The show was based on and inspired by a BBC 4 part drama about the British legal system broadcast in 1978 and seen by Dick Wolf. The drama looked at an event ( a corrupt Scotland Yard detective frames a known criminal for an armed robbery) from four different perspectives: the policeman's, the criminal's, the prosecution and defence lawyers and finally life in prison for the unfairly convicted villain. Wolf liked the innovative idea of following a crime from both the police investigation and then the lawyers perspective through to the trial and verdict.
Lt. Anita Van Buren:
Do you believe him?
Det. Lennie Briscoe: I believe on a good day he couldn't hit his ass with both hands.
When witness or suspects are brought to the station and interrogated sometimes it's pretty clear they didn't want to come. If there is no probable cause for an arrest or an active arrest warrant, the police can't make you go anywhere against your will. Once in a while, a wealthy or educated person will assert this, but mostly the cops just walk up to people, put the cuffs on them, and place them in the car.
At the start of the season one episode "Torrents of Greed, Part 2" the customary "In the criminal justice system..." opening monologue and screen title were replaced with a monologue and screen title about manipulation of the legal system.
The DVD release of the series will include footage not originally broadcast.
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We asked Doctors Jo Wilson, April Kepner, and Andrew DeLuca to tell us the episodes of the show that they think are the most essential to understanding their characters.