Law and Order
CI, Episode 4.03
Production number: E5407
First aired: 10 October 2004
  th of 195 produced in CI  
th of 195 released in CI
  th of 1271 released in all  
John Tagman.jpg
Teleplay By
Elizabeth Benjamin

Story By
Elizabeth Benjamin & René Balcer

Directed By
Frank Prinzi

Detectives Goren and Eames investigate the murder of a stripper found beaten to death with part of her calf missing. John Tagman, a shy, lonely young man, becomes the focus of the investigation.


Goren gets into the head of John Tagman, a man driven to torture, murder, and cannibalism by overwhelming despair and loneliness. He surprises his colleagues with a passionate plea that the man be spared the death penalty, and engineers the confession that will save the man's life through a plea bargain.

Goren feels empathy for Tagman, who he believes did not kill his victim for killing's sake but to create a submissive, eternally beautiful partner who would never judge or leave him. While interrogating Tagman, Goren tells him that it is only a matter of time before he kills again, and that the only way he can be a good person is to take responsibility for what he did. Tagman bursts into tears and confesses, expressing remorse for his actions - thus avoiding the death penalty. He is put in prison for life, but he is soon afterward beaten to death by another inmate.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast




Robert Goren: I guess you've gotten used to being by yourself. Is that what you're saying?
John Tagman: You don't really get used to it.
Robert Goren: No, you… No, you don't ever really get used to it.

Alexandra Eames: Did you enjoy your play date?

Robert Goren: Is that what you like, John? Cuddling? Holding her close to you?

John Tagman: I don't think it's possible for a person to understand himself.

Alexandra Eames: Of all the people to go to bat for...

Robert Goren: With all our complaining, it's women who are vulnerable.

Ron Carver: What are they doing?
James Deakins: Better not to ask.

(After learning that Tagman been killed in prison after Goren helped him to dodge the death penalty)
Alexandra Eames: I guess now everybody has what they want.

Background information and notes

  • The episode, written by Elizabeth Benjamin and René Balcer, won the 2005 Edgar Award for Best Television Episode Teleplay.
  • The personality of murderer John Tagman revealed some close resemblances to the life and crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, a notorious serial killer who was convicted of murdering 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. His crimes also involved rape, necrophilia and cannibalism. The court found Dahmer sane and guilty on 15 counts of murder and sentenced him to 15 life terms, totaling 957 years in prison. At his sentencing hearing, Dahmer expressed remorse for his actions, also saying that he wished for his own death. While in prison, he was beaten to death by a fellow inmate. (Source: Jeffrey Dahmer at Wikipedia) Furthermore, serial killer Edmund Kemper is also noted for cannibalism, specifically cutting flesh from the legs of two victims and consuming it in a macaroni casserole. Tagman consumes part of the calf muscle of a victim. Detective Robert Goren mentions that Tagman prepared it "with potatoes and onions". At his trial, Kemper pleaded insanity, but he was found guilty of eight counts of murder. He asked for the death penalty, but with capital punishment suspended at that time, he instead received life imprisonment. (Source: Edmund Kemper at Wikipedia)
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