Law & Order

Season 17 Episode 9


Aired Monday 10:00 PM Nov 17, 2006 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
68 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Green and Cassady hunt a mass murderer Leon Vorgitch, who recently escaped from prison. The finally corner Vorgitch in a school with a room full of hostages, and before surrendering himself to police, Vorgitch shoots a number of innocent children. His unwillingness to accept a deal infuriates McCoy, as it gives him more time to escape prison again. When the father of one of his victims takes justice into his own hands and ends up being used as a campaign slogan for a local politician, McCoy and Rubirosa try to convince Robert Purcell not to let himself be a scapegoat for a political platform.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • I would have written a summary, but there is no way to do it in 255 characters or less. This statement alone takes up 133 characters.

    Warning: Spoiler Of Other Law & Order Episodes:

    I liked this episode better the first time I saw it. When it was on Law & Order: Trial By Jury and called “Vigilante.”

    I know this isn’t the first time Law & Order has rehashed plotlines, but this one takes the cake. In case you didn’t get my paraphrasing of an old David Spade Joke, I’ll explain:

    In “Vigilante”, a man kills a pedophile that was recently paroled and had been trying to contact his young daughter. His lawyer is an activist against sexual predators, and convinces him not to take generous plea deals offered by the District Attorney’s office, assuring him the jury would nullify (sound familiar yet?). Well, since Law & Order would be pretty boring without a twist here and there, Kibre and Gaffney discover that the murder plot was the lawyer’s idea. In the end, they convince the man to accept a plea bargain in exchange for testimony against his lawyer.

    Now I know that there are differences in certain details. It was a pedophile, not a sociopathic mass murderer. He was a parolee, not an escapee. There was no attempt to bring back the death penalty. The pedophile hadn’t actually attacked the daughter yet. The guy took the plea deal before he was convicted, not after. Last but not least, it was a spin-off and not actually Law & Order. On the whole however, am I the only one who finds a few too many similarities in this episode? I’ll leave that up to you, but if this becomes a regular occurrence, it will be another sign that the writers have finally run out of good ideas.moreless
  • If anything, the police half of the story made for one of the most intense episodes of the series and it was not afraid to go into scary waters.

    This episode is unique in that there is no question as to who the killer is, there is no question as to the guilt of the different people, and there are few slow spots.

    The teaser with the escape was quick and brutal, Leon is not possibly reformed or even remorseful of his previous actions. I did wonder why there weren't more police escorts around or even where exactly the opening took place. Even if he escaped there should be someone to chase him down. But the entire first half was at a breakneck pace, I'm surprised they didn't have a shoot on site policy. They went from one place to another, threatening various people with aiding a known criminal. In the school house, I was half expecting a few more minutes of intense negotiations, then they were not subtle in having Leon mercilessly kill the kids. You were half-expecting Green to shoot the guy point blank, I was almost prodding him on. The main problem is that the story became about the current dealth penalty, and Robert came with a far-fetched 'just cause' defense, which almost never works in real life, on the show, or here. It did throw a little twist in the story with the D.A. cadidate using it as political advantage instead of an actual defense. The tiredness of the 'unique defense attempts' is what is hurting the show, it is rarely the police investigation, but this episode did have me hooked from the beginning.moreless
  • A great episode!

    After a serial killer kills two prison guards and escapes, he leads Green and Cassady on a chase to find him before he kills again. Unfortunatly, they find him holding schoolchildren at gunpoint. He kills a diabetic girl, along with other children. Once he is arrested, Jack McCoy pursues the death penalty, but is denied. Now he has to go to trial! This killer taunts Jack by saying that in jail, he gets three meals a day and cable TV. This is a very powerful episode and showed how truly dedicated McCoy is to his job. This episode is ripped from the headlines, after the Amish school shooting a few months ago. Overall, this was a very good Law & Order episode, one of the better ones this season!moreless
  • A new twist to the Amish school shooting

    This was a hard to watch episode. I missed the first 15 minutes so I didn't see the cop he killed. The father shooting the killer was predictable. He was so naive as to believe the woman running for office really cared what happened to him. At least she got hers in the end.
  • An appeal for the death penalty in New York, with a twist.

