual accuracy,16 many key differences emerged to paint a somehow even more troubling picture of the truth. Specifically, in these three instances where the lives and horrific fates of the victims were already far overshadowed by the notoriety of the respective murderers, rather than righting this wrong, producers have instead doubled down on marginalizing the victims’ stories into near non-existence by trivializing, obscuring, or ignoring them all together, all the while aggrandizing—and even celebrating—their assailants. More troubling still, for younger viewers these are the first and seemingly definitive depictions of these heinous crimes, perpetuating a lasting misunderstanding of the cases and the individuals involved. Comparing and contrasting key elements of the actual and fictional, on-screen depictions of these historic cases in their chronological order clearly illustrates the manner in which distortions and misrepresentations served modern viewer preferences at the added and enduring expense of the victims.

Ted Bundy (Reality)

Ted Bundy was prosecuted, and eventually convicted and executed, for the violent kidnapping, rape, and murder of over 30 young female victims spread across several states. However, it was not the heinousness of his alleged crimes that attracted viewers. Rather, Bundy’s charm, charisma, and circuslike antics transfixed television audiences tuning in regularly to see what exactly their anointed and admired antihero would do next.17 Combining the relatively new phenomenon of televised, real world court proceedings with the insatiable allure of its main character “Ted” Bundy, portrayed by alleged murderer Theodore Bundy, created must see TV discussed at water coolers nationwide. Matching the attraction offered by the novel setting and central figure were the various plot twists, including prison escapes, groupie parades, and witness stand marriage proposals.18 Bundy’s unpredictable and anti-establishment behavior obscured the judicial process, administration of justice, and court of public opinion in a sea of chaos and controversy that far overshadows the tragic fate of his victims to this very day, while at the same time also birthing an addictive new entertainment genre still glorifying his outlandish conduct.

Ted Bundy (On-Screen)

A YouTube clip from user TheMrAl3XxX examines the tone set by Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile through a comparison of Ted Bundy’s real life indictment with its dramatization in the film, in which Bundy is portrayed by Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron.19 Although Bundy’s actual indictment was plenty uproarious for its time, director Joe Berlinger turns the volume up to epic proportions in his recreation by transforming what was a somewhat disorderly and noisy hallway scene into a full blown rock concert with a head-banging soundtrack included. The differences start with casting, as a ruggedly handsome yet visibly disheveled, gaunt, and middle-aged Bundy contrasts with the perfectly quaffed, bright-eyed, and dimpled Efron at his most magnetic. As best described by Alissa Wilkinson, “The camera constantly pulls in close to Efron’s face, lingering on his portrayal of Bundy when he is most sympathetic and funny and kind, rather than dwelling on his truly brutal moments. You know he is evil, but the camera sure doesn’t.”20 While Bundy makes several faint, defiant remarks largely ignored by the law enforcement officials surrounding him, Efron instead engages in a vivacious standup comedy routine that visibly embarrasses his jailers in front of the media present and encourages viewers to laugh and cheer from their couches. Said media is also not even audible or visible during the actual indictment, but provides enough camera flashes and kinetic energy to rival the paparazzi lining the red carpet of any awards show in the dramatization.

Along with the extra bright lights is the addition of an endless parade of young females fawning over Efron’s Bundy like groupies over a matinee idol, ironic for its symbolism given the nature of Bundy’s crimes. Armed with t-shirts, posters, and loud screams, this enamored mob plays a more prominent role in the film than the over 30 women Bundy kidnapped, raped, and murdered combined. Even Bundy’s central love interest, Liz Kendall, portrayed by Lily Collins, is too blinded by Bundy’s romantic fantasy to actually believe he is capable of the crimes that he committed until the final moments of the film. Not only does Extremely Wicked portray Bundy as an adored A-list celebrity, as popular culture is apt to do with serial killers,21 it takes it to new, entirely disturbing levels by celebrating and glamorizing him at the victims’ expense.

Erik and Lyle Mendendez (Reality)

