Thursday, February 7, 2013

Law & Order SVU “Monster’s Legacy” Recap & Review

First things first, I’d like to comment on the elephant in the room: Mike Tyson on Law & Order SVU.

Controversy is not new to the Law & Order brand of shows. Law & Order SVU “Monster’s Legacy” hit the hot button the minute the casting of former boxing champ Mike Tyson was announced. The issue: should Tyson, a convicted rapist, be a guest star on a TV show that focuses on victims of various sex crimes? The disgust and outcry was swift and loud, some finding the casting of Tyson on SVU as being “especially heinous.” One woman started a petition requesting they reconsider casting Tyson. Tyson, who served his time for his rape conviction, rebutted, saying "I didn't rape nobody or do anything like that, and this lady wasn't there to know if I did or not. I don't trip on that stuff. I'm not trying to get rich and famous; I'm just trying to feed my family. Why should they care? Since I'm clean and sober five years, I haven't broken any laws or did any crimes. I'm just trying to live my life." NBC moved the episode air date from February 13 to February 6, reportedly so the episode would not air on the eve of One Billion Rising, a global event supporting rape and abuse survivors.
Was it right or wrong for Tyson to be cast on Law & Order SVU? I don’t know Mike Tyson personally, but based on his public persona, I don’t like what I’ve seen and heard. I also abhor stunt casting. Despite this, having Mike Tyson guest star on SVU was not a deal breaker for me. He was convicted and served his time and he should be allowed to work for whatever employer will hire him. Yes, it was an odd casting choice that showed a lack of sensitivity to some of SVU’s core viewers, and I understand their pain, upset, and disappointment. If I was faced with a choice between Tyson and an actor without all that baggage, I probably would not have hired Tyson. But thankfully I’m not the one responsible for producing a network TV show and bringing in viewers every week. Let’s not be naive here - TV shows/networks are in business to make money, just like any other company. They want more viewers, especially in the coveted demographic, which can translate to more advertising revenue. Some would sell their soul to get more viewers. If casting Tyson and the ensuing negative publicity delivers an increase in viewers - despite losing viewers who won’t be watching out of protest - the casting decision will be deemed as brilliant. But this is not a casting choice with zero risk. Losing too many viewers for this episode or for the long term could spell trouble for the series and its viability for another season. Fans who feel betrayed by the decision to hire Tyson likely feel the end to SVU won’t come soon enough.

My take on the episode itself: it was fantastic and it’s truly a pity that some chose not to watch. Despite Mike Tyson’s presence and his just-adequate performance (which detracted from any sympathy that viewers may have felt for Reggie Rhodes) this may be the best episode of Law & Order SVU so far this season. The stabbing sequence in the opening scene was painful to watch and for a brief moment it actually made me physically uncomfortable. The person stabbed was a victim of a misconception about his activities with the boys he coached, but the attack eventually exposed more than one child abuser and the long-term effects on their victims. The story was well crafted, moved quickly, and juggled with ease both the SVU case of the child abuser and Benson/Ellis getting a stay of execution for Reggie.

Andre Braugher simply becomes Bayard Ellis on the screen. I’ve seen Andre in many shows over the years and he has the amazing ability to make viewers forget that he is playing a part. (Just a few weeks ago he was perfectly credible as captain of a nuclear-armed submarine.) It was a nice closing of the loop when Ellis and Benson made their peace as it related to Benson’s relationship with David Haden. (In my opinion, Harry Connick Jr. was a worse casting blunder than Mike Tyson, but I digress.) Mariska and Andre have great chemistry playing work colleagues on different sides of the legal system. (Sorry shippers, I'm not advocating a romantic relationship for Benson/Ellis here.)

Ed Asner was extremely creepy as the crotchety old pervert who preys on young boys who don’t have father figures. The whole cast was great but it was especially nice to see Dann Florek back as the much missed voice of reason for the SVU squad.

With more frequency, we hear of old convictions being overturned for various reasons (usually due to re-examining DNA evidence). In the case of Reggie Rhodes, he knows he murdered someone but prosecutorial misconduct put Reggie in a death penalty situation. This episode raises questions about how the death penalty is applied, and whether there are the proper checks and balances in place before someone is sentenced to death. In Reggie’s case, he got his stay, and maybe a new trial. But he shouldn’t get a free pass for murder.

Here is the recap:

Mariska Hargitay – Detective Olivia Benson
Ice-T – Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Richard Belzer – Sergeant John Munch
Dann Florek – Captain Don Cragen
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Danny Pino - Detective Nick Amaro

Guest Stars:
Andre Braugher - Bayard Ellis
Ed Asner – Martin Schultz
Mike Tyson - Reggie Rhodes
Enid Graham – Marnie Lathrop
Peter Scanavino - Johnny Dubcek
Jack Dimich – Alexei Belyakov
Carmen Roman – Judge Nancy Rosario
Elaine Hyman - Olga Dubcek
Eve Plumb - Angela Brooks
Chris Sullivan – Eddy’s Father
Daria Hardeman – Kassandra Smith
Alok Tewari – Counselor Amiri
Marissa Matrone – Judge Maria Ana DeFeceo
Michael O’Hara – CO Foster
Rick Zahn – Hal Harper
Dawn Yanek – Reporter
Tyler Dean Flores – Pablo
Helen Anker – Vera
Andrew M. Chamberlain – Eddie
Andrew Harvey - Ryan

In a school gym, a coach helps a young boy work out a cramp by massaging his leg, videotaping it. A janitor watches and then walks in on them, and the coach yells at him, asking if that can’t wait and the janitor says he will come back.

