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"Justice Denied"
SVU, Episode 13.17
Production number: 13017
First aired (US): 11 April 2012
First aired (UK): 1 July 2012
First aired (CAN): 11 April 2012
First aired (AUS): 31 May 2012
  th of 502 produced in SVU  
th of 502 released in SVU
  th of 1271 released in all  
Det Benson Justice Denied.png
Teleplay By
Stuart Feldman

Story By
Stuart Feldman & Warren Leight

Directed By
Michael Slovis

One of Benson's solved cases is reopened, and the subsequent legal battle causes friction between Executive ADA David Haden, Bayard Ellis, and Benson.

Summary

A rape victim is brought to the hospital after a harrowing hours-long ordeal, and Benson recognizes the suspect's M.O. from a case she solved eight years ago. The jailed rapist confessed to Benson after a tough interrogation but has been claiming his innocence ever since his conviction. The SVU squad is forced to reopen Benson’s old case to determine if they are dealing with a copycat or a case of wrongful imprisonment. As Benson's detective work is challenged, her personal relationship with Executive ADA Haden is also placed in jeopardy when Counselor Bayard Ellis gets involved.

Plot

8 years ago, it's 2004, and Omar Pena, a seaman in the US Navy, has just broken down in tears after a grueling nine hours in the interrogation room. Benson was finally able to get Omar to confess to the brutal rape of Ariel Baskins, who was tied up, gagged with a scarf, cut up, and got ammonia poured into her eyes, leaving scarring around them from chemical burns. Omar has been claiming his innocence ever since then, saying that his confession was made under extreme duress.

Now, Omar fails to convince Judge Karyn Blake to allow DNA from the case to be gathered and tested via current methods that were not available 8 years ago. A rape victim named Gina Logan, who is 23-years-old, is brought to the hospital after a harrowing hours-long ordeal. Gina was tied up, gagged with a scarf, cut up, and got ammonia poured into her eyes. Benson, feeling dread, immediately recognizes the M.O. as being exactly the same as the M.O. from the rape of Ariel Baskins.

The SVU is forced to reopen the 2004 case to determine if they're dealing with a copycat, or a case of wrongful imprisonment. Benson is hell-bent on believing that Gina's rapist is a copycat who's trying to throw doubt onto Omar's conviction.

The SVU learns that Omar had once helped Mike Martinez, another soldier who was in jail for a rape that he didn't commit, get his conviction overturned. Benson thinks that perhaps as a favor, Martinez raped Gina in order to bring a feasible alibi to Pena's cries of innocence, but Amaro doubts Benson's theory.

Amaro, looking at the 2004 case through a fresher set of eyes, is noticing inconsistencies in the 2004 case, and when Benson interrogated Martinez, and got him to come dangerously close to confessing to Gina's rape when he didn't do it, Amaro saw proof that Benson's intense interrogation technique can lead someone into making a false confession in order to get the hellish interrogation to end.

As Benson's detective work is challenged, her personal relationship with Executive A.D.A. David Haden is placed in jeopardy, and she learns that Omar's new attorney is Bayard Ellis (Andre Braugher), who has a habit of handing the SVU's collective rear-ends to them -- the SVU has never beat Ellis before.

Benson's world starts to spin out of control when she realizes that one of the main pieces of evidence against Omar was misinterpreted by a multiple sclerosis-stricken cop who was showing the symptoms of color-blindness that MS can cause in some people -- it turns out that the scarf that Ariel was gagged with was red, but in the evidence log, the cop listed it as green.

Munch and Fin had a shot at questioning Omar before Benson did, and it was either one of them or Benson who told Omar that that Ariel had been gagged with a green scarf. When Omar, who was under extreme duress, confessed in order to get the interrogation to end, Omar said that the scarf was green, when Omar did not know that it was actually red.

Benson remembers that she never actually visited the scene of Ariel's rape, because she was at the hospital with Ariel, and Munch and Fin had never seen the scarf either, so they didn't know it was red. Also, Omar had been found with Ariel's credit cards, but that's because he found the credit cards in a dumpster, which was the truth, but the SVU detectives had refused to believe the him.

When Benson interrogated Omar, her questions were based solely on the evidence log, which listed the scarf as green. Now, Benson is distraught to realize that she did force a false confession out of an innocent man 8 years ago.

The DNA comes in from Gina Logan's rape, and it matches the DNA from Ariel's rape. That confirms that Omar is innocent. Benson and Ellis visit Omar, and Benson tells Omar that she now knows that he's innocent. Omar, who is understandably furious, says "You're telling me something that I told you eight years ago!"

Ellis later meets with Haden to demand that Omar be set free due to the new evidence. Ellis says "My client has been wrongfully imprisoned for 8 years. How much longer does he have to wait?" Haden says "We can't let Pena out until we complete our investigation. The DNA results alone aren't exculpatory." Ellis says "Paired with a false confession, the hell they aren't."

