"American Tragedy"
SVU, Episode 15.03
Production number: 15003
First aired: 2 October 2013
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
  th of 1229 released in all  
Teleplay By
Julie Martin & Warren Leight

Story By
Jill Abbinanti

Directed By
Fred Berner

A celebrity restaurateur claims self-defense in a racially-charged murder case.


A string of rapes on the Upper West Side raises concerns across the city, and while Detectives Tutuola and Rollins question everyone who fits the suspect's description, celebrity chef Jolene Castille fears she's the next victim when someone follows her home. The SVU arrests her for shooting and killing the unarmed teen, and her attorney faces off against ADA Barba in a trial that tests the limits of the jury’s moral and legal responsibilities. Meanwhile, Detective Benson continues to struggle with the aftermath of her traumatic ordeal.



Main Cast

Recurring Cast

Guest Cast


Episode references


Episode quotes

Background information and notes

  • This episode is partly based off the 2011 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was walking down his street when he was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claimed he committed the shooting in self-defense, and was later acquitted of second-degree murder.
  • The case also draws inspiration from the earlier 2013 revelation that white, southern celebrity chef Paula Deen had a history of calling the black employees at her restaurant racial slurs.
  • The episode was ultimately seen as a fusion of the Martin and Deen cases.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3

St. Michael's Hospital
Exam Room
Tuesday, August 6

Office of
1 Hogan Place
Wednesday, August 7

Chez Jolene
87 10th Avenue
Thursday, August 8

4 5 6

Supreme Court
Part 23
Monday, August 12

Supreme Court
Part 23
Tuesday, August 13

Supreme Court
Part 23
Wednesday, August 14

Previous episode:
"Imprisoned Lives"
"American Tragedy"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 15
Next episode:
"Internal Affairs"
Seasons 123456789101112131415161718192021222324
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.