Like any new entertainment genre, true crime adapted and evolved through the decades separating the media coverage of Ted Bundy from that of Jodi Arias. This was never more apparent than when the wealthy, Beverly Hills heartthrob brothers, Erik and Lyle Menendez, stood trial for the grisly murder of their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, nearly a decade after Bundy’s final verdict was rendered. Where Bundy’s dramatics were covered in bits and pieces by network news and other intermittent coverage, the advent of cable provided an avenue for marathon, real-time viewing through recently created channels like Court TV.22 The story of the two attractive and lavish young men who gunned down their defenseless parents as they sat watching television in the living room (allegedly to gain control of the family’s fortune) cemented wall-to-wall coverage of court proceedings as a viable and profitable industry. As observed by Brenna Ehrlich writing for Rolling Stone, “The Menendez case, featuring a cast of lively, almost garish characters, personified a shocking erosion of the American Dream to its enraptured audience. It turned real-life tragedy into live entertainment, and foreshadowed our current fascination with true-crime docuseries and reality TV.”23 “The first trial of Erik and Lyle Menendez was a soap opera wrapped within a psychodrama,” added The Los Angeles Times’ Ann O’Neill.24 When the first trial ended with deadlocked juries resulting in a mistrial, cameras were banned from the courtroom the second time around, and the sensationalism of the Menendez Brothers saga faded and gave way to the next big thing—but not without leaving a lasting and transformational impact on the broadcasting field.25

Erik and Lyle Mendendez (On-Screen)

Throughout NBC’s Law and Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers, the entirety of the eight episode miniseries seemed purposefully contrived to elicit extreme sympathy for the fraternal murderers. Focused predominantly on Erik and Lyle Menendez’s unsubstantiated claims (made throughout the first trial) of sexual abuse, allegedly committed by their father and ignored by their mother, the miniseries doesn’t question whether the brothers murdered their parents, but instead blatantly argues that their crime was justified.

Submitted by Menendez attorneys at the time as “imperfect self-defense,”26 the legal theory espousing the mitigation of murder when the defendant suffers longstanding, persistent physical or sexual abuse at the hands of the victim has evolved over time, and it presents genuine questions requiring legal and cultural attention, concern, and dialogue. To be clear, the emotional trauma resulting from alleged sexual abuse painstakingly depicted by The Menendez Brothers through intense psychiatric and psychological treatment, nervous breakdowns in prison cells, and gut-wrenching testimony is very real, very serious, and common among defendants arguing imperfect self-defense and similar legal theories. What is troubling is the producers’ choice of Erik, Lyle, Jose, and Kitty Menendez to tell this very important story.

In crafting a narrative clearly aimed at aligning audiences with the Menendez Brothers, the miniseries effectively and very publicly convicts the two actual victims of record, their parents, based on conjecture, hearsay, and speculation, as any such instances of sexual assault remain unproven beyond Erik and Lyle’s claims. Whether said claims are true may never be determined, but to see is to believe, and to viewers of The Menendez Brothers, Jose and Kitty Menendez are a pedophile and an enabler (unable to address the accusations) who met their just ends as judged by the court of public opinion, regardless of what really happened. Even producer Dick Wolf made no secret concerning his motives during an interview prior to the miniseries’ premiere. “This is a show that has an agenda to it,” he said. “They probably should have been out eight or 10 years ago because they probably should have been convicted of first-degree manslaughter.”27 More alarming still is the anointment of Erik and Lyle Menendez—they of the polo shirts, country clubs, tennis matches, sports cars, private jets, and a 911 call so absurd it was mocked by Ben Stiller in 1995’s _The Cable Guy_28—as the poster boys for this cause when so many other survivors’ accounts go untold.

O.J. Simpson (Reality)

The next big thing arrived in the biggest way possible during June of 1994, when law enforcement arrested and charged O.J. Simpson for the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman. The O.J. Simpson arrest, arraignment, pretrial conferences, and trial not only remain the pinnacle of true crime coverage, but also one of the most monumental events in the entirety of television history. The country quite literally came to a complete stop in October of 1995 as businesses either closed or huddled employees around televisions, teachers and students gathered in school auditoriums, and countless others packed into Times Square and other public spaces, all to view the jury’s verdict (totaling approximately 150 million viewers).29 Combining the histrionics of Ted Bundy with the glamour and melodrama of the Menendez Brothers, the O.J. Simpson case maxed out on both as it wove the contemporary equivalent of a Greek tragedy. As if the story of a fallen American hero honored as one of the greatest football players that ever lived, revered as a film and television personality, and generally adored by the public was not enough, it was paired with circumstances and events more outrageous and surreal than could ever possibly be imagined. From the infamous Bronco chase to the bloody glove, Court TV and others benefited financially while cementing themselves as cable juggernauts by airing hours of trial, but also, on a deeper level, an accurate (albeit complicated) snapshot of American culture at the time.30

Moving past Simpson’s shocking arrest that played out over the course of a day and included the aforementioned Bronco chase, a suicide threat, the most controversial Time Magazine cover of all time featuring Simpson’s “shaded” mugshot, and the interruption of an NBA Finals game between the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks, the legal intrigue began with the respective attorneys. For the prosecution were two of the most polished and skilled trial lawyers that the Los Angeles District Attorney Office could offer, Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. Legal prowess notwithstanding, the significance and progressiveness of a female and black prosecuting attorney tandem for such a high profile case cannot be overstated in the year 1994 and in a city still torn apart on racial grounds in the wake of the Rodney King beating, subsequent law enforcement acquittal, and riots. Clark and Darden also possessed an unbeatable hand: irrefutable DNA evidence essentially convicting Simpson before a jury even heard the opening statements.31 (Notably, the O.J. Simpson case is recognized as the public’s introduction to DNA evidence, a concept now so ubiquitous it appears in practically every crime and courtroom drama produced today.32) And yet, Clark and Darden somehow still found themselves the most notorious choke artists in United States legal history.

