August 28, 2017 11:28 AM

 

Since its 1990 debut, Law & Order has relied on true crime to fire up its writers’ imaginations.

“When I first pitched [the show],” executive producer Dick Wolf tells PEOPLE in a new interview, “[then-NBC president] Brandon Tartikoff asked, ‘What’s the bible for the series?’ I said, ‘The front page.’ ”

Now, more 1,000 episodes later, the wildly popular cops-and-courts drama, which ended in 2010, and its many ongoing spin-offs have spun countless tales from true events.

PEOPLE has gathered the most compelling in a new special issue, True Crime Stories: 35 Real Cases that Inspired the Show Law & Order.

The 96-page issue contains the latest news on high profile trials, from O.J. Simpson to Robert Durst, sex scandals from the Mayflower Madam to Anthony Weiner, and unsolved mysteries, like the deaths of JonBenét Ramsey and of Chandra Levy.

Plus: a look at how the creative team at Law & Order put their own twist on each story. Playing a mom charged with her daughter’s murder, Hillary Duff sure seems like Casey Anthony — but then the episode takes a turn. (Spoiler! It was measles!)

“We may rip off a headline,” says Dick Wolf, “but we don’t take the story along with it.”

The special issue also includes exclusive interviews with real-life detectives and prosecutors, on how the show’s approach kept it real, and a first look at fall’s new series, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, starring Edie Falco.

True Crime Stories: 35 Real Cases that Inspired the Show Law & Order is on sale now.

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