What happens in the #MeToo era when a defendant makes a less than credible claim of having been abused by the man she killed?
Nolan did pull off another win, though, and that was all for the best, even if it did seem unlikely.
For the second time in as many weeks, Law & Order offered a case with significant overlap with SVU. Will there ever be a crossover between the two series?
This time, Samantha voiced the same concerns that Benson would have: namely, that we’re supposed to believe victims even if they’re unlikable people like Nina Ellis and that attacking a woman’s claims of abuse on the stand is poor form.
We can’t worry about protecting movements. We have to follow the law, regardless of political consequences.
Nolan made some excellent points about how the purpose of criminal trials isn’t to protect political or social movements. But I wish this had been a two-hour crossover event with SVU so that the subject could have been explored more deeply.
Samantha’s concerns weren’t in any way ridiculous or invalid, though the whole exchange did demonstrate some of the problems with the way many people interpret “believe women.”
First of all, there are male survivors too, so the mantra should be “believe survivors.” Otherwise, it implies that male survivors’ word can be questioned while female survivors’ word is sacrosanct, which is a dangerous road to go down.
Leaving that aside, the point isn’t to assume that every accusation is credible without further examining it. Instead, reports of abuse should be taken seriously rather than people in authority assuming the victims are lying and not bothering to investigate.
As far as the trial itself, though, Samantha had a strong point about the jury potentially being alienated if Nolan questioned the abuse allegations.
That shouldn’t have stopped the DA’s office from cross-examining a defendant whose defense depended on those accusations, though. Nolan was right about that.
But there was a simple solution: have Samantha do the cross. The jury might have been more sympathetic if a woman pointed out the problems in the story and closed with how important it is to weed out false accusations so that they didn’t undermine all women’s credibility.
However, that would have been difficult since Samantha didn’t fully believe in this strategy. She seemed to think that they shouldn’t touch the accusations at all so that they wouldn’t accidentally undermine the MeToo movement as a whole.
But how was that supposed to work? Nina’s defense was that she shot Kyle because he was abusing her. There was no way to counteract that without questioning the allegations of abuse.
In the end, it turned out that Abraham Lincoln’s adage about liars still held true and that Nina claimed something that was easily disproven.
McCoy: No man has a good enough memory to be a liar.
Nolan: Abraham Lincoln?
McCoy: Things have changed since his day. Honesty is no longer in vogue. People lie and other people are used to it. It’s become a part of our society. That’s what makes it so dangerous.
That was both sloppy and stupid for someone who was as good a liar as she was. It was almost too convenient.
But then again, Nina painted as a malignant narcissist, and people like that tend to believe that everyone will swallow any lie, no matter how easy it is to disprove. She might not have expected anyone to ever look into her claim that Kyle broke her arm, and even after it was proven that wasn’t the case, she insisted the guilty verdict was wrong.
The question is: was there ANY truth to Nina’s claims? Maybe she didn’t have a broken arm, but it’s possible that Kyle did verbally abuse her, threaten her, or grab her and that she exaggerated her claims to make the jury feel more sorry for her.
That’s something we’ll never know, but it’s an interesting angle to consider.
In any case, I was surprised the jury found her guilty even with all the proof that she lied. People like Nina tend to have better than average skills at convincing people to accept their lies as truth.
It was possible that the jury would have disregarded the facts right in front of them if they felt enough sympathy for her. This win was not a given.
Although I’m glad the jury reached the correct verdict, I’m not sure how I feel about two guilty verdicts in a row.
So far, the formula for the trial part of the series seems to be that Nolan butts heads with both Samantha and McCoy about how to try the case, it looks like he’s going to lose, and then he pulls out a win at the last second.
If that’s the formula, fine. But part of the Law & Order franchise’s brand is that it sometimes shows the inequities of the justice system through miscarriages of justice and other unhappy endings.
I’d rather that than Nolan be this superhero who can never lose. But at the same time, Americans are so often frustrated with the justice system in real life that maybe they need a fantasy about a DA who always manages to get convictions.
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Law & Order airs on NBC on Thursdays at 8 PM EST/PST.