    All things considered, this may be one of the finest "Law & Order" episodes ever written. It's intense, gripping, and full of horrific twists throughout. It's so good that it would have been better as a two-parter, allowing the writers to further flesh out the nuances of the plot.

    When an inmate on death row escapes, killing two cops in the process, an all out manhunt is launched in New York. Green and Cassidy lead the charge as they track the trail of blood through the seedy underbelly of the big city. Eventually, the felon is discovered in a hospital next door to a children's school, where he takes refuge from the police and holds fifteen children hostage. A truck backfiring causes him to panic and spray the school room with bullets, killing four children and wounding countless others.

    The worst of it is that he had no motive to hurt them, and did it just for the heck of it. And a fact that he takes pleasure in rubbing into McCoy's face is that because of the current political climate in New York City, death sentences are nonexistent, leaving him to languish in prison and plan further escapes and resulting murders. Believing this monster will only kill again, McCoy fights to have a special order put in place to reinstate the death penalty for just this inmate, but governmental courts overturn this. The result? The father of one of the dead children takes matters into his own hands.

    The question of vigilantes has come up in the past, but never with quite so much impact. The fact remains that when the courts do not uphold justice, there are individuals who will take matters into their own hands. Is it right that a man should be held on trial for murder when he was just doing what the court should have done in the first place? That debate rages through the last half hour of the program, tweaking the audience's emotions. We empathize and even a little part of us agrees that it was almost the right thing to do, shooting a mass-murderer with fifteen deaths under his belt. But our logical, justice-driven side also realizes that when the law fails, you cannot agree to become judge, jury, and executioner on your own. If it was gotten away with, chaos would ensue.

    In the end, the episode is an emotionally-charged appeal for the reinstatement of the death penalty, but with a twist: there's a politician in the mix. Given how impacting the episode already was by this point, I'm not sure that was needed (hence my reasoning that it should have been a two-parter). Simplicity is often more memorable than complexity, and we already had enough to chew on without throwing a self-serving lawyer into the mix. Still, throughout, I was riveted.moreless
Keith Eric Chappelle

Keith Eric Chappelle

Gavin Edlund

Guest Star

Myk Watford

Myk Watford

Detective Hannigan

Guest Star

Eden Espinosa

Eden Espinosa

Mia Alvarez

Guest Star

Cynthia Darlow

Cynthia Darlow

Delores Vorgitch

Recurring Role

Patricia R. Floyd

Patricia R. Floyd

Judge Rochelle Desmond

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (9)

    • (McCoy discusses a plea offer with Leon.)
      Jack McCoy: Murder-two on all eight charges.
      Leon Vorgitch: Go to Hell, McCoy. Murder-1, 2, 3. What's the hell's that even mean? I want somethin' real. TV time. Conjugal visits.
      Jack McCoy: We're not here to offer perks, Mr. Vorgitch.
      Leon Vorgitch: I want one of them flatscreens. That's my price. Take it or leave it.
      Jack McCoy: We'll leave it.
      Leon Vorgitch: Fine. But every day I get on that bus and go to court is another day I don't have to spend in here. Another chance to escape.

    • Dena Carter: (her closing summation) Nine years ago, Leon Vorgitch heartlessly murdered five innocent people at a restaurant. Back then, the Legislature had a chance to make sure that it never happened again, but they failed. They failed, and he escaped. And he went on to kill Eight more innocent people. And once again, the state has failed to act. Thirteen innocent people slaughtered, and our leaders are powerless to do anything but lock him up and hope he never escapes again? Ladies and gentlemen, the law did not protect our society from Leon Vorgitch. It couldn't even grant justice to the families of his victims. And when Robert Purcell heard that after hearing the shot that killed his daughter, he went insane. Regardless of the law, regardless of the risk, regardless of the countless witnesses, Robert Purcell felt compelled to make sure that Leon Vorgitch never killed again. Ladies and gentlemen, the state wouldn't take action, so Robert did. Now, does that make him a murderer? That makes him a man mentally undone. First, by a heartless psychopath, and second, by an uncaring system. Ladies and gentlemen, that deserves your sympathy. And also your vote of not guilty.
      Jack McCoy: (his summation) Vorgitch was a monster. No one disputes that the world is a better place without him. But this is not about who Robert Purcell murdered. It's about the simple fact that he is a murderer. Mr. Purcell is not insane. He does not believe himself to be a judge, a jury, or an executioner. And yet, by killing Leon Vorgitch, he chose to act as all three. He may have felt morally justified, but still, he knew that what he did was wrong. So, the question before you is not: "Did Vorgitch deserve to die?". It's "Did Robert Purcell have the right to kill him?". And the answer is no. Leon Vorgitch was a danger to our society, but so is what the defense is asking of you today. They want you to look the other way. Even though Robert Purcell ignored our system of justice, took the law into his own hands, and committed murder in cold blood, they want you to give him a pass. If you let Robert Purcell get away with murder, just because you hate the man he shot, you're telling everyone out there that it's okay to kill, as long as the victim was a bad person. Judges, juries, who needs them? If you want to see insanity, let this murderer go.

