Is Law & Order Based on a True Story?

Created by Dick Wolf, ‘Law & Order’ is a legal drama TV series that documents the various criminal cases handled by the police departments and Manhattan District Attorney’s office in New York City. It does not just delve into the investigation aspect of the crimes, but it also gives a detailed account of the prosecution. In addition, it depicts the pressures and challenges faced by the police detectives and attorneys as they use their skills to crack different cases.

The realistic characters and ordinary setting of the narrative have garnered high praise for the show since it premiered in 1990. The convincing portrayal of legal procedures and crime stories makes the audience wonder whether ‘Law & Order’ is based on true incidents. In case you are curious to know more as well, you’ve found an ally in us. Let’s find out together!

Is Law & Order a True Story?

‘Law & Order’ is partially based on a true story. Every episode of the series focuses on individual cases, several of which have been inspired by true crime stories and recent cases covered in the news. In such instances, the first portion that outlines the actual crime is named “Ripped from the Headlines,” as it is taken from the latest news stories. For example, season 1 episode 2 titled ‘Subterranean Homeboy Blues,’ in which a woman who shoots two attempted muggers, is based on the 1984 New York City Subway shooting.

Bernhard Goetz shot four men on a subway train in Manhattan on December 2, 1984. He claimed that they had allegedly tried to rob him and that it was an act of self-defense. After appearing before two grand juries, his case was sent to trial. In the criminal trial, Goetz was acquitted of first-degree assault and attempted murder charges but convicted of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He was eventually sentenced to one year in jail without probation, out of which he served eight months.

In Goetz’s civil trial in 1996, the jury concluded that he had acted recklessly and had “deliberately inflicted emotional distress on Darrell Cabey,” whom he had fired at twice during the shooting. The court ordered Goetz to pay Cabey $43 million for damages. The case drew a lot of media attention and got the public divided on the justification of Goetz’s actions. Furthermore, it raised a debate about the definitions and extent of self-defense as well as an outrage of the common man against crime rates.

Another case that is chronicled in the show is the 2006 rape and murder of Jennifer Moore, in season 18 episode 10 titled ‘Tango.’ 18-year-old Moore was a student from New Jersey, who was abducted around July 25, 2006, from Manhattan. After her body was found in a trash bin in West New York, the New York City police arrested suspect Draymond Coleman based on videotape footage obtained from the Park Avenue Hotel near Weehawken, New Jersey.

Moreover, Coleman’s partner, Krystal Riordan, a 20-year-old New Jersey escort, was arrested as an accomplice for tampering with evidence and obstructing the investigation. In October 2006, Coleman was extradited to New Jersey to face trial. Later in March 2010, he pleaded guilty to Moore’s murder and was sentenced to 50 plus years in prison. Riordan was sentenced to 30 years in prison in May 2010, after pleading guilty for her involvement. Moore’s death sparked nationwide discussions about women’s safety and nightlife regulations.

Innumerable other prominent cases have been featured over the years in ‘Law & Order,’ mostly in the form of fictionalized retelling where names and motives have been altered. Apart from this, the show has covered several pertinent social and ethical issues such as capital punishment, gun control, racism, corruption, and the right to life. Thus, we can say that it is a perfect mixture of reality and fiction that aims at entertaining the viewers, along with highlighting the grim truth of crime and punishment.

Read More: Where is Law & Order Filmed?