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District Attorney Baxter’s Dark Family Secret Could Cost Him the Election — and Possibly His Marriage

Nicholas Baxter's daughter's secrets were exposed, and his future put at risk, after a brazen murder plot against the district attorney.

By Jill Sederstrom

District Attorney Nicholas Baxter found himself caught in the crosshairs — literally and figuratively — of a pulse-pounding murder plot in the Season 23 finale of Law & Order, leaving the future of his marriage and the election in jeopardy.

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For the first time, fans met the politically-connected district attorney’s wife and daughter as the trio headed to the mayor’s annual charity gala. But what began as a fun, family night out, soon turned deadly when someone in the crowd opened fire, killing Matt Bennett, a star pitcher for the New York Yankees and a guest of honor at the party.

After recovering cell phone video of the shooting, detectives learned that the popular baseball player had not been the intended target. Someone had meant to take out Baxter (Tony Goldwyn) on the red carpet — only missing because the district attorney moved at the last moment.

RELATED: Tony Goldwyn's Real-Life Daughter Tess Plays His Child on Law & Order Season 23 Finale

Most of the New York City Police Department was quickly mobilized to track down the suspected shooter, later revealed to be a man with deep ties to a dangerous street gang. Detectives believed Baxter was targeted for putting away the gang’s top leaders shortly before he was appointed Manhattan District Attorney.

To win the case, however, Baxter was forced to put his own daughter on the stand, exposing a dark family secret that jeopardized his impending election — and put him at odds with his wife.

Law And Order 2313 Da Nicholas Baxter Family

Who is District Attorney Baxter’s daughter? 

Baxter’s adult daughter Carrie (played by Goldwyn's real-life daughter, Tess Goldwyn) is an aspiring attorney who has one year left of law school at Columbia University. 

As she shared with the mayor, she's hoping to one day become a civil rights attorney. 

But she was unexpectedly thrown into a high-profile murder case after realizing that the guy suspected of killing the pitcher while aiming at her dad, was the same person she saw waiting outside her parents' home about a week before the shooting.

"It was mom’s birthday and as I was walking up to the front door, I saw him,” she told her dad after the suspect’s arrest. “We stared at each other for a few seconds. It felt odd. I should have said something at the time.” 

The suspect had asked Carrie who lived in the home and, although she didn’t answer, it provided clear evidence that Baxter had been purposefully targeted by the gang.

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Law And Order 2313 Da Nicholas Baxter Julia Baxter

Not wanting to unnecessarily expose his daughter in a contentious case where one witness already showed up dead, Baxter kept quiet about what his daughter saw until the case began to fall apart. 

The judge ruled that there could be no mention of the defendant’s alleged gang ties, leaving prosecutors scrambling to try to prove the motive. Carrie’s testimony could provide definitive evidence that the defendant had cased out Baxter’s home in the days before the shooting and prove that the DA had been the real target. 

RELATED: Everything We Know About Tony Goldwyn’s New Law & Order DA, Nicholas Baxter

Who is District Attorney Baxter’s wife?

While Baxter's daughter Carrie agreed to take the stand at the murder trial, his wife Julia — a talented doctor and chair of the pediatric department at Mount Sinai Hospital — was furious that Baxter was putting the family at risk.

“I can’t believe you’re making her do this,” she angrily told him. 

“We need her testimony,” Baxter replied. “We don’t have a choice.”

Julia made it clear that she believed that her husband taking the DA job was a “bad idea” and drew too much attention to the family.

“We’re talking about our daughter, Nick. Our daughter,” she pleaded. “We can’t just throw her under the bus.” 

Despite her clear opposition, Baxter was firm in his decision to let their daughter take the stand, telling his wife they “can’t just pretend that it didn’t happen” and insisting that he had “an obligation to this city.”

“No,” she angrily shot back before storming off. “You have an obligation to this family. That is more important than this case or this damn election.”

