Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Season 4 Episode 8


Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Nov 15, 2002 on NBC

Episode Recap

Benson and Stabler are called to a hospital where a rape victim has been reported. After looking for her initially in the emergency room, they find out that the victim, Stephanie Rawley, is actually a coma patient in the intensive care ward. Stephanie had gone into a coma after a car accident a year ago, and had recently been transferred to the hospital from a rehab centre. The doctor at the hospital ordered some tests, and found that she was pregnant, and called SVU.

When Stephanie's parents are informed, they immediately suspect her fiancée David Anderson, against whom they have a restraining order because he 'tried to kill her'. When Munch and Tutuola go to speak with David, he explains that Stephanie's wishes were that she not be kept alive artificially, but her parents don't understand. He insists that he has kept away from the hospital since the restraining order was put in place. He reveals that the car crash Stephanie was in was his fault, because she got hit by a truck while going to pick him up from his bucks party.

While not counting out David as a suspect, the detectives believe it is more likely that a staff member at the rehab centre raped Stephanie. They ask Cabot what they could do to secure DNA from every member of the staff, and she says that it isn't possible unless everyone consents. Cregan tells them they should try to get voluntary DNA samples from everyone they can now, and test whichever ones they feel necessary later.

Benson and Stabler interview Dr. Mandell, whom they find alone in a room with another coma patient, and find that he is willing to give a DNA test. Munch and Tutuola talk to Clark Jensen, a physiotherapist, who is also willing to volunteer his DNA. Jensen admits to them that he has seen David Anderson at the hospital late at night, in Stephanie's bed.

Munch and Tutuola go back to talk to David, and he admits that the night nurse feels sorry for him and lets him in to see Stephanie, and that he holds her because he believes it calms her down. He is also willing to volunteer his DNA.

Mrs. Rawley, Stephanie's mother, calls Benson and is frantic when she finds out that Stephanie has suddenly been transferred back to the rehab centre without her knowledge. Benson and Stabler go to the centre and find Stephanie is about to undergo an abortion, performed by a Dr. Garrison, which they manage to stop in time. They talk to Dr. Mandell, who authorised the procedure, who says that the pregnancy puts Stephanie's life in danger. He reveals that he had Stephanie's father's consent to perform the procedure.

Mr. and Mrs. Rawley fight over Stephanie's pregnancy- Mrs. Rawley, a strict Catholic, wants to keep it, but Mr. Rawley has less affectionate views towards the baby. Stabler questions Mr. Rawley about the lunch breaks he spends by Stephanie's bedside, alone, and Rawley loses his temper and hits him. Stabler refuses to arrest Rawley for hitting him, thinking he would have reacted the same way.

Back at the station, they debate whether Mr. Rawley's reaction was too strong, and why Mrs. Rawley would want to keep the baby. Olivia's situation (of her mother choosing to keep her after she was raped) is brought up. Until the baby is born, they have no DNA for a paternity test, so in the meantime, they decide to question the only two men at the rehab centre who refused to give their DNA. One of these men is a conspiracy theorist who doesn't want to be framed; the other is a hypochondriac who doesn't want to know if he has any diseases once his DNA is tested. The hypochondriac suggests that Benson and Stabler talk to an employee from a funeral home, who goes to the centre to pick up bodies and occasionally loiters around the coma wing.

Benson and Stabler talk to the funeral home employee, Wesley Dilbert, about why he roams the hospital (he says to get snacks from vending machines), and then question him about a dropped assault accusation against him made by a prostitute named Maxine. Wesley denies he did anything to Maxine, and accuses her of stealing his wallet.

The detectives speak with Maxine, who says she only stole Wesley's wallet so she would know his name to report him, but dropped the charges because the police didn't take her seriously because she was a prostitute. She tells them that Wesley had trouble performing, and wanted her to lie in a bath filled with ice to bring her body temperature down.

Benson and Stabler go to talk to Wesley again, and he denies everything. They find out that he has only been working at that funeral home a couple of months, and Munch and Tutuola talk to his previous employer. The employer tells them that Wesley was caught on security video having relations with a deceased woman.

Benson and Stabler interrogate Wesley, and show him video of the incident at the funeral home. He becomes very nervous, but Huang pulls Benson out of the room, telling her that Wesley's problem is that he is terrified of women. Stabler tries empathising with him, but Wesley refuses to admit he ever went into Stephanie Rawley's room. The detectives think he is lying, but Huang says it is possible that he can't bring himself to perform with living women. Cabot has him charged with necrophilia to get him off the street, but the judge grants him bail.

Huang suggests that in order to speed up the case, they might try to get DNA from Stephanie's baby without harming the foetus, using a new experimental procedure he knows about. The blood type does not match Wesley or Stephanie's fiancée, but it does match Dr. Mandell. They interrogate him, and he denies raping Stephanie, but Huang brings in a picture of the uterus of another female coma patient in Mandell's care, and the picture shows signs of scarring from a recent abortion.

They find out that the second coma patient's abortion was performed by Dr. Garrison, the same woman who tried to abort Stephanie's foetus. She and Dr. Mandell work together at a research lab that specialises in research into Parkinson's disease. Garrison reveals that, due to government banning of stem cell research, they were forced to get private financing for their research. A wealthy man suffering Parkinson's disease, Davis Langley, paid them to produce stem cells which would match him by inseminating Stephanie Rawley.

Mandell says that his insemination of Stephanie was legal, because her parents signed a blanket consent form covering experimental procedures. Their intention was to abort the pregnancy and inject stem cell's into Davis Langley's brain. Mandell reveals that he is motivated by watching his own father die of Parkinson's.

Stabler and Cabot try to speak to Langley, but his lawyer does not allow it. He tells them that Langley was unaware of the research, and didn't know what the samples he gave were being used for. Cabot is able to get an indictment for Mandell and Garrison, but not Langley. She reveals that there is a loophole in the law which means that it is hard to convict someone for stealing human eggs. Huang advises her to appeal to the jury, who all have mothers, daughters, etc., who Stephanie Rawley might remind them of.

During the trial, Mrs. Rawley tells the jury about Stephanie's condition and how she visits her everyday, firm in the belief that Stephanie is still alive in there and may wake up one day. The defence lawyer, Trevor Langan, suggests that Stephanie was such a nice person, she would've wanted to help people with Parkinson's like this, but Mrs. Rawley disputes, saying Stephanie never would have agreed to an abortion.

Mandell takes the stand and talks about stem cell research and its potential for curing disease. Cabot worries that the defence's case might be winning over the jury, who all know someone who has suffered with a disease that stem cells might be able to cure.

Langley surprisingly decides to testify on behalf of the defence, and tells the jury about his terrible experiences suffering with Parkinson's. He admits that the insemination of coma patients was his idea, because he believed that Stephanie was probably dead (her body just kept alive on machines), and he would rather use her than ask a woman to get pregnant just to have an abortion. He says that he is not worried about going to jail, because it is nothing compared to what he has suffered.

The jury is won over by the defence, and only finds Mandell and Garrison guilty on battery- a slap on the wrist. Mrs. Rawley comes in to the station, frantic again, because Langley has petitioned for custody of Stephanie's baby once it is born, claiming it because he is the father. They realise that the only reason he wants the baby is for the umbilical cord, which holds stem cells which would be a match to him.