The Best Courtroom Scene in Law & Order: SVU Season 1

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Content Warning: Sexual Assault

In the episode titled “Uncivilized”, a convicted sex offender named Bill Turbit (Stephen Bogardus), who has already served his prison sentence and been granted parole, is suspected of assaulting and murdering a young boy. Despite the fact that Turbit was a model prisoner who, to all appearances, complied with his parole restrictions, detectives are convinced (by the actual perpetrators, we’ll learn later) that Turbit is guilty. Importantly, and unlike most violent sex offenders, Turbit committed his initial offense in an altered state, while “overloaded with a psychedelic STP cocktail”. In other words, the reason the parole board felt he was unlikely to commit another offense is that his actions were dictated by a drug, not something inherent in his pathology. Of course, none of this matters (and understandably) to his traumatized victim, and to the parents in his community who turn on Turbit once they learn who he is.

With no compelling evidence to convict Turbit, mounting public and media pressure, and knowing that sex offenders have a high recidivism rate, the team and the ADA make a controversial decision. For starters, the ADA is reluctant to inform opposing counsel that Turbit’s alibi is verified. “Outraged citizens might care less about civil liberties when their children are in danger,” the DA told Captain Cragen (Dann Florek), and in the episode’s only courtroom scene, both the reality of this fact and the unconstitutionality of real-world legislation (via AAPL) are examined.

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