L&O, Episode 6.03
Production number: K0103
First aired: 18 October 1995
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Written By
Michael S. Chernuchin, Morgan Gendel & Barry M. Schkolnick

Directed By
Jace Alexander


Following the shooting death of a detective, McCoy believes that capital punishment is warranted.


Detectives Lenny Briscoe and Rey Curtis investigate a man found shot to death in a warehouse full of what appear to be stolen goods. The dead man turns out to be an undercover police officer investigating a drug dealer.

The investigation leads to Paul Sandig, a wealthy certified public accountant (Victor Garber). The detectives determine that Sandig murdered the officer in order to cover up a money laundering operation set up to conceal the profits of the drug dealer.

Jack McCoy and Claire Kincaid argue the case for and against seeking the death penalty to district attorney Adam Schiff. As in reality, the fictional New York had just enacted a death penalty statute and Schiff must decide whether or not to pursue the first death penalty case in the state. Schiff determines that the death penalty is warranted and opts to pursue it.

McCoy wins a guilty verdict, but must fight the constitutionality of the statute in the appellate division with defense attorney Helen Brolin (Maria Tucci) before sentencing. The constitutionality arguments center around due process and the meaning of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The appellate division renders no decision, declaring the issue is not ripe because no one has yet been sentenced to death, and remands the case for sentencing.

At sentencing, Sandig breaks down on the stand under questioning and begs for his life, but is nevertheless sentenced to death by lethal injection.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast



Morality is not now and never has been a significant part of the criminal justice system.

–Albert Parsons

Quinlan: You want my testimony? You drop the laundering charges completely, and I get blanket immunity for anything that I say that might tend to incriminate me.
Kincaid: That's ridic-
McCoy: You got it.
Quinlan: [to his attorney] You should be payin' me.

[Brolin finds McCoy eating a sandwich outside the courthouse after Sandig is convicted of Croft's murder]
Brolin: Tuna fish? Is that how you celebrate a victory?
McCoy: It's chicken salad. It's not over 'til after the sentencing hearing. Then it's tuna fish.
Brolin: Well, I wouldn't go planning my menu just yet. [hands the EADA a notice] My motion for a declaratory judgment with Judge Boucher's decision.
McCoy: Denying it.
Brolin: Yes. Well, and my appeal and my brief. [hands McCoy her appeal and brief] The way I see it, the New York death penalty statute doesn't even come close to passing constitutional muster.

Sandig: I was so ashamed of what I did to that detective. Do you know why I kept the gun? I was gonna kill myself.
McCoy: So why didn't you?
Sandig: [voice breaks] Because I don't wanna die. I'm sorry, okay? Please... [sobs] I don't wanna die!

Background information and notes

  • Continuity error: Although Schiff determines whether or not to pursue the first death penalty case in the state, it is mentioned in a 2009 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit ("Unstable") that Executive ADA Sonya Paxton was the "first to get a capital conviction when Pataki brought back the death penalty."
  • Goof: Victor Truro is credited as "Judge Douglas Spivack" but the nameplate shown lists his character's name as "Douglas Spivak".

Episode scene cards

1 2 3

Quinlan Imports
1713 Broadway
Wednesday, September 4

Argos Diner
130 Seventh Avenue
Wednesday, September 4

27th Precinct
Interrogation Room
Wednesday, September 4

4 5 6

Grand Concourse Savings
520 Grand Concourse
Thursday, September 5

Magistrate's Club
165 Reade Street
Wednesday, September 18

Chambers of
Judge Ida Boucher
December 2

7 8 9

Chambers of
Judge Ida Boucher
Monday, December 2

Rikers Island
Thursday, December 12

Supreme Court
Trial Part 49
Monday, December 23

10 11 12

Appellate Division
First Department
Tuesday, January 28

Supreme Court
Trial Part 49
Tuesday, February 11

Supreme Court
Trial Part 49
Monday, February 17

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