Rafael Barba is the former Cuban-American ADA assigned to the Sex Crimes Bureau. He replaced Cabot, Novak, Haden, and Cutter in the ADA role for Season 14 in a recurring role before being promoted to the main cast in Season 15. He has had guest roles in the series since the twenty-first season.
Barba is a by-the-book, no-nonsense ADA who requested a lateral transfer from Brooklyn to Manhattan shortly after the events of the Bart Ganzel/Delia Wilson case. (SVU: "Rhodium Nights", "Lost Reputation", "Above Suspicion")
Barba will put pressure on whomever he needs to win the case, whether it is the victim or the arresting officers.
It is revealed that Barba grew up in the Bronx, and gained a scholarship to Harvard University, where he studied law.
He resigned from his job in "The Undiscovered Country" after being too traumatized by a case involving an infant with MDDS. He became a defense attorney in 2021 and defended a man who had murdered his daughter's rapist.
When visiting Manor Hill Academy in Lessons Learned, it is revealed he went to a Catholic high school.
In Funny Valentine he states that he was madly in love with a girl named Lauren Sullivan in the eleventh grade.
In October Surprise, he reveals to Benson that he grew up with Alex Muñoz, Eddie Garcia (and possibly Yelina Muñoz) in the Bronx and that the three boys called themselves los tres mosqueteros de Jerome Avenue (the three musketeers of Jerome Avenue). It is implied that Rafael had affections for Yelona but they were never reciprocated by her.
In this episode, the audience learns he gained a full scholarship to Harvard University.
He tells Benson at the end of the episode that growing up his mother told him to "stick close to Alex because he is going to be mayor of New York someday." She never said that about Rafael.
In December Solstice, it is mentioned that his mother works as the principal for a charter school. In the same episode his maternal 85-year-old grandmother, Catalina Diaz, dies in her apartment before he could move her to an assisted living facility. He feels responsible for her death.
In The Undiscovered Country, Barba revealed to Jack McCoy that he resented his father, as most people did. Barba's father later entered into a diabetic coma and was eventually declared brain-dead, but Barba refused to remove him from life support even though it prolonged his suffering. Barba was left with lifelong guilt over this afterwards.
In Know It All, Barba is blackmailed by rape and murder suspect David Willard into dropping all charges on him when he leveraged one of Barba's worst prosecution handlings: Ashtonja Abreu's mother Marianna was addicted to drugs but also a witness to a double rapist-murderer's crimes. Barba gave her money, which she spent on more drugs, but that ended up making her a more credible witness on the stand. Marianna overdosed and died after the trial, and Barba paid Ashtonja and her grandmother ever since to support them as an endless attempt at atonement for his actions, and to help their struggling income.
Career at SVU
In Barba's first appearance in Twenty-Five Acts, Jocelyn Paley, author of a popular erotic novel of the same name is sexually assaulted twice by a television talk show host named Adam Cain. Captain Steven Harris recommends A.D.A Rafael Barba for the case. When going over the specifics of the case, Barba is meticulous and rational to the point that he upsets Paley. Benson explains to him that more compassion should be shown towards the victims. The case takes a turn for the worst when it is revealed that Paley's professor wrote the novel and the defense uses it to paint Paley as a well-crafted liar. Paley wants to drop the charges to protect her secret, but Barba informs her that the truth will come out anyway and that if she follows through he will charge her with perjury. Barba uses information gathered from one of Cain's other victims to trick Cain during the trial by having him put a belt around Barba's neck. After some taunting from Barba, Cain chokes him with the belt in open court, showing his violent streak in front of the jurors.
During Collateral Damages, Barba makes a plea deal with Teddy Hawkins after the latter offers up a pedophile ring. One of the pedophiles is revealed to be Deputy Commissioner Hank Abraham, who previously came to congratulate SVU on apprehending Hawkins. Barba was speechless when Benson and Ed Tucker revealed the incriminating evidence found in Abraham's home and did not know how to approach it. He confronts Abraham and his lawyer Roger Kressler, offering a deal but Abraham refuses to confess his guilt and is arraigned. He was later called in by Abraham who seems to confess his guilt but Barba is unable to make a deal because now the feds want to charge him. He later notifies Benson Abraham slit his wrists in a suicide attempt but his wife saved him.
