Season 17 - Episode 9: Deadlock

Law & Order

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Leon Vorgitch was being escorted to court for an appeal hearing when he slipped his handcuffs and stabbed both his guards. At the scene of the crime, Green tells Cassady and Van Buren that he was involved in the case that put Vorgitch on death row – the murder of five people in a burger bar. “They changed the law before they got the needle in him,” Green fumes, angry that the murderer lived to kill again.

Green and Cassady set off to interrogate Vorgitch’s friends and family about his whereabouts. His mother has not seen him for eight years. “He murdered five people,” she laments. “Can you imagine knowing you brought a monster into the world?”

Meanwhile, a former cellmate of Vorgitch leads them to an illegal gun dealer, but the fugitive has killed him and is now armed. The police worry that Vorgitch is out for revenge against people who testified against him. However, when they question his best friend they learn that he escaped to see his mother, who has cancer. Green and Cassady catch up with him at the hospital. “He just wanted me to forgive him, but I wouldn’t,” his mother tells them.

Green chases Vorgitch into a nearby school, where he takes a classroom of girls hostage. As the police surround the building they hear gunfire from inside. They break into the classroom to discover that Vorgitch has shot five of the children. “You can’t shoot me,” he smirks. “I’m unarmed.” Green trains his gun on the ruthless killer and struggles not to pull the trigger.

As the case proceeds, the latest massacre puts the DA’s office in a difficult position, as the death penalty in New York state has been suspended due to a legal deadlock. “Either we decline to prosecute Vorgitch or we waste three months on a murder trial with nothing at stake,” reflects McCoy. “No trial for eight dead,” says Rubirosa in disbelief. “We owe the families.” Meanwhile, a politician uses the question mark that hangs over the death penalty to whip up a media storm.

McCoy tries to convince the courts to circumvent the state legislature and overturn the deadlock on the death penalty purely for his case. “What’s the point of having the death penalty if we’re afraid to use it?” he asks the court, but his attempt to change the law is blocked. The case is plunged deeper into controversy when the father of one of the dead schoolgirls takes the law into his own hands and shoots Vorgitch dead.

The politician campaigning for the return of the death penalty becomes the father’s defence lawyer and gets him to plead guilty to manslaughter. This forces the DA’s office to charge him with murder. “You’re playing politics with your client’s defence,” McCoy accuses the politician. In a trial charged with moral ambiguity, public outrage and political opportunism, McCoy face the unenviable task of prosecuting a grieving father. Can he preserve the integrity of the law while also serving justice?

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