Enter O.J. Simpson’s “Dream Team.” Comprised of Jonnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey, Barry Scheck, and Robert Kardashian among others, Simpson’s attorneys represented the best defense money could buy in terms of underhanded legal maneuvering, showmanship, and, at times, cheap parlor tricks. In the face of overwhelming evidence, Scheck transformed DNA evidence into utterly boring and confusing science. Meanwhile, Cochran used the lingering sentiment of the Rodney King beatings to spin conspiracy theories, Bailey painted lead detective Mark Furhman as a racist, and Shapiro masterfully played the media like puppets leading up to the infamous moment when Simpson tried on the bloody glove. As Cochran put it in his closing statement, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” It was the performance of a lifetime in the saga of a lifetime, and it touched on nearly every American belief, ideal, and value.

O.J. Simpson (On-Screen)

In 2016, CBS News aired a short feature story about FX Network’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story exploring the accuracy of the aspects of this miniseries that stuck with audiences most. 33 Along with several inquiries related to the bloody glove and jurors, other “burning questions” from viewers included whether Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden actually had a fling, and whether O.J. really gambled for skittles in prison. Not everyone was similarly riveted, least of all the families of victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, who rightfully recognized as the miniseries aired that it, and history with it, have seemingly and sadly forgotten their loved ones. As pointed out by Goldman’s father, Fred, during an interview with Dr. Phil, “They’ve concentrated so much … on the attorneys’ side of it. Ron and Nicole appeared as dead bodies in the beginning and that’s it, so far there’s not been a mention of them again. There’s gonna be a whole generation of people who never knew anything about this trial, that will see this series and take it as gospel, when in fact it won’t be.”34 In the same interview, Brown’s sister, Tanya, added that she was horrified the miniseries overlooked the victims and that the public should know exactly how two innocent people brutally lost their lives.35

In complete fairness to The People v. O.J. Simpson, it accomplished far more in terms of both quality television and accurate historical documentation than either Extremely Wicked or The Menendez Brothers. It provided a mostly honest accounting of the proceedings, while also tackling some of the important interwoven issues (including race), and received nine Emmy Awards and 13 additional nominations for its efforts.36 However, where Extremely Wicked patronizes its victims as faceless minions among a sea of easily duped admirers, and The Menendez Brothers paints its victims as the true criminals, The People v. O.J. Simpson arguably does something far worse by ignoring its victims altogether. Appearing only as footnotes—literally as blanket covered corpses on the ground for a brief moment while partially obscured from view—in a miniseries otherwise successful in accomplishing the monumental task of recreating the epic O.J. Simpson saga, their exclusion from the narrative is the ultimate erosion of the victims’ dignity. Absent also is any mention of domestic violence committed by O.J. Simpson against Nicole Brown Simpson during their marriage, a glaring omission that played a significant role throughout the trial, and that resonates strongly and critically in current times.


True crime and courtroom dramas capture and captivate the public consciousness in ways fictional dramatizations simply cannot. With history and backstory more dense and imaginative than any novelist or screenwriter could possibly create, compelling and relatable characters, attorney theatrics, sport-like coverage and analysis, and imposition of the proverbial and profound moral query, “did the defendant do it?,” noteworthy legal cases translate to must watch television. Unlike an episode of Law and Order however, the stakes are real, heightening the drama and driving an entire segment of the entertainment industry ranging from Court TV to Judge Judy to focus exclusively on real world judicial proceedings. It should come as no surprise then that, in recent years, studios have sought to capitalize on the lure of the courthouse by recreating several of the most publicized and watched criminal trials as miniseries and films. In doing so through the lens of a modern social media society, what often results is a miscarriage of justice to the source material and its lasting impact.

