An unidentified young woman is found in a city park, having been raped, stabbed and beaten with rocks, then left for dead. A bloody rock is found nearby. Elliot and Olivia initially theorize that the woman was the victim of a "wilding" attack. The hospital determines that the victim had been a virgin.
Pressured from the Chief of Detectives for action on the case, Captain Cragen tells Elliot and Olivia to talk to the captain of the park precinct. He cautions them that Captain Walson is "a jerk times ten." Walson lives up to that billing, so Elliot and Olivia also talk to one of his patrol officers. The officer tells them of several recent incidents in which a group of young, upscale gangster wannabes had been terrorizing people in the park. Captain "Not-In-My-Park" Walson hadn't mentioned it because he'd noticed the pattern only the day before. Now he's worried about facing the Morris Commission. Just the previous week the officer had arrested one of the group's leaders, a smart-mouthed teenager named Chris Lyons.
Lyons, his father and their attorney meet with Elliot and Olivia at the attorney's office. The teen admits that he and his friends had snatched some purses here, and leered at women there. However, he denies that they attacked the present victim.
The lab finds the DNA of only one man on the victim, which eliminates the "wilding" theory. She had lost almost half her total blood volume, but the CSU technicians didn't find nearly that amount in the park. The assault was a dump job, and the attack followed the rape by about 8 hours. The victim had been wearing a Hanford University T-shirt when she was found.
The university identifies the victim as Nafeesa Amir, a journalism major from Afghanistan. Her school record lists a post office box address, and her emergency contact as Daoud Tarzi. Munch and Fin go to Tarzi's address and talk with a man who identifies himself as David Hamoud. He says Tarzi no longer lives there, and that he doesn't know Nafeesa Amir. After dodging several other questions, including one about his bandaged forehead, he apologizes that he's late for a meeting and leaves.
A Hanford journalism professor tells Elliot and Olivia that Nafeesa had faithfully attended all her classes, until that morning. Nafeesa had been amazed at the freedom of the press in the United States. Unless she sneaked out of Afghanistan, her parents must be in the States too. Nafeesa had been very close friends with another student, Annette Fleming.
Fleming tells Elliot and Olivia that Nafeesa had been loving life, free from the stifling repression of women in her homeland. Hanford professor Husseini, a Mideast specialist, had been helping Nafeesa assimilate into American life. She had a boyfriend whom she never discussed, apparently to protect him. Nafeesa's father is an Afghan diplomat -- and a control freak -- who may have been looking for his daughter. In Nafeesa's campus locker, Elliot and Olivia find a photo of a man who may be the boyfriend, and her parents' home address.
The detectives visit the Amirs. While his wife Aziza sits silently in the background, Saleh Amir acknowledges that Nafeesa is their daughter. Ignoring Olivia, he tells Elliot that Nafeesa did not know her place. She had chosen a man's work, and turned her back on her traditions and her family. In the family's eyes, she's dead because she slept with a man who wasn't her husband. The Amirs also have a son, Jaleel, who isn't home at the moment. Saleh asks them to leave him and his wife to their grief that their daughter chose a Western lifestyle.
Munch recognizes the man in Nafeesa's photo as Daoud Tarzi, aka David Hamoud. After SVU arrests Tarzi, he tells them that he loved Nafessa. They'd argued about her father and his controlling ways. Saleh Amir didn't want to become known for letting his women do as they pleased. Tarzi wanted Nafeesa "to stop acting like she's from some primitive tribe." He'd dared her to leave him, never thinking she'd actually do it.
A search of Tarzi's apartment turns up a bed sheet with a blood stain. The blood is Nafeesa's, and semen on the sheet is Tarzi's. The bloody fingerprint on the rock from the park isn't hers or his, nor does it match anyone in the system. However, the lab got an odd reading from the blood on the rock, so they're re-testing it.
At arraignment, Tarzi is held without bail. Saleh and Aziza Amir, who supposedly no longer care about their daughter, are in the courtroom.
To find out why Nafessa's and Tarzi's romance was such a secret, Elliot and Olivia talk to Professor Husseini. He tells them that all the Afghan diplomats at the United Nations, including the Amirs, are holdovers from the pre-Taliban government. While the previous government had allowed Afghan women a sizable amount of freedom, the Taliban put women under virtual house arrest. Therefore, trying to return home would be very dangerous for the Amirs. However, that doesn't mean Saleh Amir isn't a Taliban supporter. Nafeesa wanted to live as a modern woman, and had to leave her parents' home to do it. In Afghanistan women have been killed for much, much less.