Later, the coach is walking out to his car in a parking garage and as he opens his trunk, someone comes from behind and violently and repeatedly stabs him as he bends the coach over in the trunk. The assailant walks off as the coach collapses and screams in pain.

Sometime later, Amaro is already on the scene as Benson arrives, in a red dress, and Amaro is stunned, saying “Wow…Whoa….Oh-livia! It’s a little early for Valentine’s Day.” She explains “he and I” weren’t ready for the whole Valentine’s Day thing – and Amaro said she went for the casual pre-dinner thing. He apologizes for pulling her out, and then points out Alexei Belyakov, the injured boys gymnastics coach, who was stabbed with an ice pick and he bled a lot. He was lucky the EMTs got there quick. Benson asks why this is their case, seeing where the blood stain is coming from, then adds because he was stabbed in a bad place. Amaro quips both of them. Benson asks if CSU can get prints on the weapon, but Amaro says it will have to wait until the coach gets out of surgery,

Afterwards, Benson and Amaro question Alexei, who is out of surgery. He did not see the attacker as he came from behind. Amaro asks if he is sure it was a man, and Alexei is positive, he had on work gloves, boots, and some kind of coverall. Benson feels an attack like this could be revenge, and Amaro adds maybe something form his personal life. Alexei replies he is happily married and has good relations with all of his ex-wives – three of them. He says he is a romantic, and when Amaro asks if he has been romantic with someone he shouldn’t have,  Alexei says he learned that lesson 4 years ago. A student’s father accused him of being involved with his wife. Amaro asks if he was, and Alexei does not answer. Amaro asks if was he who attacked him, and Alexei says no, he tried to ruin him; in the divorce trial he accused him of molesting his son – and she accused him. He was threatened last year by the parents of Eddy, a student last year whom he had to cut, telling his parents he could not spin straw into gold. The father came in and threw furniture around.

At the home of Eddy Galtin, his father tells Fin that the Russians are all liars, he says Alexi played them, when he wanted their money he said his son had Olympic potential and charged a fortune for private lessons. Meanwhile, Amaro speaks with Eddy with his mother present. Eddy does not want to talk about Coach Alexei but Amaro presses about the private sessions. Eddy says he would practice on the bars and help with his stretching. He says the coach was not “That way” with him, saying he does not know if he was that way with other kids in private sessions. Meanwhile, Eddy’s father tells Fin he heard Alexei was “hands on” and says a guy at the guy said Eddy was better off he was away from the coach. It was a young lanky guy in a jumpsuit that probably worked maintenance.

Back at SVU, Rollins and Fin have John Dubcek in interrogation and Rollins reads off his length arrest record but says there is nothing in the last 5 years. He says he is straightening himself out. Rollins says Alexei almost bled out and he could have killed him. When Dubcek plays dumb, Fin and Rollins continue to press and he admits that he lives with his mom and she is sick. When Rollins continues to hammer him, Dubcek says what Alexei does he wouldn’t try with him, and Rollins asks him what he does to who? He squirms uncomfortably,

With Benson and Amaro back at the hospital, Alexei says the janitor is psycho, and when Benson asks why he would say those things, Alexei says it is because he is a janitor and idiot. He admits to taping his sessions for the benefits of the students. When Benson asks who does taping the rubdown benefit, Alexei says himself;  he started taping everything after he was accused to show he has nothing to hide.

Back at SVU, Fin, Rollins and Amaro are watching the videos and Benson is on the phone. Cragen asks if anybody learned anything, and Fin says yes, 90 hours of tape and so far is only crime is boring him to death. Benson says they talked to a lot of his students, former and current, and nobody likes him but nobody called him a predator. Cragen thinks the owe the coach an apology, but Rollins says Dubcek believes what he told them. Amaro wonders if it was misconstrued – and Fin finishes by saying “and stabbed the guy in the testicles? Something set him off.” Cragen says he has one last chance to tell them what; he has been arraigned and he is on his way to Riker’s now.

As the transport arrives at Rikers, the officers open the rear door of the vehicle and see that Dubcek is trying to strangle another passenger with a chain. They restrain Dubcek and pull the injured man out of the vehicle.

As they take Dubcek away, he yells it was not his fault, he told them not to put him in with that. Fin and Rollins, who had arrived at Rikers, hear that Dubcek went nuts and tried to kill the inmate next to him. Rollins asks what he was saying about not being put in “with that” and the officer says he did not want to be put in the truck with the now injured prisoner who was a pedophile who was arraigned for touching boy scouts. He tells Rollins he will have to talk to Dubcek at arraignment.