Popular culture teaches people most of what they know, or think they know, about the law, lawyers, and legal institutions. Modern media concerning law has major effects on what people believe and how they act as jurors, lawyers, clients, lawmakers, or civically engaged citizens. By comparing and contrasting these actual proceedings with their dramatized counterparts, many unsettling discrepancies emerge to shape and even encourage a misinformed public perception of the justice system, judicial process, and, most importantly, the players involved. Notably, in their misguided imitation of real life, these dramatizations ignore, marginalize, or re-victimize the victims by depicting and celebrating their assailants and their advocates as heroic, sympathetic, and brilliant. Some current true crime documentarians and filmmakers make it their “mission to center their work on the victims, telling the rich, personal stories of those who were affected and building them out as real humans, rather than ‘just’ victims.”37 The respective producers and production teams of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile had a unique opportunity to do the same and on the grandest stage possible. Following suit, they could have, and should have, leveraged their inciting and provocative subject matter to tell both the story the public wanted to know, and the story it needed to know, that of the real people who senselessly lost their lives. Instead, they opted to expand and perpetuate a legal fiction, one that younger generations will likely and tragically accept as legal fact while the memory of those lost further distorts or fades away altogether.


Beck, Julie. “The Grisly, All-American Appeal of Serial Killers.” The Atlantic, October 21, 2014. (

CBSN. “Fact-checking ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’.” YouTube Video. March 31, 2016. (

Dalton, Andrew. “Court TV Pounds Gavel Again as All-Trial Channel is Reborn.” Associated Press, May 7, 2019. (

Dr. Phil. “Fred Goldman Questions if Kardashian Fame May Be Used to Promote Story of His Son’s Death.” YouTube Video, 3:21, January 29, 2016. (

Ehrlich, Brenna. “How the Menendez Brothers’ Trial Changed America.” Rolling Stone, January 4, 2017. (

Flint, Joe. “CBS’s Crime-Drama Dilemma: Declining Ratings.” Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2015. (

Hart, Marla. “You, the Jury: Court TV Brings the Courtroom Home,” Chicago Tribune, August 4, 1996. (

Hensley, Laura. “Why are We Obsessed with True Crime and What is it Doing to Our Minds?” Global News, last modified January 28, 2019. (

IMDb. “Awards.” Law & Order. Accessed January 23, 2020, (

Larson, Aaron. “What Are Homicide and Murder.” ExpertLaw, April 19, 2018. (

Merryweather, Cheish. “10 Most Disturbing Moments during Ted Bundy’s Trials.” Listverse, last modified May 15, 2019. (

Milner-Barry, Sarah. “In Their Quest for Justice, True Crime Shows Have Forgotten the Original Victims.” Quartz, February 27, 2016. (

Morrison, Patt. “Barry Scheck on the O.J. Trial, DNA Evidence, and the Innocence Project.” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2014. (

O’Neill, Ann. “Menendez Saga: This Time It’s a Horror Show.” Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1995. (

Otterson, Joe. “Dick Wolf Says Menendez Brothers Should Have Gotten Lighter Sentences.” Variety, August 3, 2017. (

Rotten Tomatoes. “American Crime Story.” Accessed January 23, 2020. (

Rotten Tomatoes. “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.” Accessed January 23, 2020. (

Rotten Tomatoes. “Law & Order: True Crime.” Accessed January 23, 2020. (

Stelter, Brian. “HLN’s Jodi Arias Coverage Helps Bolster Ratings.” New York Times, March 17, 2013. (https://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.c...).

Television Academy. “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” Television Academy. Accessed February 25, 2020. (

TheMrAl3XxX. “Indictment of Ted Bundy Comparison Real Life vs Netflix.” YouTube Video. May 3, 2019. (

Wikipedia. “Episodes.” Law & Order. Accessed January 23, 2020. (

Wilkinson, Alissa. “The Ted Bundy Movie Starring Zac Efron Sure Does Love Ted Bundy.” Vox, last updated May 3, 2019. (

Zorthian, Julia. “How the O.J. Simpson Verdict Changed the Way We All Watch TV.” Time, October 2, 2015. (


  1. Laura Hensley, “Why are We Obsessed with True Crime and What is it Doing to Our Minds?,” Global News, last modified January 28, 2019, (↩︎

  2. ” Julie Beck, “The Grisly, All-American Appeal of Serial Killers,” The Atlantic, October 21, 2014, ( ↩︎

  3. Beck “Appeal of Serial Killers,” ( ↩︎

  4. Beck “Appeal of Serial Killers,” (↩︎

  5. Beck “Appeal of Serial Killers,” (↩︎

  6. Sarah Milner-Barry, “In Their Quest for Justice, True Crime Shows Have Forgotten the Original Victims,” Quartz, February 27, 2016, ( ↩︎