Alex Cabot talks to Tarzi and his attorney at Rikers. Tarzi tells Cabot that Nafeesa was her family's ticket back to Afghanistan. Saleh Amir had promised her to the son of a Taliban government minister. Earlier the night Nafeesa was assaulted, Tarzi had given her an engagement ring, which she accepted. They then had consensual sex, after which she had a change of heart and left him. Tarzi hadn't revealed any of this earlier because his forehead injury was inflicted by a police officer, sent by Saleh Amir to find Nafeesa.
Munch and Fin find the officer, Ross Campo. He's illegally moonlighting as a private investigator. To keep Internal Affairs from learning of his sideline, Campo reveals that Saleh Amir hired his second employer to find Nafeesa. The family was returning to their home country, and wanted her to go with them. Campo tracked Nafeesa as far as Tarzi, who denied knowing her and refused to reveal anything about her even after Campo conked him.
The lab's re-test of the blood on the rock reveals two types of DNA: one Nafeesa's, the other not Tarzi's. The second DNA type is similar to Nafeesa's, meaning it belongs to a relative. The hospital informs SVU that Nafeesa is dead. Cabot asks about Jaleel Amir, who recently graduated from New York University and celebrated his 21st birthday. Since he's not currently enrolled in school, his diplomatic immunity expired on his birthday.
Elliot and Olivia talk to the doorman at the Amirs' apartment building. He remembers seeing a sobbing Nafeesa there, at about 7:00 the night she was attacked. An hour later Jaleel called him, wanting him to bring up the big shopping cart. Already resentful of Jaleel's treating him like a personal slave, the doorman had refused, saying he couldn't leave the desk. If Jaleel did fetch the cart himself, he must have exited through the building garage because he didn't come through the front door.
Realizing that Nafeesa's death was definitely an honor killing, Elliot and Olivia visit the Amirs again and demand to know where Jaleel is. This time Olivia doesn't let Saleh Amir ignore her. He belligerently tells her his daughter was a whore, just like Olivia (an unmarried woman with a job, and working alongside men to boot). Aziza Amir speaks up, and tells them that Jaleel is on his way back to Afghanistan.
Munch and Fin go to the airport and board the Kabul-bound plane, which hasn't left yet. They find and arrest Jaleel Amir. Without any prompting, Jaleel smiles broadly and says, "I'm proud I killed her. She deserved to die."
When Jaleel's defense attorney can't get the confession thrown out, he changes his client's plea to not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Honor killings are so ingrained in Jaleel's native culture, Jaleel didn't know that killing his sister was wrong.
The judge orders a psychiatric examination, which is conducted by Dr. Emil Skoda. Jaleel now acts like a basket case, and constantly fingers a strand of traditional Afghan beads. As a boy in Afghanistan, Jaleel had been forced to watch his aunt's honor killing by his grandfather. Jaleel has had nightmares about the experience ever since. Cabot realizes that a jury might be just as confused as Jaleel seems to be. Skoda tells Cabot she has to find a jury who can see past the confusion.
The trial begins. In the courtroom Jaleel is still fingering the beads, and now also wears a traditional Afghan cap. Munch testifies that Jaleel had been wearing Western clothing on the plane, and freely admitted to killing Nafeesa before Munch and Fin could read him his rights. Jaleel insists he killed his sister to restore his family's honor.
Cabot becomes concerned that the jury is buying Jaleel's mental-disease-or-defect defense. The prosecution is out of people to say otherwise. Olivia points out that they still have one more ally: Aziza Amir. Cragen and Fin both object, with Fin pointing out that if Aziza testifies, she'll be condemning herself to death. Olivia replies that Aziza wants justice for Nafeesa's memory, as evidenced by her defying her husband to reveal that Jaleel was returning to Afghanistan. If they reach out to her again, she might help them. Fin says that if they ask Aziza to do this, they have to be ready to protect her. Cragen says they're ready. Aziza tearfully says she doesn't want their protection; she wants her daughter.
On the witness stand, Aziza Amir tearfully but resolutely testifies that after leaving Tarzi, Nafeesa came home to rejoin her family. Saleh asked if she was still a virgin. She wasn't. Saleh hit Nafeesa, knocking her down. When Jaleel tried to help her, Saleh said, "Let her lie there like she lies with her American boyfriend." Saleh then gave a kitchen knife to a terrified and unwilling Jaleel, and told him to kill Nafeesa to restore their family's honor and prove his own manhood. Reluctantly, Jaleel stabbed his sister. Then he and his father took her away.
The jury convicts Jaleel Amir of murder. Cabot calls Cragen with the news, then comments that after attending every day of the trial, Saleh Amir had not been in the courtroom for the verdict.
Elliot and Olivia go to the Amirs' apartment building. Saleh Amir had left the night before, without his wife but with a ton of luggage that suggested he wasn't returning. Olivia tells the doorman to let them into the Amirs' apartment immediately. Inside, they find that the price of justice for Nafeesa has been paid. Aziza Amir lies dead in the bedroom, covered in blood from a slashed throat.