At arraignment, the judge remands Dubcek back to Rikers. As he is being taken away, he tells his mother he is sorry. Fin comments to Rollins that they are not getting him for a while, and Rollins says in Johnny’s mind, he went off on two pedophiles. He wonders if his mother will know why. In the hall, they speak with Johnny’s mother who says Johnny has not been in any trouble since he was a teenager. His father died when he was 10, but a few years later, in their neighborhood house in Clinton, a coach took an interest in Johnny. He managed to get Johnny in to the open air camp upstate. Johnny did not like it there and Coach Schultz said Johnny was homesick. When Johnny got home from camp, he was not the same and she couldn’t even drag him to Clinton.

Back at SVU, Rollins and Fin return and Rollins explains they spoke with Johnny and admitted all he saw was Coach Alexei helping a student stretch. Cragen thinks he overreacted, asking if Johnny has a history f being assaulted. Fin says the mom said something went on one summer with the camp coach. Benson says they’ve seen this before, someone is sexually abused and the manage to function until there is a trigger – he sees Coach Alexei touch a boy and it sets him off. Amaro adds then he is chained to a pedophile, thinking it set off PTSD. Cragen says that is something Johnny’s defense can bring up and he will be sure the DA passes that along. As Cragen walks off, Benson tells him to hold on, asking if that is it, wondering about the camp coach? Rollins says Martin Schultz worked in a Clinton neighborhood house and in the summers he ran Open Air Camp in the Adirondacks and took inner city kids there. Cragen asks if Dubcek accused him or if this is all inference. Fin replies that Dubcek was pretty shut down – and Cragen concludes that was a no. Cragen adds if Schultz had a record, the detectives would have told him. Fin says “like Father Geoghan or Sandusky?” Fin adds that even when people try to come forward it gets hushed up. Cragen replies that it could be a misunderstanding like Coach Alexei. Benson suggests they see if Schultz is still working with kids.

At the home of Martin Schultz, Benson and Amaro question him about Dubcek. He recalls Johnny as a big Mets fan who wore the same ratty orange t-shirt every day to camp and the kids teased him. Benson explains he assaulted a couple men and he is going away for a long time. Schultz asks what he can do and Amaro says they are trying to understand the boy who became the man. Schultz says Johnny could have gone either way, the kid had potential. Benson explains Johnny’s mother said he was a straight A student until he went to camp there. Schultz asks if they mind going inside as the cold is affecting his joints. Inside, he serves them hot chocolate. When Benson asks him if Johnny confided about anyone abusing him at camp, Schultz tells them to stop right where they are. He knows these days everyone has to ask these questions but he does not tolerate deviants. If he had seen a counselor looked sideways at a kid he would have knocked them on their ass and put them in a bus before he knew what hit him. When Amaro calls him Mr. Schultz, Schultz tells him to call him Martin, Mr. Schultz is his father. Benson asks if the kids called him Martin, he says yes, they have enough authority figures in his life. When Benson says he is their friend, Martin adds counselor, coach, and surrogate father. He tries to change their lives and he wishes he could have done more for Johnny and some of the other kids he could not save – fatherless kids. He adds try your might, you can never fill that hole, and he looks squarely at Benson and asks her isn’t that right? Benson looks surprised and says “Excuse me?” He replies “It’s all right honey, you’ve done good. You could have gone the other way too, hmm?” He continues to stare at her as he drinks his hot chocolate.

Later, Benson and Amaro are back at SVU in Cragen’s office. Benson says Schultz is a sociopath, adding he has an avuncular manner and spent the whole time reading them. Cragen asks if she got all this from a cup of hot chocolate? Amaro replies that everything he does is premeditated, every word and look. Cragen replies they are telling him that he didn’t confess, questioning that this guy worked with kids for over 50 years and there is not one complaint? Benson thinks he knows who to pick, he finds single mothers who are overburdened at best and grateful that a man has taken interest in their lost boys. Rollins adds there may not be any complaints but there is plenty of damage in his wake, so far she has found a dozen of his kids now in prison for assault, rape, or murder. Benson comments that most survivors don’t become abusers, they are usually shamed into silence. Whatever Shultz did to those men when they were boys. He is ground zero for a second generation epidemic of assault and murder. Cragen believes this is not going to be easy, they will have to find victims who will come forward. Rollins tells him they have a whole bunch right here. Cragen replies that convicted felons are unreliable witnesses. Rollins thinks maybe individually, but there is a clear pattern and if they can prove that all these violent men have one abuser in common – Martin Schultz – they have a shot at taking him down. Fin counters that prisoners don’t want to admit they were abused and don’t want to be labeled as victims as it makes them targets. Rollins feels they only need one to start – Reggie Rhodes. He’s not going to be worried about being a target; he’s on death row in Ohio. He is sentenced to die in 10 days.