  7. Milner-Barry, “Original Victims,” ( ↩︎

  8. Brian Stelter, “HLN’s Jodi Arias Coverage Helps Bolster Ratings,” New York Times, March 17, 2013, , (https://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.c...). ↩︎

  9. Stelter, “Jodi Arias Coverage,” (https://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.c...). ↩︎

  10. Stelter, “Jodi Arias Coverage,” (https://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.c...). ↩︎

  11. Marla Hart, “You, the Jury: Court TV Brings the Courtroom Home,” Chicago Tribune, August 4, 1996, ( ↩︎

  12. Julia Zorthian, “How the O.J. Simpson Verdict Changed the Way We All Watch TV,” Time, October 2, 2015, ( ↩︎

  13. “Law & Order,” Wikipedia, accessed January 23, 2020, ( ↩︎

  14. “Law & Order: Awards,” IMDb, accessed January 23, 2020, ( ↩︎

  15. Joe Flint, “CBS’s Crime-Drama Dilemma: Declining Ratings,” Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2015, ( ↩︎

  16. See, for example, “American Crime Story,” Rotten Tomatoes, accessed January 23, 2020, (; “Law & Order: True Crime,” Rotten Tomatoes, accessed January 23, 2020, (; “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” Rotten Tomatoes, accessed January 23, 2020, ( ↩︎

  17. Cheish Merryweather, “10 Most Disturbing Moments during Ted Bundy’s Trials,” Listverse, last modified May 15, 2019, ( ↩︎

  18. Merryweather, “Bundy’s Trials,” ( ↩︎

  19. TheMrAl3XxX, “Indictment of Ted Bundy Comparison Real Life vs Netflix,” YouTube Video, May 3, 2019, ( ↩︎

  20. Alissa Wilkinson, “The Ted Bundy Movie Starring Zac Efron Sure Does Love Ted Bundy,” Vox, last updated May 3, 2019, ( ↩︎

  21. Beck, “Appeal of Serial Killers,” (↩︎

  22. Andrew Dalton, “Court TV Pounds Gavel Again as All-Trial Channel is Reborn,” Associated Press, May 7, 2019, ( ↩︎

  23. Brenna Ehrlich, “How the Menendez Brothers’ Trial Changed America,” Rolling Stone, January 4, 2017, ( ↩︎

  24. Ann O’Neill, “Menendez Saga: This Time It’s a Horror Show,” Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1995, ( ↩︎

  25. O’Neill, “Menendez Saga,” ( ↩︎

  26. Aaron Larson, “What Are Homicide and Murder,” ExpertLaw, April 19, 2018, ( ↩︎

  27. Joe Otterson, “Dick Wolf Says Menendez Brothers Should Have Gotten Lighter Sentences,” Variety, August 3, 2017, ( ↩︎

  28. Ehrlich, “Menendez Brothers’ Trial.” ( ↩︎

  29. Zorthian, “O.J. Simpson Verdict,” ( ↩︎

  30. Dalton, “Court TV,” ( ↩︎

  31. Patt Morrison, “Barry Scheck on the O.J. Trial, DNA Evidence, and the Innocence Project,” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2014, ( ↩︎

  32. Morrison, “Barry Scheck,” ( ↩︎

  33. CBSN, “Fact-checking ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson,’” YouTube Video, March 31, 2016, ( ↩︎

  34. Dr. Phil, “Fred Goldman Questions if Kardashian Fame May Be Used to Promote Story of His Son’s Death,” YouTube Video, January 29, 2016, ( ↩︎

  35. Dr. Phil, “Fred Goldman,” ( ↩︎

  36. “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” Television Academy, accessed February 25, 2020, ( ↩︎

  37. Wilkinson, “Ted Bundy Movie,” ( ↩︎

About the Author: 

William Murphy, J.D. serves as a full-time faculty member of the Division of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and Homeland Security in the Collins College of Professional Studies at St. John’s University where he teaches advanced Civil Litigation, Employment Law, and Legal Research and Writing courses. His internationally recognized research explores issues in employment and labor law related to business management, tensions between new technologies and established law, and the development of outcome-driven experiential and edutainment-based learning programs. Prof. Murphy currently serves as the Co-Chairperson of MAPACA’s Law and Popular Culture subject matter area.

Caylyn Ortiz is an undergraduate student at St. John’s University majoring in Legal Studies. She presented a prior version of her original research, “Mistrials of the Century: Entertainment Media’s Twisted Glorification of Infamous True Crimes,” during the 2019 meeting of the MAPACA annual conference held in Pittsburgh, PA. Upon completing her Bachelor of Science degree this year, she hopes to spend a gap-year working as a legal assistant in a family law practice before beginning her legal education in 2021.

Volume 5, Issue 1
From the Editors

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