    • Robert Purcell: I did exactly what you were trying to do. Everyone agreed he should die.
      Jack McCoy: I was seeking to have Vorgitch legally executed.
      Robert Purcell: And I executed him. How can you come after me for that?
      Jack McCoy: Because New York doesn't have a "Do it yourself" death penalty, Mr. Purcell.

    • Clerk: Docket #48215. People v. Leon Wayne Vorgitch. Charges are 8 counts of murder in the first degree, escape in the first degree, and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.
      Judge Bryce
      : How do you plead, Mr...?
      Leon Vorgitch: Kiss my ass! That's how I plead.
      Judge Bryce: Control your client, counselor.
      Mr. Edlund: I'll do my best, your honor. He pleads not guilty.
      Judge Bryce: And since he's already serving three life sentences for mass murder, bail's not an issue.
      Connie Rubirosa: But which cell he's returned to is, your honor. The defendant obtained the tools for his escape while incarcerated at Green Haven. People ask that corrections place him in a federal super-max facility pending trial.
      Judge Bryce: Mr. Edlund?
      Mr. Edlund: No objection, your honor.
      Judge Bryce: So ordered. (bangs gavel)
      Leon Vorgitch: (to Connie while the court officers take him away) You can lock me up wherever you want, bitch.
      Judge Bryce: We're done! Get him out of here!
      Leon Vorgitch: You can lock me up wherever you want, 'cause that's all you can do. And next time I get out, I'm comin' straight for you, bitch! (to the court officers) Get your hands off me.

    • Arthur Branch: It didn't take Dena Carter long to make political hay.
      Connie Rubirosa: While she's out campaigning for the death penalty, what are we supposed to do without it?

    • Nina Cassady: You're on parole, right? Sheet says you're a meth head.
      Pedro: Recovered meth head!
      (Nina Cassady finds meth in his pocket)
      Nina Cassady: Oh, I guess recovery's not going so hot.

    • Jack McCoy (to Robert Purcell): You weren't a client, you were a campaign slogan.

    • (Leon Vorgitch shoots four girls and then drops the gun before the police enter the room. Det. Green enters and points his gun at Vorgitch's heart.)
      Leon Vorgitch: You can't shoot me. I'm unarmed.
      Ed Green: Why'd you have to shoot them?
      Leon Vorgitch: Why not?

    • Dena Carter: My client believes that shooting Vorgitch was the right thing to do, and if you agree, why are you charging him? And if not, that's a valid defense.

  • NOTES (1)


    • This episode appears to be ripped from the headlines of the Charles Carl Roberts IV / Amish schoolgirl tragedy. In October of 2006, Roberts walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse, taking ten female students hostage and releasing everyone else. Shortly after, Roberts shot the girls and then himself. Five girls and Roberts died. Other parts of this episode appear to be ripped from the headlines of the 2000 Wendy's massacre in New York, in which John Taylor, a former employee, and his accomplice Craig Godineaux took seven people hostage, leaving two alive (this case was mentioned on-air by McCoy). Taylor was sentenced to death, but as of November 2006, is still waiting on death row. Update: On November 29, 2007 John Taylor was sentenced to life without parole for the five murders, as the prosecutor's office had been unsuccessful in having his case declared an exception to a 2004 Appeals Court's decision that found New York's death penalty law unconstitutional because of a flaw in its mandated instructions to the jury.