At the Chillicothe Correctional Facility In Chillicothe, Ohio, Reggie tells Benson and Fin that he knew Johnny from the projects, Benson adds and camp, and then asks about Martin Schultz. Reggie nods yes, and Benson asks if he can tell them about Schultz. Reggie says no, he’d rather not. Fin says they understand but Schultz is still up at camp with other boys. Reggie asks why do they care now, they never cared before. Benson replies they are just finding out now, about what he did to those boys and if that man is going to be punished for what he did, they need somebody brave enough to come forward. Reggie says he can’t, and, turning away, adds he does not want to think about him or any of them. Benson questions “them?” Fin asks that the man he murdered – at trial they said he was a stranger and he was just robbing him in his house, wondering if there is more to it than that. Reggie glares back at them and then says it doesn’t matter, he did kill him and he can’t take that back. He is trying to stay at peace, and yells at them to get the hell out of there -  now. Benson and Fin move to leave.

Later, Benson is in a restaurant with Bayard Ellis, and he asks her how this crossed her desk. She explains they are tracking a career pedophile, Martin Schultz, and they believe Reggie is one of a dozen victims who went on to commit violent crimes themselves. He asks if they are talking about a death penalty case here, or about him doing SVU’s job. She admits it is a little of both. He says she is asking him for a favor, so does that mean she is not angry with him. She says she was never angry with him. He replies she had every right to be, he blew up her relationship with David Haden. She puts down her glass of wine and then admits she was angry, but she also knew that Ellis was doing right by his client. She brings out Reggie’s file and asks him to take a look at Reggie’s case. She explains that the DA said this was a robbery gone bad but nothing was taken and the man he murdered had two prior solicitations for young black men. She confirms this did not come out at trial. She thinks Reggie was too ashamed to admit the sexual relationship . Benson explains if they don’t help him, he dies in 9 days.

Back at the Chillicothe Correctional Facility, Reggie asks if he talks to them that Ellis will help with his defense. Ellis explains he read the transcripts from his 2-day trial and he will help either way. Reggie says his last attorney Mr. Amiri said it was too late, but Ellis says it is not, the governor can grant clemency if the parole board recommends it. Ellis asks if Amiri ever told him that, and Reggie replies he talked to him so long ago he does not recall, and he would like to talk to the governor if that is possible. Benson explains it would be more like Ellis would speak for him to the parole board. Reggie asks about what, and Ellis reminds him he murdered a man and may never get out of prison, but if something happened to him – something bad when he was a kid – the jury should have heard about it. Benson asks before the trial, did anybody ask him about his childhood or that camp? Reggie explains he meant the lawyer the day before and they didn’t talk much about anything. Benson feels there is still time, that is why they are here, they can talk about it now. He sits down. Benson says he needs him to tell them what happened at Martin’s camp. Reggie says the social worker in the group was always trying to get him to talk about it. Ellis comments he knows it is difficult, but the parole board has to know what happened to him. Reggie thinks it is too late, he is letting it go, he is forgiving everyone for everything, he even forgives his mama. Benson asks “Forgive her for what?” Reggie replies, “For sending me back to Martin’s camp.” Benson and Ellis look at each other.

Outside the prison, Benson asks Ellis if Reggie has a chance. Ellis thinks that after the case he had, if Ohio executes him, it is state sanctioned murder. He asks if she has any vacation days accumulated, and she smiles and says 50 or 60 weeks. He says she is in luck, Cleveland is lovely this time of year, and he will need her help.

At the office of the Public Defender in Cleveland, Amiri checks the file on Reggie Rhodes, who reads what Reggie did murdering Charles Danforth and adds the jury was out 40 minutes, asking what he can do for them. Ellis says he gets to go to the parole board to ask for clemency. Amiri says Rhodes was the only witness for the defense and he lied on the stand and said he wasn’t at the scene. The victim’s blood was found on his shoes and Reggie told him he did it. Ellis asks if Reggie also told him he met his original defense attorney the day before the trial and that lawyer was subsequently disbarred? Amiri says the defendant is only entitled to counsel, not quality of counsel. Benson says they have also become aware that Reggie was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Amiri says he is sure it is true for half his cases but the government doesn’t pardon murderers because they had a bad childhood. Ellis counters that it took him 15 minutes to find the deceased had a record of solicitation for young men and he needs to prove that the original defense lawyer neglected to tell the jury about mitigating circumstances - period. Amiri explains that what they do is triage, he has people on death row for crimes they didn’t commit and if Ellis thinks he can come in and do a better job, have at it. Ellis thanks him and shakes his hand, saying that is all he wanted to hear.

Back at the prison, Ellis asks Reggie to explain what happened that night at Charles Danforth’s house. Reggie shakes his head, replying he can’t go back to that place. Ellis explains that the jury was told he had never met Danforth before and that night, Danforth just happened to hire him for an odd job? Benson says they know Danforth hired other young men and it wasn’t for odd jobs. She asks how he ended up in his home, and when Ellis tells Reggie he has to help himself, Reggie asks why they are doing this, it’s over. Ellis tells him there is nothing he can tell this woman that she hasn’t heard and there is nothing he can say that can make him any less of a man in his eyes. He suggests Reggie have some time with Benson, and Ellis leaves the cell. Benson asks Reggie if he needs a break or wants some water, and he politely says no thank you. She asks if Martin wasn’t the first, and when he shakes his head and says nothing, she asks how old was he when it started. He says the first time he can remember, he was 5 maybe 6. His uncle put his mouth on him and said that he was a big boy and this is what big boys do with men.