Haden says "Hang on a minute. There's plenty of other evidence besides Pena's confession. The victim picked him out of a line-up, six witnesses ID'd him in a bar, harassing her, he gets arrested with the victim's credit cards -- it's, uh, not a slam dunk for a dismissal." Ellis says "Circumstantial. Bad IDs."

Haden says "There's no malice here -- not from the DA's office, not from NYPD. Detective Benson is killing herself trying to make this thing right. You saw her with Pena." Ellis says "Yes, I know." Haden says "She's taking this personally. She's not one of those good ol' boy detectives. This is a point of pride with her."

Ellis realizes that somehow, Haden knows about his and Benson's visit to Pena. Ellis says "May I ask when Detective Benson told you about our visit to Pena?" Haden says "Excuse me?" Ellis says "Yesterday afternoon? I was with her on the train, so it must've been...last night." Haden asks "What are you asking me?" Ellis says "I'm curious...what exactly is the nature of your relationship?"

Haden says "I think we're done here." Ellis says "Does the District Attorney know? I've got an innocent man in prison, and appearances suggest that the detective who coerced the confession is involved with the ADA whose office is re-investigating the case." Haden says "You know us both better than that." Ellis says "Then I know you'll both do the right thing here." Ellis leaves.

That night, Haden meets with Benson, and tells her that Ellis has figured out that they've been seeing each other. Benson says "I don't get it. Ellis knows that our relationship has nothing to do with this case." Haden says "He does, but it gives him a grenade." Benson says "Ok. So we have no choice. We have to disclose." Haden says "No, it's too late. If this comes out now, after I vouched for you, we'd lose our careers."

Benson says "I don't understand why the D.A. won't release Pena." Haden says "It doesn't work that way, Olivia. Overturning a guilty plea with that much evidence -- it has to go through a process." Benson says "Okay. So how do we speed it up? How do we get Omar out of prison?"

Haden says "You find the real rapist and tie him to both cases, and that exonerates Pena completely." Benson says "And if we don't?" Haden says "Ellis has to play his hand." Benson meets with Ellis, and Ellis agrees to give the SVU a week to find the actual rapist before Ellis uses anything against Benson and Haden.

The SVU quickly figures out that the rapist is Javier Maranhao, a Brazilian Navy seaman who, according to DNA hits from Interpol, has committed other rapes -- in Buenos Ares, Argentina in 2006, Naples, Italy in 2008, and Rota, Spain in 2009, all with the same M.O., and he had testified against Omar 8 years ago.

It turns out that the Brazilian navy uniform looks so similar to the American navy uniform, that anyone being attacked could easily mistake one uniform for the other, if the person doesn't know what differences to look for.

After Ariel, who now wears eyeglasses with extremely strong lenses, is shown a picture of Javier, Ariel realizes that her ID of Omar as her rapist was wrong, and she's devastated that another woman was brutalized because she helped put away the wrong man, which enabled Javier to rape again. In tears, she quietly says "What'd I do? What'd I do?"

Ariel and Gina both identify Javier as the rapist, and Javier's DNA matches the samples that were taken from all of the rape scenes, including the ones in Argentina, Italy, and Spain.

Gina, who has chemical burns surrounding her eyes, angrily says to Benson, "He's been doing this for eight years? So if you hadn't put away the wrong man, this never would've happened to me?!" Benson apologizes to Gina.

With Javier arrested, Ellis is able to get Omar freed, and have all the charges against him dropped, and his conviction overturned. Omar is in tears as Judge Blake apologizes to him for the grave miscarriage of justice that he had to live with for eight years, and she tells Omar that he's now a free man.

Back at the SVU, Cragen informs Benson that the District Attorney has decided to form a Conviction Integrity Unit to investigate past cases and ensure that no one is wrongfully imprisoned. Cragen says that the Conviction Integrity Unit will be starting with the SVU, and that Haden has been appointed as the attorney in charge of the Conviction Integrity Unit.

Benson and Haden later meet for drinks, and Haden says that he has asked Ellis to be a member of his outside advisory panel in the Conviction Integrity Unit. Benson and Haden discuss how the case leaves their relationship. Haden says "In conflict."

Even though they don't want to, Benson and Haden decide that, in order to protect the integrity of the SVU, and avoid a conflict of interest, they have to end their relationship, and pretend that the relationship never happened.

Cast

Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast

Quotes

Fin: My rope guy from CSU's got something.
Amanda: You've got a rope guy?
Fin: Yeah. Guess I've been on this job too long.

Benson: Us...this...never happened.

References

Background information and notes

Episode scene cards

1 2 3

Mercy Hospital
365 West 32nd Street
Sunday, March 4

Crime Scene Unit Lab
15014 Jamaica Avenue
Jamaica, Queens
Sunday, March 4

Apartment of
Gladys Martinez
228 East 119th Street
Monday, March 5

4 5 6

Brazilian Frigate Maranhao
Pier 88
Wednesday, March 7

Green Haven Correctional
Visitor's Room
Friday, March 9

440 Hearing
Monday, March 12

Previous episode:
"Child's Welfare"
"Justice Denied"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 13
Next episode:
"Valentine's Day"
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