Summary: A drunk 14-year-old boy breaks into the home of a 34-year-old woman, takes off his clothes, and passes out naked in her bed. When she finds him there (interrupting an already awkward first date), she calls the cops. The kid is arrested and falsely accuses Elliot of “touching his junk” during the processing. Elliot becomes obsessed with the kid and follows him around, despite a police lieutenant’s admonitions to back off. The DA charges the kid as an adult, but then allows him to plead to probation in return for dropping his lawsuit against Elliot. A day later, a woman is raped and murdered in a NYC alleyway. DNA testing shows that the rapist is this kid – and he’s raped five other women in Oregon. Despite mounting evidence, the kid’s mother won’t believe her son could do anything wrong. But she tells the police that the kid was molested by his female babysitter when he was seven. While she’s making this revelation, the kid returns to his old babysitter’s house and kills her.
What they got right: The portrayal of the kid’s mom was very realistic. If there is anyone who is willing to stand by the side of a serial rapist, it’s his mother. I’ve seen countless women refuse to believe that the man they love could do any wrong, even when evidence is overwhelming. I had a case where a 14-year-old girl’s stepfather raped her, she got pregnant, had the baby (who looked just like Stepdad) and DNA testing proved he was the father. The girl’s mother refused to believe that her husband had sex with her daughter. It was too terrible for her to contemplate, so she chose to disbelieve her daughter and the science. There’s often little to gain from trying to convince the suspect’s Mom of the bad things her son did. She will believe him over you any day. It’s just nature. As law enforcement, the key is marshaling enough evidence to convince a jury.
Kids can be tried as adults if their crimes are heinous enough. