Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson is a certified hit. Not only does the source material draw back to a moment in time where there was genuine watercooler conversations about current events, but it also is displaying that some issues related to race, class, and sex(ism) still haven’t changed much since the 90s. All of the acting is top-notch, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if this show sweeps up at next year’s Emmy Awards, especially for Courtney Vance and Sarah Paulson for their roles as Johnnie Cochran and Marcia Clark.
Because this show is conceptualized as an anthology series (similar to American Horror Story), it’s safe to assume that season 2 will follow another major criminal case that captured the country. Unfortunately, the OJ Simpson case sets the bar very high. Even watching the show makes you feel nostalgic about how the events really were for you personally. So with such a strong first season, what other cases could future seasons show?
1. The Menéndez Brothers
This trial also occurred during the 90s and was introduced to American households due to Court TV. The Menéndez Brothers (Lyle and Erik) were charged with the murder of their parents Jose and Mary "Kitty" Menéndez. This was another murder that occurred in Beverly Hills, California. The Menéndez Brothers were charged with shooting their parents with their shotguns.
During the trial, not only were the siblings on trial (their defense was that they wanted to escape abuse from their parents, who were accused of abusing them physically, sexually, and mentally) their parents were also on trial.
There were multiple trials for them since the juries kept ending up deadlocked. Ultimately the Menendez Brothers were found guilty of premeditated murder (ultimately to get their parents' incredible wealth, not to escape any abuse), and they are currently serving life sentences.
This would be an interesting show to have because like The People vs. OJ Simpson, it will show the “Beverly Hills Lifestyle” and the different ways crime is approached, depending on who does the murder (and how rich they are).
2. Susan Smith
The case of Susan Smith centered on the disappearance of her two sons, who she claimed went missing when she was carjacked by a black man with her two sons sitting in the back of the car. Because her pleas seemed genuine, it led to manhunts in South Carolina for the mythological black man she described and many were falsely detained.
Ultimately, her story started to fall apart and she finally confessed that she drowned her children. The presumed motive was that Smith wanted to be with a man who had no intention of having a family. Smith’s defense was that she suffered from depression and a dependent personality disorder, but the jury found her guilty of the murder of her two sons.
This would be interesting to show on TV because of how sure many across the country were that this woman’s children were kidnapped/killed by a black man, and our preconceived notions of race and crime that are especially prevalent today given the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
3. West Memphis Three
Very similar to the Netflix series Making a Murder, the West Memphis Three was a case of poorly educated people unaware of their rights convicted because they were seen by many as stupid outsiders.
In 1993, three children went missing and were ultimately found murdered in a bizarre fashion. The three suspects Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin were seen as juvenile delinquents with many problems related to fistfights and petty crimes prior.
The crimes against the three children were described as “satanic” and the West Memphis Three were seen as members of the “occult” by police investigators. The three were not fully aware of their rights and although they were minors, they were interviewed by police without a lawyer or parent present and basically “talked” into a confession. The three were found guilty of murder. Echols was sentenced to death, Misskelley and Baldwin were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Many criticized the police’s investigation and handling of the case and the national attention was brought to the case stating that the three did not receive a fair trial and should be released. Throughout the years, new evidence was introduced that cast further doubt on their guilt.
When new DNA evidence was introduced in 2010, the three negotiated a plea deal with prosecutors to enter an Alford plea (where they acknowledge their innocence, but also that a jury would probably find them guilty), and they were able to be released from prison for time served.
The three were released after serving 17 years for a crime they say they did not commit. This is a great narrative for the television series because it would display dedicated perseverance for many years against a system that imprisoned innocent people.
4. Adnan Syed
Anyone who is familiar with the famous podcast Serial is completely aware of the trial of Adnan Syed. The podcast has been described as “The Wire for your ears” in the way that it unveiled, week by week, the evidence that resulted in the conviction of high school student Adnan Syed for the death of former girlfriend Hae Min Lee.
Many people who listened to the podcast think either he is innocent, or at least deserves a retrial. Due to the fame of this case, there is renewed interest and Syed is in the process of filing for a retrial under the grounds that he did not receive adequate counsel.
This is a no-brainer to make this a TV show because it is very fresh on the public’s mind and just listening to it was riveting, so imagine watching it weekly on your television.
Sources: Wikipedia, People Magazine, Serial Podcast Season 1