Later, and in the car, Benson explains to Ellis that Reggie said that after his uncle it was his mother’s boyfriend, a pimp, and at 10, it was a teacher in school. She feels predators have radar. She says that Schultz abused him, for three summers and was passing him around to other men. Reggie dropped out of school and hitchhiked and ended up in Cleveland. He met Danforth through a mutual friend and Danforth paid him for sex for over a year – the odd jobs – until one night Reggie comes over and after Danforth is finished with him, the door opens and three other men walk into the garage. They worked him over all night and the next day Reggie comes back and kills Danforth. Ellis asks if Reggie ever told his original lawyer this story, and Benson explains the lawyer told Reggie that the jury didn’t need to hear that and it was better to say he was not there at all. Ellis shakes his head, and says that lawyer is deceased but the parole board will want confirmation so they are on two tracks now = Reggie relationship with Danforth, and Benson finishes with what happened to him growing up.

At St. Michael’s Hospital in the Bronx, Fin speaks with Reggie’s sister Kassandra who says her uncle abused her first until she… and she doesn’t finish the sentence. Fin comments that after she matured, he moved on to Reggie. She was just glad it was not her any more. She would stay at the library until close and just bury he head in her books. Fin says she is lucky she got out but her brother is on death row. She prays for him every day, and Fin believes it is because she knew what Reggie went through and that was more than just her uncle. Fin says she could not protect him growing up but urges her to help him now.

Back at Martin Schultz's home, Rollins and Amaro question him about Reggie and a young boy is there watering his plants. Martin describes Reggie as having problems but was a sweet kid and until he found him, nobody ever looked out for him. The young boy, Pablo, asks Martin if there is anything more, and Martin tells Pablo no, to get upstairs and do his homework. Martin comments he thought the detectives working on the Johnny Dubcek case. Amaro says the boys both went to his house and to the camp. Martin says yes and asks what does that have to do with the price of coffee? He asks if they are trying to say this camp had something to do with their behavior? Rollins replies that Reggie said he was raped her at this camp three summers in a row. Martin says a guy bashes someone’s head in and is about to get the needle for it naturally he will look for some way to save his hide. Amaro replies that no one said it was him but he told them that any whiff of trouble and he would kick the counselor out so did anything happen while Reggie was there? Martin testily asks if they want him to lie, and Rollins explains it is past the statute of limitations so the camp – and Martin – they can be sure there is no liability. There is a pregnant pause and then Martin yells at them to get the hell out of there. He doesn’t want the boy upset to hear any of this. He yells at them again to get out, and the detectives leave.

At the courthouse, Ellis and Benson speak with Ms. Lathrop, the assistant prosecutor who prosecuted Reggie’s case. She said it was her first murder trial as lead counsel, saying it was a good case to cut her teeth on. She was supervised by the lead prosecutor Jim Harrison. She asks if they are preparing Rhodes’ clemency hearing, and Ellis says yes and they found mitigating circumstances that they think the jury should have heard. She questions what, it was open and shut. Benson explains that Danforth was paying Reggie for sex. Lathrop thinks everybody has a story. Ellis thinks Reggie may have been abused the night before he killed Danforth and asks if she has any way to corroborate that. She quickly says she doesn’t and Ellis counters that she does know that Danforth had a record for solicitation. She says that was public information. Ellis asks that the defense know about it, and she says of course, she was prepared for him to bring it up but he never did. Ellis and Benson glance at each other and Lathrop says there are people on death row the deserve clemency but Reggie Rhodes deserves to die. She walks off. Benson asks Ellis is Lathrop seems a bit defensive, and Ellis thinks she was helpful. She told them Reggie lawyer knew Danforth had a record and didn’t use it which speaks to negligence. Benson asks if that is enough and Ellis makes a “maybe” motion with his hand.

At the Parole Board room in Chillicothe, Reggie’s sister Kassandra is speaking to the parole board and she explains once when Reggie was 13 seeing his underwear stained with blood and her mother just put them in the wash. She was not living with her mother at the time, she felt sorry for Reggie but her mother was using and she could not fight her and her boyfriend. She explains she tried to tell Reggie’s defense lawyer about it outside the courthouse but before she could get 10 words in, he told her to shut the eff up, that the jury did not need to know that Reggie was a homo. One of the parole board members. Miss Brooks, agrees the abuse is horrible and that it was not brought to the jury only compounds the negligence. Ellis gives them sworn affidavits from 7 of the original jurors stating had they known this history they would not have sentenced Reggie to death. Another board member asks even though Reggie now admits to the murder he previously denied? Ellis said they all agree that given this level of defense negligence that it would be a grave miscarriage of justice for the state to execute Reggie. Ellis is told they will make a ruling within 24 hours and concludes the hearing. Benson tells Ellis he did a good job, he brought up enough to get the case retried. Ellis reminds her one step at a time, they should concentrate on the stay of execution. Reggie asks them what do they do now? Ellis tells him they wait.

