Law and Order
SVU, Episode 3.21
Production number: E2334
First aired: 3 May 2002
  th of 502 produced in SVU  
th of 502 released in SVU
  th of 1271 released in all  
Cabot Denial.jpg
Written By
Judith McCreary

Directed By
Steve Shill

A drug addict is sexually assaulted, but she is in trouble when a finger is found in her purse.


When 29-year-old heroin addict Claire Rinato is found raped at a party, Fin takes an interest in Claire's well-being, and he's quickly led to her rapist, Arthur Felton, who is arrested. When the detectives find a skeletal finger in Claire's purse, it turns out to belong to Claire's younger sister Lisa.

Claire tells Fin that she blames herself for Lisa's death because, in 1988, when Claire was 15-years-old, she was late getting home one day to take care of Lisa, and Claire saw their mother Grace, who absolutely couldn't stand any crying, literally stomping Lisa to death to get Lisa to stop crying. Grace put Lisa's body in a trunk in a closet, and always maintained that Lisa's death was an accident.

The Detectives stake out Grace's apartment the night before they're scheduled to search it, and find her dumping a trash bag down the street. Lisa's skeleton is in the bag. Now Cabot wants to prosecute, but the concern is that Claire has had such a horrible past that she's an unreliable witness. Grace claims that it was Claire who killed Lisa, and that she only kept the body in the closet to protect Claire.

There is a question as to whether Claire should be charged as a minor, since she was 15 at the time Lisa died. And then Fin finds Claire in a cheap motel room, unconscious from a heroin overdose. Fin believes Claire when she says that she's innocent. The reason why Claire started doing drugs in the first place was to numb away the pain of witnessing Lisa's murder.

The detectives have another piece of information to check out -- Grace's first child, a son named Anthony, passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) two months after he was born. They want to exhume the body and look for clues as to another cause, to see if there's a pattern.

Grace's mother Rose maintains Claire's innocence, and corroborates the explanation that Grace's son Anthony died of SIDS. But after a verbal confrontation between Grace and Rose, the truth is told.

Grace had in fact smothered Anthony to get him to stop crying, but Rose never reported it, even though she knew what happened. Rose took in and raised Claire to save her from the same fate as Anthony and Lisa. Claire has been telling the truth all along. Grace is charged with the murders of Anthony and Lisa. Rose is arrested for obstruction of justice in the death of Anthony, and Fin gets Claire into drug rehab.

At the end of the episode, Grace's lawyer asks what deals Cabot is offering, and Cabot quickly declines, saying that no deals shall be made. Rose is found in contempt of justice and arrested for not reporting the murders of Lisa and Anthony. Rose wanted to protect Grace, up until she couldn't take anymore of the guilt on the matter.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast



It's official: the finger's dead.

–Melinda Warner

Claire Rinato: You're gonna tell me you know how I feel, right?
Odafin Tutuola: Well, I never saw my dead sister stuffed in the back of a closet like an old pair of shoes.

Alexandra Cabot: Your Honor, the defendant murdered a child. She violently beat a two-year-old child to death and shows no remorse.
Lena Petrovsky: Are you proposing to try your case right here, Ms. Cabot?
Alexandra Cabot: No, I'm simply using rhetoric in order to make my point.
Lena Petrovsky: One of your more endearing qualities.

Claire Rinato: What kind of a name is Fin?
Odafin Tutuola: It's mine.

Odafin Tutuola: Trying to take the easy way out?
Claire Rinato: And if I was?
Odafin Tutuola: Then it's too bad I got there in time.
Claire Rinato: I really didn't mean to overdo it. Really.
Odafin Tutuola: That's what all Junkies say.
Claire Rinato: You've done your good deed, now you can go.
Odafin Tutuola: Maybe you don't get it! You're in serious trouble. If you don't pay attention, you're going to prison.
Claire Rinato: Are you still here?
Odafin Tutuola: I really can't believe--you know, I almost bought you took care of your sister and loved her--damn, girl, you're better than the soaps!
Claire Rinato: You have no idea what it feels like to have a mother that doesn't give a damn about you.
Odafin Tutuola: Violins gonna start any minute.
Claire Rinato: Screw you. Lisa was all I had. She was actually happy to see me come through the door. Unconditional love is a rush.

(Fin leans in towards Claire)

Odafin Tutuola: Give it to me straight. You kill her?
Claire Rinato: No, but I couldn't protect her. Grace was too strong. She told me that if I didn't keep my mouth shut, I was next.
Odafin Tutuola: You tell anybody?
Claire Rinato: I called my grandmother the first time I was alone, but she was recovering from another stroke and I guess she didn't believe me.
Odafin Tutuola: If that's how it went down, then it wasn't your fault.
Claire Rinato: That little girl trusted me to keep her safe. How is it not my fault?

Claire Rinato: How's my grandmother?
Odafin Tutuola: She's holding her own. Won't be able to see her till tomorrow.

(Fin hands Claire a package)

Claire Rinato: What's that?
Odafin Tutuola: Your last excuse not to go to rehab. No more lame-ass whining about how you gotta get high to remember what your sister looked like.

(Claire takes the package and unwraps it to find a portrait of Lisa.)

Claire Rinato: I would hug you, but I can tell you don't like to be touched.
Odafin Tutuola: (handing her a card) This is a good place to go to start getting clean. A friend of mine runs it and I told him to expect you.
Claire Rinato: Okay.
Odafin Tutuola: Don't make me have to come run your ass down, Claire.
Claire Rinato: (hugs Fin) Thanks.

Background information and notes

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

Home of Rose Rinato
North Bergen, New Jersey
Sunday, April 21

Apartment of Grace Rinato
157 East 4th Street
Sunday, April 21

Pete's Diner
1098 Broadway
Sunday, April 21

Part 44
Wednesday, April 24

5 6 7

Chambers of
Judge Seligman
Friday, April 26

Office of the
Medical Examiner
Monday, April 29

Rikers Island
Tuesday, April 30

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