Law and Order
SVU, Episode 4.21
Production number: E3117
First aired: 18 April 2003
  th of 502 produced in SVU  
th of 502 released in SVU
  th of 1271 released in all  
Cheryl Avery.jpg
Teleplay By
Barbie Kligman

Story By
Barbie Kligman & Joshua Kotcheff

Directed By
Juan J. Campanella


When a female party-goer defends herself after being sexually assaulted, killing her attacker, Detectives Benson and Stabler attempt to support the girl's claim of self-defense. However, the case takes a shocking turn when they learn a startling secret about their victim. In the end, she was found guilty and was sent to Rikers before sentencing. She was however gang raped and rushed into emergency surgery.


At a house party, a girl is yelling at her friend for inviting too many people. She hears a noise and goes into a bedroom where she finds Cheryl Avery covered in blood with Joe laying unconscious on the floor. Cheryl says that he tried to rape her. When Benson arrives at the scene, Cheryl is nowhere to be found.

The detectives talk to the party host to try and figure out where Cheryl might have gone but she says she didn't know Cheryl or Joe. She only wanted to invite a few friends over for beer and pizza but her friend invited too many people. They talk to her friend who says she saw them both at the party, as well as Joe's brother Eddie, whom she saw fighting with Joe.

CSU confirms a struggle. Stabler receives a call saying that Joe has died. They visit Joe's brother Eddie who was at the party but left early. Stabler asks Eddie why he and Joe were fighting. Eddie says because he doesn't like how Joe treats women like crap. Stabler asks Eddie where Cheryl is.

They find Cheryl and ask her about what happened. She says she went to the bathroom and Joe followed her in. She told him to leave but he wouldn't. Joe hit her, she hit him back and she struggled to get him off of her. After talking with Cheryl, they ask the EMT about anything Joe said in the ambulance before he died. The EMT says Joe said, "He did it, get Eddie." Stabler and Benson go to Cheryl and Eddie to confront them with the new information to know the truth.

Benson is interrogating Cheryl and Stabler is interrogating Eddie. Cheryl sticks with her story that Eddie was never there. But Eddie comes clean and says that he did come back and was in the bathroom, but Cheryl told him to leave because he would get blamed because people saw Eddie and Joe fighting earlier. Cabot is unsure who is covering for who because they have conflicting stories.

At the crime lab, the tech says there are 2 male DNA samples from the bathroom not belonging to Joe, one of them being Eddie, the other belonging to Cheryl. Proving that Cheryl is transgender, the detectives now believe that Eddie and Cheryl worked together to kill Joe to protect Cheryl's secret. In the interrogation room, Stabler tells Eddie that Cheryl is a man. Eddie is shocked and angry and demands to see Cheryl. He storms into the interrogation room where Cheryl is, calls her a freak and leaves, leaving Cheryl in tears. Benson tells Cheryl they thought Eddie knew and that he was protecting her. But Cheryl wanted to wait until after her sex change operation to tell him, hoping that he would love her enough and he wouldn't care. Cheryl finally tells the truth - Joe found out her secret and was going to tell Eddie. She knocked him out with the vase so he wouldn't talk but she insists she didn't mean to kill him. The scene cuts to Stabler in the men's room talking to Eddie, when Eddie suddenly collapses.

Huang pronounces Eddie dead, saying he committed suicide by overdosing on his heart medication.

At arraignment, Cabot requests remand but bail is set at $200,000 which Cheryl's lawyer, Morton Berger, pays for her. Berger believes Cheryl was being persecuted, but Cabot accuses him of only taking her case to further his own political agenda and get media attention.

The detectives talk to Cheryl's parents who were not supportive of Cheryl's choice to transition to female presentation. They also said she had a history of violence. But Cheryl's sister says all those instances of violence were actually in self defense.

Benson tries to get Cabot to offer Cheryl a plea but Cabot doesn't want to until she knows the whole story. She wants Huang to talk to her. Huang asks Cheryl about what happened with Joe and she says she felt threatened. Huang believes her that she's only been violent when she perceived a threat and convinces Cabot to drop the charges down to Man 1 which would only put Cheryl in prison for 5 years. Berger refuses to take the deal claiming Cheryl didn't want to. Cabot talks to Cheryl saying that she's worried Berger doesn't care about her best interests and asks her why she didn't take the deal. Cheryl doesn't know about the deal because Berger never told her. Back at Cabot's office she and Berger argue and Cheryl eventually decides to take the deal.

Back at the precinct Berger storms in saying that Cheryl feels like Cabot tricked her into taking the deal. At the prison Cheryl says that she can't be in the men's prison. Benson is angry at Berger and accuses him of trying to get media attention for himself by not informing Cheryl that this was going to happen.

A judge lifts the guilty plea and allows them to go to trial. The judge tells Cheryl to hope for an acquittal so she doesn't have to go back to the male prison.

At the trial, Berger has Cheryl on the stand. Berger asks if she felt threatened by Joe and that's why she attacked him. She says yes. But when Cabot questions her she says that no one actually threatened her so she really had no reason to feel that way. She also exposes Cheryl for not telling Eddie about her secret and accuses her of intentionally killing Joe to protect her secret and prevent Eddie from finding out.

The jury convicts Cheryl of murder. She leaves the courtroom in tears saying she can't be put in that place.

In Cabot's office, Benson comes in and asks if she wants to get a drink but Cabot isn't in the mood. Cabot feels guilty but Benson says she was just doing her job. Benson gets a call from the hospital and tells Cabot to come with her. They see Cheryl there and a nurse says she was gang raped at Rikers.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast



Alex Cabot: I guess I'm more sympathetic to Cheryl than a prosecutor should be
Arthur Branch: Maybe you'd like to defend her instead.
Alex Cabot: She sure could use better representation than that self-serving snake Berger.
Arthur Branch: Reptile though he may be, Morty Berger is a damn good attorney. He deserves a worthy adversary. Think about this: Who's going to give Cheryl a fair chance - you, or some other prosecutor who'll put her gender on trial?

Morty Berger: I told Cheryl about your deal. But she wants to go to trial.
Alex Cabot: She does or you do?
Morty Berger: Do you know why I became a lawyer, Alex?
Alex Cabot: Uh, to see your face on TV?

Morty Berger: Come on. We both know what people do when they find out the truth about the transgendered. They kill them.

Stabler: Berger's gonna put witnesses up there for Cheryl or whatever his name is, to tell us all about how he grew up tormented, brutalized and treated like a freak.
Benson: You know, it sounds like you have a problem with Cheryl.
Stabler: My problem is this he-she & her lies are the reason we've got two dead bodies on our hands and I'm the one who's all jammed up?

Cabot: Do you think I pushed Cheryl too hard?
Benson: You did your job.
Cabot: Then why do I feel so lousy?
Benson: Because you look at Cheryl and you can't imagine what it's like to feel that your own body is a mistake.

Benson: Cheryl, you are hindering a murder prosecution.

Background information and notes

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

Cappilla Residence
349 West 23rd Street
Sunday, March 16

Monk Thrift Shop
165 Avenue A
Monday, March 17

Crime Lab
One Police Plaza
Monday, March 17

Part 50
Tuesday, March 18

5 6 7 8

Avery Residence
289 East 10th Street
Tuesday, March 18

Office of Morton Berger
Attorney at Law
836 Park Avenue
Tuesday, March 18

Rikers Island
Correctional Facility
Interview Room
Thursday, March 20

Trial Part 35
Monday, March 24

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