Later, Benson and Ellis visit Reggie who is now back in his cell and he thinks it is good news. Benson explains they voted 5 to 4 against them. He looks crestfallen and Ellis says he is sorry. He asks how does this happen? Benson says she does not know but they are going to try to find out. He shakes his head repeatedly.

Benson and Ellis are at a diner and Benson explains that the parole board said in their own decision that Reggie’s defense was unconstitutional deficient and this doesn’t make sense. Ellis tells her to keep reading, and Benson goes on to say then they voted 5 to 4 that the negligent defense doesn’t rise to the level of invalidating the sanctity of the jury’s decision. She asks what is she missing? Ellis says 4 votes – no offense – we ex-cops. Benson recalls seeing them rolling their eyes when Reggie’s sister testified, but the firth vote – the chair – was asking all the right questions. Ellis thinks this makes it harder to accuse her of bias. Benson is surprised, as the woman was the former head of social services, and Ellis believes she should have recused herself. Ellis adds he got an off the record call that morning and heard that Ms. Brooks is married to Jim Harrison – the lead prosecutor who supervised DA Lathrop as she cut her teeth on Reggie’s trial. Benson realizes this was rigged. Ellis thinks it has been rigged against Reggie from the get. Benson asks if this is it, and Ellis replies no, he’s making one last try.

In Judge Rosario’s chambers, she is shocked to her Ellis’ accusation of prosecutorial misconduct. She adds prosecutors make mistakes but in this case Ellis claims they intentionally withheld evidence. He explains the prosecutors hid Reggie’s abuse from the defense. The judge thinks this is a Hail Mary but Ellis reminds her that the parole board just confirmed the defense was constitutionally incompetent. The judge won’t grant a stay of execution but she says he can have the files until noon tomorrow., Ellis explains as it is 5:00 PM, that is less than 24 hours. She reminds him his client has had 20 years and to take it or leave it. He says yes and thanks her.

Later, Benson and Ellis are going through the files and Benson shows him the crime scene photos that were shown to the jury and points out that in a wide shot, she sees a bare spot in the bloody footprints. She says it is a missing evidence shadow and thinks they sanitized the crime scene. Ellis tells her that he will keep going and Benson should see if Reggie remembers what was on the floor.

At the prison, Reggie explains that Danforth took pictures and that is why Reggie went back there the next day – to get them back. She asks if the men took Polariods the night they worked him over, and Reggie says he heard a click and saw flashes and told them to stop it, no more pictures. He went back to Danforth and tried to grant them from him. They fell all over the floor and he looked at the pictures and he got so mad, he doesn’t want anybody taking pictures of him – not any more. Benson gives him a quizzical look and asks if someone else took pictures of him. Reggie says pictures and movies and they said they would show everybody if he told.

Back in New York at Rikers, Johnny explains to Amaro and Fin that it was humiliating that Coach Schultz videotaped them together in his basement and if he told, Schultz would show everybody. Amaro glances at Fin - and Johnny asks what. Amaro explains that it may explain why Johnny went off on Coach Alexei when he saw him videotaping those boys. Johnny said he does not want anyone to know.

Afterwards, Fin tells Amaro that if Schultz taped Johnny, even if he lets them use it, the statute has run out. Amaro counters not if it is possession of child porn, adding Schultz remembered details on what the boys wore like he has been replaying a highlight reel. Amaro thinks he still has those tapes. Fin suggests they call the DA and get a warrant before he starts taping the kid up there now.

Outside the Ohio courthouse, as Benson and Ellis arrive amid protestors, a news reporter tells viewers there are just 3 days before the execution and that activist attorney Bayard Ellis has filed a motion alleging prosecutorial misconduct.

Meanwhile, Amaro, Fin and Rollins are serving the warrant and Fin thinks Schultz got rid of everything. Rollins sees Pablo and asks if he knows what happened to the videos that were in there, and he says Coach told him not to say. Amaro takes him aside to talk to him.

Back in court, Ms. Lathrop is on the stand and Ellis questions her about her death penalty prosecution of Reggie, the first homicide she ever tried. He comments that it must have been a lot of pressure and she replies that it was a brutal murder and it was her duty to see justice was done for the victim and his family. She admits to having a supervisor on the case but she lived with the case every day until she got the conviction and she knows the facts as well as anyone – and the law.

Meanwhile, back at Martin’s, Pablo shows Amaro where Martin asked him to burn the tapes, saying Martin had boxes of them. He admits he did not get to them all as the fire went out.

Back in court, Ellis continues to question Lathrop on whether she fully investigated the victim’s and defendant’s personal histories. She replies that she is a prosecutor, not a social worker, but she did her job. He comments that she was aware that as a young Reggie was serially abuse by a number of adult men. Lathrop says neither he nor his defense attorney brought that up. He explains that at the trial, Lathrop said this was murder between strangers, a robbery gone bad. Her answer is that the jury agreed with her and handed down the appropriate sentence. He asks if she was aware of a prior relationship between Reggie and the victim, and she does not recall ever hearing that. He counters that the detectives could track Reggie Rhodes down because Danforth’s wife ID’d him as someone her husband often hired as a handyman. Lathrop replies that it has been 20 years but her memory is forensic evidence led to him being apprehended. He asks if that would include footprints.

