Prosecutor rates Law and Order: SVU episodes for technical accuracy

Former prosecutor turned novelist Allison Leotta has a blog where she reviews recent episodes of Law and Order: SVU, rating them for their technical accuracy based on her own experience prosecuting sex crimes. A recent entry takes a look at "Street Justice," an episode about masked vigilante crimefighters.

What they got right:
Believe it or not, there have been a bunch of real-life full-grown men dressing up as superheroes and walking city streets hoping to fight crime. Things didn’t turn out so well for them, either. A caped crusader calling himself Phoenix Jones of the Rain City Superheroes was arrested in Seattle after pepper-spraying a crowd of innocent club-goers in the mistaken belief that he was breaking up a fight. Folks, leave the police work to the police, and the molded plastic breast-plates to Val Kilmer.

I thought it was interesting that the SOHO rapist “started things he couldn’t finish.” As a sex-crimes prosecutor, I was astonished by how many rapists became impotent during the sexual assault itself.

I also liked that Nick’s wife said, “I’m your wife! You can’t treat me like one of your suspects.” My husband and I are both lawyers, and, during fights, often accuse each other of cross-examining.

What they got wrong:
Ice-T said they’d get the rapist’s note from the British reporter’s “cold dead hands.” True, it would probably take a while. But no one has to die. The Department of Justice is very careful about issuing subpoenas to journalists. Per the U.S. Attorney’s Manual, before any prosecutor issues such a subpoena, she must get a series of approvals within DOJ. Might take a while for the politicals mull it over. If the top brass agrees, the prosecutor can then issue a subpoena compelling the evidence.

The journalist would probably move to quash the subpoena, citing First Amendment freedom of the press, and the court would hold a hearing. If the journalist had direct evidence of a crime, the government would probably win, and the reporter would be in contempt of court and possibly jailed if she still refused to turn the evidence over. Journalist Judith Miller spent 12 weeks in nasty old D.C. Jail while she refused to turn over her sources in the Scooter Libby case. Eventually, she gave in, testified under government subpoena, and then probably went home and took the longest shower of her life. So – cold dead hands? No. A few months later? Yes. Certainly long enough to enrage the masked men of the Justice League.

Will they stop continually sending Amanda out as bait for rapists? I know she looks great in a short skirt and stilletos. But this is just silly, and not something real police officers do. Real crime is way too random and sporadic for this technique.

Allison Leotta author of Law of Attraction (via Lowering the Bar)



  1. I’d like to see an expert rate “CSI” for technical accuracy but I don’t know if there are many bloggers with a background in both criminal proceedings and magic fucking powers.

  2. So, JOE FRIDAY on “Dragnet” was lying when he uttered his zinger “Just the facts, ma’am”?

    Pretty soon we’re going to find out that these TV cop shows use fake guns and fake murder victims.

  3. Folks, leave the police work to the police 
    Just wanted to mention I think this is a good example of cultural indoctrination. The idea that only the police can solve crimes or help people is ridiculous. Using the mistaken pepper spray as an example is particularly illustrative of that. ‘Cause the police neeeever pepper sprayed anybody they shouldn’t have…. or, you know, murdered people or animals for no good reason. 

  4. “A caped crusader calling himself Phoenix Jones…was arrested in Seattle after pepper-spraying a crowd of innocent club-goers in the mistaken belief that he was breaking up a fight. Folks, leave the police work to the police…”

    Because, you know, when the police fuck up like that they don’t get themselves arrested. Just smacked lightly on the wrist and sent back out on patrol the next night.

    1. They get smacked?  News to me.  I thought they got a two week paid vacation, and then a promotion?   Confused.  

    2. Phoenix Jones and his band of weirdos was downtown again yesterday, “guarding” the courthouse during the May Day protests. Way to guard the wrong shit, genius

    1. Maybe she chose that reference because Val Kilmer was the last guy to play Batman in a suit that had fake rubber abs but didn’t have bat-nipples.

  5.  I wish the original blog post author had bothered to check his facts. Yes, Phoenix Jones was arrested, and yes, all charges against him were dropped rather quickly. The “innocent club-goers” were actually assaulting other people and Jones was able to produce video evidence that he was doing the right thing in stopping them. Not to say that Jones isn’t a total nut tilting at windmills, but it bothered me that he was impugned in this way when he was cleared of wrongdoing in this particular case.

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