D.A Nicholas Baxter on Law And Order episode 2313

Julia wasn’t the only one who tried to talk Baxter out of putting his daughter on the stand. Executive Assistant District Attorney Nolan Price (Hugh Dancy) knew that calling her to the stand would not only put her in danger, but would also open her up to cross-examination by the defense attorney, who would undoubtedly uncover a secret from her past that Nolan also knew about.

“I think we can win this case without her,” Price told Baxter. “We still have ample evidence indicating that [the defendant] was the shooter.” 

RELATED: First Look at Tony Goldwyn on Law & Order Has New DA’s Staff in a Panic: “We Are Screwed” 

He warned that the defense would “bury her” and Baxter himself, but the DA remained committed to doing what he believed was right.

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Nolan. I really do, but I”m good. I’m prepared to accept the consequences,” Baxter assured him. “So just do your job and win the case.”

Carrie Baxter on Law And Order episode 2313

What was revealed about Nicholas Baxter’s daughter in court?

On the stand, Carrie provided the testimony to link the defendant to the murder, but, as predicted, her own dark secret was revealed. After being questioned about it by the defense attorney, Carrie testified that when she was a sophomore at Princeton University, she “struck a pedestrian” with her car after drinking alcohol.

The man survived, but lost the use of his left arm. “I plead guilty, admitted to what I had done,” Carrie said. 

But the defense attorney quickly pounced on the fact that while she had originally been charged with a felony for aggravated assault, the charges were ultimately reduced to a much less serious misdemeanor for simple assault.

“Can you explain how the charges were reduced so dramatically?” he asked.

“All I know is my lawyers worked it out,” she replied. 

“'My lawyers'? You mean your father? You mean, your father called in some favors to have the charges reduced?,” the defense attorney hammered her. 

RELATED: Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy Gets a Sweet Shoutout on First Law & Order Episode with New DA

D.A Nicholas Baxter on Law And Order episode 2313

Under Price’s redirection, Carrie was able to regain her footing and told the jury that she decided to come forward — even though she knew her past would be exposed — because she wanted to “tell the truth,” as her proud father looked on from the gallery.

Carrie’s testimony helped seal the shooter's fate and he was found guilty of second-degree murder and attempted murder.

Baxter's future as district attorney is uncertain

But the move would have some serious — and potentially permanent — ramifications for Baxter and his future. The press quickly grabbed onto the scandal and questioned how he could honorably represent the city when he had seemingly manipulated the law to his own advantage.

RELATED: Law & Order’s Odelya Halevi Has Been "Crying for Days" Over Sam Waterston's Departure

“As district attorney, I have an obligation to enforce the law with compassion and integrity,” he told the press. “As a father, I have an obligation to help and support my daughter, so if you’re asking me to apologize for trying to protect her future, it’s not going to happen.”

Det Riley, Da Nicholas Baxter and Det Shaw on Law And Order episode 2313

What Mehcad Brooks thinks of how Baxter handled his daughter's legal troubles

Mehcad Brooks, who plays Detective Jalen Shaw on Law & Order, sees where Baxter is coming from. “It’s an ethical dilemma that I think that most of us never want to be in, and most of us never will be in," Brooks told NBC Insider at a May 2024 red carpet event. "But I think that each one of us could understand showing up for your family and supporting your family.

"Whether that’s the moral and ethical thing to do or not, most of us would probably do it," Brooks continued. "But I think it took a lot of courage for [Goldwyn's] character to confront that truth and stand in that truth and perhaps pay for his mistakes."

The episode ended the night of the election as Baxter was neck and neck with his opponent. While Carrie arrived at the watch party to support her father, Baxter's wife Julia was noticeably absent, signaling serious trouble for his marriage. 

Fans were left to wonder whether Baxter’s decision to be upfront about the past would cost him the election, and his marriage, or whether voters might be willing to overlook the bad press.

The Law & Order finale is available to stream on Peacock. Past episodes and seasons can also be found on the streamer. 

— Reporting by Stephanie Gomulka