Meanwhile, back at Schultz’s, he drives up in his car and bark out to the detectives, asking what they are doing here. He yells for them to get off his property, but Fin says they have a warrant to search his crib. He shouts that this is for his house and they have no business in his shed. Saying this is an illegal search and anything they find in there will be inadmissible. Rollins says he needs his reading glasses; it says property, not house. He looks down at the warrant and then walks to Pablo, telling him he gives him one thing to do and he can’t even finish that. Pablo apologizes and says he tried. Martin grabs him by the neck and pulls him over, calling him a little bastard and Rollins pulls Pablo away. Martin says they can’t talk to Pablo unless he is present, it is 13 and it would be inadmissible, he is his legal guardian. Amaro tells him not for long, he is under arrest. Martin thinks they are idiots – he is the only father these kids have had.

Back in court, Lathrop sees the bare patch in the photo with the bloody footprint and she has no idea what might have caused it. Ellis asks if any detective told her about incriminating Polaroid photos found on the floor with Danforth and other men having sex with Reggie, because if they had should would have turned that over to the defense. She states of course. Ellis recaps that she did not investigate Danforth’s criminal history of soliciting young men, she knew nothing about Reggie’s history of sexual abuse, and she knew nothing about Danforth paying Reggie for sex. She nods yes and says to the best of her recollection. He asks that she would not intentionally hide this information from the defense, and she states absolutely now. She comments is it possible there was some negligence due to her inexperience, in hindsight yes, but she was never purposefully withhold evidence to put a man on death row. Ellis shows her an large envelope and asks if those are her notes and she said she does not immediately recognize them. He points out the writing on it and asks if this was her handwriting, and she says yes. He asks her to read what is on the outside of the envelope, and she says “To Mr. Harrison from M.L.”. Ellis adds M.L. is Marnie Lathrop. He has her read the next line, which says FYEO – add Ellis translates to “for your eyes only” meaning not to be shared with the defense. She says nothing. Ellis pulls out another page with her handwriting and when he asks her to read what it says, she turns to the judge and says she is not comfortable using this language. Ellis reminds her that she wrote it, wondering why she is not comfortable reading it. The judge orders her to read it. She says “Further notes on the faggot squad” and stops. Ellis prompts her to go on, and she adds “ Reggie Rhodes odd jobs for Danforth may refer to sexual favors.” She also reads what is on the bottom of the page, “ Enclosed envelope contains photos found at scene, sexually explicit images of victim and defendant.” Ellis asks if this jogs her memory about whether or not the lead detective mentioned Polariods from the scene. Lathrop says she has no idea how these…and Ellis cuts her off and asks if she would open the envelope and show the photos to the court. She says no she couldn’t – and Ellis counters just like she couldn’t show them to the defense. She states that is not what she was saying. Ellis asks even when this became a death penalty case? He yells at her, saying she didn’t share these with anyone BUT her supervisor, did she? She replies no. Benson and Reggie’s sister Kassandra watch from the gallery, encouraged. Ellis ends the questioning.

Later, in Supreme Court, the judge says never in 30 years has she seen such blatant prosecutorial misconduct. She grants the stay of execution for Reggie, his death warrant is due to expire in 2 days and she strongly advises the county prosecutors to allow that warrant to lapse. Benson looks happily at Ellis while Kassandra begins to cry.

Back at prison, Benson and Ellis deliver the good news to Reggie. Benson says the state will be looking at his case and they may even get him a new trial. Ellis explains in the meantime they will get him transferred to a new prison. He lets out a sigh of relief and then jumps up and embraces them both and he laughs as Ellis and Benson smile happily.

Elsewhere, Martin Schultz is being led into jail, and Johnny sees him walk past him. Johnny walks up to the bars and grips them tightly…and we fade to black.

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I liked the episode very much it had a strong message Violence begets violence people sometimes forget that. I like that Reggie was written as a man who was ready to die and pay for his crimes, he wasnt asking for a stay or to have his setence set aside.
It was Liv who STARTED THAT and got Ellis.
Dispite the low ratings the message was strong I hope those who boycotted it eventully watch it it wasnt what people thought it would be. I doubt the naysayers will watch it tho its better to be abusive and nasty then actually watch something before you critisize it.

Mike did a good job who knew he could act.

Kyle Jennings said...

I could not agree more. I thought this episode was extraordinarily well-crafted. Warren and Julie did a commendable job approaching a subject that is complex and controversial, and really succeeded in making the audience think. Good writing should challenge us and this episode did just that. Not to mention the fabulous performances from both Braugher and Hargitay. Some of the best acting out of Mariska all season, hands down.

janethyland said...

Didnt John Roche write it from a story by Leight and Martin?

Whatever happened, the boycotters didnt watch Criminal Minds as they said because its ratings were down by 13%. If they had watched it the ratings would be up.

