This week on Law & Order: SVU, an ex-star quarterback is arrested for soliciting a 14-year-old prostitute as part of a sting operation. But the case isn’t black and white, as the aging athlete’s mental state is brought into question after constant hits and injuries from playing football.
A man reports his 14-year-old daughter missing. What’s important about this man is that he knows Amaro’s wife, who’s stationed overseas and told him to contact SVU. The girl is a prostitute who seems to be under control of her so-called boyfriend. Olivia really pushes to get a sting operation after the boyfriend/pimp gives up the names of some johns.
The operation is going well until the final man, Jake Stanton. He’s a famous — but now old — quarterback. And Olivia wants to make an example out of him.
The wife appeals to Olivia after Stanton, released on bail, is arrested once again after exposing himself in the women’s bathroom of a restaurant.
The couple can’t travel anymore. He gets too disoriented. An MRI is inconclusive. The only thing the doctors have told her is not to let him out of her sight. On top of that, they’re in financial distress and can’t get their own lawyer. And Jake’s too proud to ask the league for help, and to admit that he has a mental disease.
The detectives wonder whether Stanton has CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease. It would make sense, since he endured so many hits to the head and concussions during his career.
Asking for Help
At first Olivia admits that she’s seen an athlete use an insanity plea. But with Stanton, his recent episodes are out of character for him. She feels guilty because she sees both sides — she was the one who pushed for the sting and wanted to prosecute all johns. But she’s also seeing a wife who’s struggling to take care of a husband with a mental disease, who may not have known what he was doing was wrong, or even remembered later.
Since Stanton needs a lawyer, Olivia gives the card of Bayard Ellis, the powerful public defender SVU clashed with earlier in the season.
On the stand, we learn more about CTE thanks to a medical expert, especially how the disease can only be diagnosed during an autopsy. So the defense argues that everything that Stanton says he did was because of his condition is pure speculation. You see how this is complicated.
Stanton also doesn’t help his own case. He’s only hurting himself on the stand, sounding like someone who knew exactly what he was doing.
Changing the Plan
Ellis is in a tough spot. He has to prove that his client didn’t know what he was doing, which is hard when the client is uncooperative. So he changes his game plan when he calls Stanton back up to the stand.
He asks questions — simple ones like how long he’s been married to his wife, what number he wore when he played football. But then he continues to ask the same questions and throw new ones in as well, and then asks him to repeat what he asked him. Stanton, clearly agitated, cannot. He’s exhausted and doesn’t know why he’s being badgered. He even asks for a lawyer. Clearly, his mental state is not strong.
The jury clears Stanton of the charges. He’s celebrating with his wife, still fully unaware of what he’s done. All that he knows is he won, so it’s a happy occasion, right? Not when he asks his wife whether he actually committed the crime. The look in his eyes when his wife says he did is completely heartbreaking. He’s not only sincerely sorry, but he doesn’t even remember.
Outside, the couple are in front of the microphones and flashing cameras. Stanton seems well, using football analogies to describe his victory, when all of a sudden, his vision gets cloudier from all the flashing of the lightbulbs. When a police officer wants to get a photo with him, Stanton grabs his gun and points it to his head. Olivia and Amaro draw their weapons, trying to calm down a distressed Stanton. Eventually Stanton lowers his gun, but not before turning his body away from the detectives and his wife being held back by Ellis and shoots himself in the chest.
I definitely did not see that ending coming. I thought it would end with Stanton lowering his gun — I didn’t think he would actually shoot himself. It was one of the most depressing episodes that I can remember. It was also one of the best. We slowly see the disease getting worse throughout the episode, and it was really sad. We see these athletes on our televisions and on the field. We don’t really think twice about the long-term effects of constant blows to the body and head. But it’s something they have to live with for the rest of their lives.
(Image courtesy of NBC)