In Decline and Fall, he prosecuted Lawrence Hendricks, Sr., a wealthy C.E.O. who tries to escape a rape charge by feigning dementia. Barba assures Benson that he will make sure the man pays for his crimes while Benson notes on his confidence but he assures her that he is angry, which she notes is better. Barba was able to get Hendricks to slip up and he was arrested for rape.
In Motherly Love, Barbara prosecute Nicole Keller, a woman accused of statutory rape and covering it up by having her underage lover killed by her son. Barba promised the parents of the slain boy, he will get them justice, earning praise from them. His actions for still were successful enough to get her to change her story but she is ultimately convicted when her son Luke testifies against her and exposes her crimes. Afterwards, he offered to get Benson a drink but she declines in favor of going to see her son to take her mind off of this case.
During Flight Risk, Barba prosecutes air pilot for raping a female co-pilot. After amassing evidence, he is able to make the man plea to ten years in prison or face a life sentence. Afterwards, he convenes a grand jury, he has many female workers of the company come forward to give examples of the injustices they have suffered. One by one each worker details the harassment that they have faced and how the airline has given no punishment to those who break the rules. One woman in particular comes forward with important evidence and applauds Barba for finally taking down this airline. Afterwards, Barba requests the jurors files indictments for larceny against Optimum Air. His moving words leave the jury wondering about their future actions.
In 2018, Barba turns off the life support of an infant boy suffering from MDDS, a disease which left the child brain-dead and would have required machinery to keep him alive for the rest of his life. Charged with second-degree murder despite the sympathies of both Benson and Jack McCoy, Barba hires Randy Dworkin to represent him. On the stand, Barba defends his actions as justifiable since the child was essentially dead already, but he admits that he felt guilty for having done so. Barba is ultimately acquitted of murder and exonerated. However, he is too traumatized by the case and resigns from his career as an A.D.A. after 21 years of working as a prosecutor, despite McCoy saying he didn't have to leave. He later says farewell to Benson, who is both happy and saddened by the outcome. Barba is replaced by Peter Stone, the special prosecutor who tried him.
Barba video-chatted with Benson in Redemption In Her Corner, confirming that they are still in touch with each other. Benson jokes on him growing a beard. He consoles her about the recent death of Tucker before wishing her a happy early birthday. He also promises to take her out to dinner sometime.
Career as a Defense Attorney
Eventually, Barba returned as a defense attorney representing a military veteran, Mickey Davis, on trial for the murder of his daughter's rapist, Ajay Sharma. He faced off against Carisi, who once shadowed Barba and considered Barba his mentor and now has taken over Barba's old position as SVU ADA. Carisi got a good salvo in by eventually managing to get Mickey to confess on the stand that he had committed the murder intentionally as revenge for his daughter being raped and that he would do it again if he could. During the closing statement, Barba argued that the victim was a serial rapist active for over a decade who no one had stopped, including the SVU, and that his client was just protecting his daughter. The jury eventually found Barba's client guilty of second-degree manslaughter, and he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison, the minimum sentence. After the case, Barba enjoyed a drink with his former colleagues, sans Benson, who discussed the outcome of the case. Barba then got a text and left, as his mother was heading to Florida the next day. Barba asked them to tell Benson that he was sorry that he missed her.
As he left, Barba encountered Benson and wondered if she was mad at him about the outcome of the case. Benson questioned Barba about if the case was about the client or about Barba himself. She then suggested that with the way that Barba had to leave the DA's office, he might have been defending his actions in a way. The two then admitted that they missed Barba's time in the DA's office and wished each other a Happy New Year before going their separate ways again. (SVU: "Sightless in a Savage Land")
Barba represented Richard Wheatley in court after he was charged with the murder of Kathy Stabler. After Benson and Stabler found out, they were both furious, with Benson believing that Barba betrayed them. He would also have to face his mentee Carisi in court for a second time. Wheatley later offers Barba a position within his organization, to which Barba turns down immediately. (SVU: "People Vs Richard Wheatley")
- Mickey Davis (SVU: "Sightless in a Savage Land")
- Richard Wheatley (SVU: "People Vs Richard Wheatley"), (OC: "The Christmas Episode")
- It appears that Barba enjoys skiing, as in Presumed Guilty it is mentioned that he goes to a ski resort in Gstaad, Switzerland for the Christmas holiday.
