Massachusetts Lawyer rejoins DA's office after Hollywood stint Attorney wrote for legal dramas and even pitched a series idea of her own

By Lisa Redmond

The Sun of Lowell

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) -- Pamela Wechsler, a former Suffolk County prosecutor, has crossed paths for the past seven years with some of Hollywood's elite as a writer and consultant for some of television's most popular crime shows, including "Law & Order."

Now she is rubbing elbows with accused robbers and drug addicts in Lowell Superior Court as the attorney, 50, takes on her latest role as prosecutor in the Middlesex District Attorney's Office.

Ask Wechsler, who recently moved from Los Angeles to Boston, how she is adjusting to being a prosecutor again, and her answer is simple: "I'm loving it."

Although she completed her third week on the job, Wechsler said being back in a courtroom "feels natural. Sure, I'm a little rusty, but it is exciting to be back."

While the "LA thing," as she calls it, was fun, personal reasons brought her back to Boston.

While she is modest about her accomplishments, her background includes prosecuting murder cases at the Suffolk DA's office, then working at the state Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Justice Department before Hollywood beckoned.

Wechsler, a graduate of Tufts University and Boston University School of Law, said when she decided to move back to Massachusetts, she interviewed with only one person -- Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone.

"Pam has a rich history as a prosecutor at the county, state and federal levels, and we could not be more pleased to have her as part of our team," Leone said.

Leone stressed Wechsler's "desire to protect and serve real victims, and speaking for them brought her back to the courtroom and prosecution."

Wechsler said she and Leone were rookie prosecutors in the Suffolk DA's Office. She stayed at the Suffolk office for 10 years with a "good chunk" of her time devoted to prosecuting homicides.

When Leone moved to the state Attorney General's office, she followed, running the criminal bureau for three years before moving to Washington, D.C., and the Justice Department, where she worked in the fraud section, prosecuting white-collar crimes, such as bank fraud, that were of a national significance.

Through her rise in the criminal-justice ranks, Wechsler said, "The LA thing was lurking in the background."

As a Suffolk prosecutor, Wechsler said she became friendly with a writer for "The Practice," a television series about a fictional Boston law firm. She met other writers for the show and "it piqued my interest." She wrote a "spec script" and got an agent.

While she was in LA working on a case for the Justice Department, she interviewed and was hired to be a writer for a new "Law & Order" show called "Trial by Jury," starring Bebe Neuwirth of "Cheers:" fame.

"Trial by Jury" lasted only one season, she said. Then she began writing episodes for "the mother ship" -- the original "Law & Order" series. She branched out, writing for two other ill-fated spin offs, "Conviction" and "Canterbury's Law" and the successful "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

She even pitched her own idea for a series called, "The Advocate," about victim-witness advocates in Washington, D.C. The pilot was sold, but still sits on the shelf.

As a writer on a television show, Wechsler said she and other writers are responsible for writing the entire script, which usually takes a few weeks. Ideas for episodes were often plucked from the news, with the story lines tweaked and the names changed to protect the innocent.

One of the episodes of "Trial by Jury" was loosely based on the Louise Woodward nanny trial, she said. Woodward was convicted in the death of an 8-month-old boy she served as an au pair in Newton.

Experts, legal and otherwise, review a script for inaccuracies. Wechsler had the legal expertise, but there was one episode about gambling where she had to hire a poker player to give her pointers.

"There is a whole pool of technical advisers," she said.

And the clock is always ticking.

"TV has serious deadlines," she said. "It's intense, like being on trial."

As she steps back into the role of prosecutor, Wechsler said she will gladly take any case thrown at her, from breaking and entering to murder.

But for now, she joked, "I'm still trying to figure out how to get to the courthouse."

Published: Tue, Aug 23, 2011