American Tragedy

Season 15
Episode 1502
Air Date 10/02/13
TV-14

Still acclimating to life after Lewis, Benson incites a late-night tussle with a drunkard outside SVU, only to realize she went a little too far. She admits as much to her therapist, emphasizing her frustration with the pace of her recovery. He insists she be patient; only time heals. But Benson's not convinced.

Benson's case this week doesn't help - three raped women, all with the same brutal story and the same unhelpful description: young black male. And whoever this guy is, he doesn't leave a lick of evidence. The team plasters up rough sketches and takes to the streets, frisking everyone who fits the profile - until a gunshot leads them to Jolene Castille, her smoking revolver and a wounded body at her feet: Mehcad, a young black teenager.

Castille, a wealthy restaurateur and TV personality, claims she acted in self-defense. Meanwhile, Mehcad languishes in critical condition, with his parents insisting on his innocence despite no knowledge of his whereabouts over the last few nights. Is this kid a serial rapist? An answer comes soon enough when two bombshells land: Mehcad dies and Benson collars the true culprit.

After all three rape victims ID Benson's suspect, she and Fin visit Castille's high-end restaurant to verify her story - was Mehcad really trying to rape her? Castille stays firm, but adds new details, embellishing her original statement with quotes from articles in the press. Her rigid stance spurs protests at the courthouse and calls for justice - SVU books her and all eyes turn to the courtroom.

D.A. Barba rolls in a parade of witnesses who speak to Mehcad's clean past, but when Benson testifies, Castille's attorney trips her up and posits that if SVU initially thought Mehcad was the killer, why should they expect Castille to know the difference?

With the case on the ropes, Barba digs into Castille's past and finds a history of racism, yet when Castille takes the stand she dismisses every instance, shrugging each one off as just temper flare-ups or "vestiges" from her Southern upbringing. The case takes another hit when Castille's attorney calls Fin to the stand and accuses him and the NYPD of the exact same crime - profiling young black men.

Despite a moving closing argument from Barba, the jury returns with an unsettling verdict: not guilty. As Castille walks away from the courthouse a free woman and Barba laments his failure, Fin turns to him and sums up the whole affair. "It's not on you. It's just how it is."

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