- In Her Negotiation, he tells the squad that he spent his weekend on a yacht.
- In a deleted scene in Manhattan Transfer, Barba stops watching an interrogation to go to the theater to watch Hamilton.
- In Dance, Lies and Video Tape, Benson tells the artistic director of the National Dance Institute that Barba is a fan.
- In the Season 17 premiere, he is still referred to an A.D.A. by his colleagues but the nameplate in his office lists him as the D.A. This is because the nameplates were changed for all A.D.As.
- Though Harry Connick, Jr. briefly preceded him in a recurring role as David Haden, Raúl Esparza is the first man to play an A.D.A. as a member of the main cast of SVU.
- He surpassed Casey Novak, as longest-serving A.D.A. in the Law & Order franchise in Season 19.
- His surname, Barba, means "beard" in Spanish.
- He is called "Uncle Rafa" by Noah Porter-Benson.
- Barba played Little League as a child. It was highly likely he was a bad player as he made a comment comparing a disastrous case to "the RMS Titanic meets The Hindenburg mets my first year of Little League". (SVU: "Info Wars")
- In contrast, his successor, Peter Stone, played in Major League Baseball until a bad injury cut his playing career short.
- Barba is the first former main character on SVU to appear on Law & Order: Organized Crime, the second being Donald Cragen. This excludes Christian Garland who was currently a main character at the time of his appearance and Elliot Stabler who moved to OC as a main character.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (9 seasons, 89 episodes):
- Season 14: "Twenty-Five Acts" • "Friending Emily" • "Lessons Learned" • "Beautiful Frame" • "Criminal Hatred" • "Funny Valentine" • "Undercover Blue" • "Legitimate Rape" • "Girl Dishonored" • "Traumatic Wound" • "Her Negotiation"
- Season 15: "Imprisoned Lives" • "American Tragedy" • "October Surprise" • "Dissonant Voices" • "Military Justice" • "Rapist Anonymous" • "Psycho/Therapist" • "Jersey Breakdown" • "Betrayal's Climax" • "Comic Perversion" • "Criminal Stories" • "Downloaded Child" • "Reasonable Doubt" • "Thought Criminal"
- Season 16: "Girls Disappeared" • "American Disgrace" • "Producer's Backend" • "Pornstar's Requiem" • "Spousal Privilege" • "Forgiving Rollins" • "Agent Provocateur" • "Padre Sandunguero" • "Decaying Morality" • "Undercover Mother" • "December Solstice" • "Parole Violations" • "Devastating Story" • "Granting Immunity" • "Daydream Believer" • "Surrendering Noah"
- Season 17: "Devil's Dissections" • "Criminal Pathology" • "Institutional Fail" • "Community Policing" • "Depravity Standard" • "Townhouse Incident" • "A Misunderstanding" • "Forty-One Witnesses" • "Nationwide Manhunt" • "Collateral Damages" • "Star-Struck Victims" • "Manhattan Transfer" • "Unholiest Alliance" • "Fashionable Crimes" • "Assaulting Reality" • "Intersecting Lives" • "Heartfelt Passages"
- Season 18: "Terrorized" • "Making a Rapist" • "Imposter" • "Heightened Emotions" • "Rape Interrupted" • "Broken Rhymes" • "Next Chapter" • "Decline and Fall" • "Motherly Love" • "Genes" • "Net Worth" • "Know It All" • "The Newsroom" • "Spellbound" • "Conversion" • "American Dream" • "Sanctuary"
- Season 19: "Gone Fishin'" • "Contrapasso" • "No Good Reason" • "Complicated" • "Unintended Consequences" • "Something Happened" • "Intent" • "Gone Baby Gone" • "Pathological" • "Flight Risk" • "Info Wars" • "The Undiscovered Country"
- Season 21: "Redemption In Her Corner"
- Season 22: "Sightless in a Savage Land"
- Season 23: "People Vs Richard Wheatley" • "A Final Call At Forlini's Bar"
- Law & Order: Organized Crime (1 season, 1 episode):
|Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Main Characters|