Gary Susman
May 18, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

On Wednesday, Det. Lennie Briscoe will solve his last homicide case for the New York Police Department. After 12 years, Jerry Orbach is leaving ”Law & Order,” whose 14th(!) season finale airs this week. But he’s not leaving the franchise; he’s going to continue to play Briscoe on the newest series in the franchise, ”Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” which NBC announced on Monday would debut in the middle of the upcoming TV season. Replacing him on the beat at the original show this fall will be another veteran cop/actor, Dennis Farina, the network announced Monday. ”I’ve known Dennis for 20 years, and he’s a terrific actor, a consummate professional and a truly nice guy,” said executive producer and franchise mastermind Dick Wolf in a statement.

Farina, a real-life Chicago cop-turned-actor, got his first big break 18 years ago on an NBC police drama, ”Crime Story.” Since then, he’s made a career of playing both cops and criminals in such movies as ”Manhunter,” ”Midnight Run,” ”Get Shorty,” and ”Snatch.” His last major role was as the star of NBC’s 2002-03 sitcom ”The In-Laws.”

In an interview with the New York Post, Orbach said the decision to leave the flagship show was mutual. ”Dick Wolf had the spinoff coming, and it looked like the perfect opportunity to do one or two days a week rather than all eight days of the [shooting] schedule,” the 68-year-old actor said. ”It’s sort of like a golden parachute — as far as the real cops go, they would’ve retired me years ago.” He’ll still be solving crimes on ”Trial by Jury,” but not as a policeman. ”Briscoe is now retired and is working for the D.A.’s office as an investigator,” he explains. ”This show will have D.A.s, defense lawyers and judges who will revolve, so that I and a partner will be regulars and they can get a big star, like Helen Mirren, to do an episode. It could be very interesting.”

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