Are Nico Della Guardia and Tommy Molto Inspired by Real Chicago Prosecutors?

Nico Della Guardia and Tommy Molto are two Chicago-based prosecutors who try their colleague Rusty Sabich for the murder of one of their own, Carolyn Polhemus, in Apple TV+’s ‘Presumed Innocent.’ As the legal thriller series unfolds, Della Guardia and Tommy turn against Rusty and their former boss, also the accused’s defense attorney, Raymond Horgan. The two teams battle against each other not only to unveil the mystery behind their late colleague’s murder but also to determine which group is superior among them. The show’s slow and realistic start succeeds in making Della Guardia and Tommy appear as attorneys based on real prosecutors. However, that isn’t the case!

Scott Turow’s Creations

Nico Della Guardia and Tommy Molto are characters created by Scott Turow for his novel ‘Presumed Innocent,’ the source text of the series. The writer hasn’t revealed any real-life inspirations behind Della Guardia and Tommy. However, Turow is a former prosecutor himself, and he wrote the novel while he was working as an attorney. It will not be a surprise if traces of lawyers he knows in real life can be found in these two prosecutors. Still, Della Guardia and Tommy Molto do not have any exact counterparts in reality. Turow must have created the two fictional characters to serve the primary purpose of the novel.

Turow conceived ‘Presumed Innocent’ as a novel that challenges the conventional perceptions about lawyers. The author felt that the profession was often portrayed as noble, which contradicted the way attorneys worked in reality. “The overwhelmingly successful trial book of my early adolescence had been ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird.’ Atticus Finch is so perfect it’s beyond belief. He’s a widower caring in a loving fashion for two wonderful children. He is a man of courage, principle, deep intellect – and the best shot in the county!” Turow told The Guardian. “‘Presumed Innocent’ challenged that view of lawyers. I wrote it saying to myself: ‘To hell with Perry Mason, I’m gonna show it as it is,’” he added.

Della Guardia and Tommy’s actions display how wicked lawyers can be. While Tommy tries to crucify Rusty Sabich, who has always emerged as the best attorney among the two, Della Guardia celebrates kicking his superior out of the office to be the new chief prosecutor. They both don’t show any compassion toward their colleague, while suspicions heap on the latter. Della Guardia and Tommy even describe the prospect of convicting Rusty, with whom they have been working for a considerable while, “delicious.”

The Legal Drama’s Antagonists

‘Presumed Innocent’ is primarily a legal drama. Any drama works well when the stakes and tensions are higher. Della Guardia and Tommy add to the stakes present in the narrative. If Rusty’s colleagues are compassionate prosecutors who support him and silently believe in his (possible) innocence, the narrative of the series won’t work enough to captivate the viewers. When his own “teammates” turn against him, the pressure on Rusty to prove his innocence is higher than ever. The media and the entire law enforcement community see him in a different light. He stoops into vulnerability as he gets stabbed in the back by someone who shares an office with him.

Similarly, Raymond becomes Rusty’s defense lawyer only because Della Guardia is his opposition. After losing the election to the latter, Raymond has to prove that he is not a loser. David E. Kelley, who created the series based on Scott Turow’s book, eliminated the defense attorney in the novel, Sandy Stern, for the binary of Raymond against Della Guardia. As Raymond bets on Rusty’s innocence with his pride and reputation, the stakes become enormous. Therefore, it is safe to say that Della Guardia and Tommy serve a particular purpose in the novel and the series’ respective narratives.

Read More: Presumed Innocent: Is the Apple TV+ Show Inspired From Reality?