SVU and CF were up against all new opposition so ratings dropped for both shows. SVU went down 12%, Chicago Fire went down 14%. This is the reason for rating irregulatity this season. When there isnt much competition ratings go up, when there is ratings go down.

janethyland said...

Lowest rated episode this season was Lessons Learned at 1.3 key demo and 5.2 million.

Highest rated was Presumed Guilty with 2.2 key demo and 7.7 million.

Both Chicago Fire and SVU rate well enough for NBC. Average for NBC is 1.8 key demo.

NBC should announce renewal now and get it over with...then people can settle in and just enjoy themselves.


Peter Scanavino was Johnny Dubcek
Alok Tewari – Counselor Amiri
Michael O’Hara – CO Foster [Corrections Officer]
Helen Anker – Vera


Looking at the ratings of all shows on its seems rating were down a lot Even for Criminal Minds which always has a good show, so i guess the naysayers and boycotters are high fiving each other and being nasty to Warren for no reason. ALL shows took a dramatic dip.

ladybug81 said...

I was one who disagreed with the casting of Mike Tyson, don't care that he is on tv I just felt maybe this wasn't the right place for him. I had planned on not watching the show, however I did tune in about 10 min in. Putting Mike Tyson aside this was one of my least favorite episodes of the season. I think they were trying to discuss very important issues the cycle of violence, prosocutorial misconduct. I found that I got very bored with it and lost interest easily. A friend who was watching asked me today if it felt like something seemed a little off with Mariska in her scenes whith Tyson. Once or twice I caught something, but overall she was spot on, great as always. Ed Asner was great, he played the creepy old man perfectly. I wish when it comes to Olivia's date they would either say who it is or drop it. Dragging it out is really just irritating in my opinion. Do I have someone I wish it was? Yes, (as long as it's not Elliot)but I would be happy with them saying she's seeing someone and she's happy. I think that's all most fans have ever wanted for her. For me by far not the best episode of the season, for me that would be the episode that Patricia Arquette was in. However I think the main cast knocked it out of the park, Mariska especially. Really looking forward to next week when Marcian Gay Harden returns, I have always loved her character.

Chris Zimmer said...

Thanks Taylor! Sometimes by the time I get to the end credits I can barely read - much less type straight!

OhSusannah said...

Overall, I thought this was good episode despite all the online fighting and bickering over 'stunt-casting' with Mike Tyson.I really wish there had more scenes with Ed Asner, and I think all the Mike Tyson drama rook away from an acting powerhouse like Mr.. Asner unfairly.When as Mr Schulz he accurately 'red' that Liv herself had been a product of low-income summer camp, I got chills at his perception.Very understated and very well- done.
On the topic of Livs love life, I really wish producer Warren Leight would either piss or get her off the pot!The red dress(red herring) scene between Liv and Nick was nice and light to observe,but I'm tiring of getting teased this way. WL suggests in the next few eps,Nick Amaro begins to nose around, to try to find out who Liv's mystery man sounds odd.They're detectives, not monks, or nuns. I wish Warren Leight would give her a Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now and just let it go on quietly while she works her jobs. Dragging out her difficult personal life is just grist for the mill.There is a small faction of fangirls who love to speculate on Who's Banging Benson-lol an actual hashtag on Twitter.I just would like to see her happy for more than two weeks at a time

janethyland said...

So who was the famous celebrity supposed to be sitting in the gallery? NBC site mentioned it.

Chris Zimmer said...

Janet - I don't recall hearing anything about that. What exactly did they say about it (or where exactly did they say it)?

janethyland said...

I got it from nbcsvu twitter site,an entry on Feb 7th :
Law and Order: SVU ‏@nbcsvu
RT @NBCFanIt A special guest appeared on @nbcsvu last night! View the gallery & leave a comment for 50 points!

Chris Zimmer said...

You know, when I read their comment about viewing the gallery, I thought they meant the photo gallery on their web site, not on the court room gallery. There wasn't anyone special in the courtroom gallery that I could think of. And the only people I would have considered a special guest - besides Ed Asner, Andre Braugher, and Mike Tyson - was Eve Plumb, who was a big hit with the old Brady Bunch show fans...and she wasn't in their photo gallery. So I have no idea - maybe you should reply to their tweet and ask them what was the correct answer?

e jerry said...

This is just me griping about a trope, so take it as a joke.

Lathrop is an attorney. She should have known as soon as Bayard started asking about the evidence that he had found it and was about to bust her wide open with it, and every effort she made to counter was futile.

Rule number one of good courtroom lawyering: don't ask a question you don't already know the answer to. For a "competent" attorney to be caught out so easily suggests that Lathrop is kind of stupid. She KNEW that evidence was out there, and clearly had made no attempt to cover hew own ass (if you'll pardon the expression), so her reactions had me rolling on the floor. As long as that evidence was intact, the truth was going to come out eventually, and she certainly had to have known that until absolutely all appeals were exhausted or absolutely no grounds for appeals remained that she had a sword of Damocles hanging over her head.


And for all the brouhaha surrounding the more controversial elements of the episode, that particular part of the third act narrative was inexcusably bad.