SVU, Episode 5.24
Production number: E4428
First aired: 11 May 2004
  th of 432 produced in SVU  
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Oliver Taft
Written By
Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters

Directed By
David Platt


Novak tries to get a biased judge off the bench.


When 4-year-old Alexis Campbell, is taken to the hospital after collapsing in her home, it soon discovered that the girl had ingested a huge amount of detergent and her mother, Karen Campbell is responsible for poisoning her after Alexis' sister, Katie says that her mother forced Alexis to drink the detergent. After Karen is put on trial, she is soon acquitted by Judge Oliver Taft.

Novak believes that Taft acquitted Karen based on his own personal class bias and discovers that his bias in another case lead to the wrongful conviction of a woman, Rosalin Silvo, a single mother of two who was accused of poisoning her baby daughter with antifreeze. Evidence had been presented that her daughter likely died of a very rare genetic disorder called MMA and they weren't even able to perform a test on it. Ten years ago a test could've easily missed it but a test today would definitely detect it so Novak gets permission from the mother to exhume the body and Warner's test proves that the girl definitely had it. Warner also determines that she didn't die of it and that it doesn't explain the crystals found in her brain, but believes that the drugs used to treat antifreeze poisoning, which would've been the right drugs to use if it had been antifreeze poisoning but the wrong thing to use for MMA, caused the crystals to form and thus her death. Novak brings this new evidence to Judge Mary Clark who had previously refused to believe her about Taft and Clark herself takes up the role of Rosalin's defense attorney in a joint motion with Novak to vacate her conviction, prepared for her by Novak. After learning that the prosecution agrees with the motion and reviewing the evidence, another judge throws the conviction out and Rosalin is finally set free after losing ten years of her life. Shortly thereafter, Novak receives a call stating that Karen Campbell has succeeded in murdering Alexis by smothering her after having her released from the hospital against medical advice. At the station, Karen claims that she smothered Alexis to death because Judge Taft told her to kill Alexis during a brief exchange at the courthouse during her original trial.

Judge Taft is soon arrested and charged, but soon after the charges are immediately dismissed due to lack of physical evidence. Novak later subpoenas Taft to testify in Karen Campbell's murder trial.

Karen is later convicted of Alexis' murder and Judge Taft is reassigned to civil court and his decisions will be investigated to determine whether or not he made biased decisions on other cases.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast


  • Rittenhouse v. North Hempstead
  • LA plant v. Atias
  • People v. Williams


[Novak has shown Judge Clark evidence that Judge Taft falsely convicted and sentenced Rosalin Silvo]
Judge Clark: That son of a bitch.
Novak: Seems to be the preferred way to describe this guy.

[after Rosalin Silvo's conviction overturn and a small verbal scuff with Judge Taft]
Judge Clark: Well, almost makes me miss all this.
Novak: I don't know. I think you'd miss your expense account more.

Capt. Cragen: [after Karen claims that Judge Taft told her to kill Alexis] Did I hear her right? That nutcase thinks the judge told her to murder her daughter.
Benson: Or she thinks it's a good way to get off a murder charge.
Stabler: What the hell was Taft doing, talking to a defendant alone during a trial anyway?
Novak: Hanging himself. We got the bastard now.
Benson: Doesn't that nullify her acquittal?
Novak: Sure does, not that it matters. We got her on homicide.

[Judge Taft is hosting a black-and-white tie event when Benson and Stabler arrive to arrest him]
Judge Taft: Detectives, if you wanted an invite, all you had to do was ask.
Elliot Stabler: [grabs an appetizer from a passing tray] Well, we thought we'd class the place up a bit.

Judge Taft: This is absurd.
Stabler: Your Honor, you know the law says we can't arrest you in your own home, so, if you want we could make a big scene.
Judge Taft: You all are going to be very sorry for this.
Stabler: And you're gonna look so pretty for your mug shot.

Judge Clark: [to Novak after the charges against Taft are dismissed due to lack of evidence] Well, I'll say this for you, you've got balls.

Background information and notes


  • A similar story to Rosalin Silvo's was depicted in a made-for-TV movie: "Without A Kiss Goodbye" starring Lisa Hartman-Black, Chris Meloni, Cloris Leachman and David Ogden Stiers. This was based on the true story of a young mother of two boys who both developed the rare genetic disorder Methylmalonic Acidemia (MMA). One of her sons died from poly-glycol poisoning, and as a result she was convicted of murder. Her conviction was overturned after research probed deeper into MMA.
  • The exchange between Cragen and Novak is illogical. Judicial immunity does not protect sitting judges from facing any criminal charges. It only protects them from facing civil suits for any acts of liability they performed pursuant to their judicial function. Therefore, it would pose no threat to their ability to arrest Judge Taft and put him on trial.
  • For some reason, possibly an error, when the information of this episode's plot is explained on television, Alexis, the little girl that is poisoned, is referred to as a son that is poisoned.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3

Special Victims Unit
Children's Interview Room
Tuesday, March 9

Hudy Hearing
Part 33
Thursday, March 11

Trial Part 33
Monday, April 19

4 5 6

Trial Part 33
Tuesday, April 20

Hudson University
Department of Genetics
Wednesday, April 21

Office of
The Medical Examiner
Friday, April 23

7 8 9

Motion Hearing
Part 22
Monday, April 26

Part 18
Tuesday, April 27

Trial Part 38
Monday, May 10

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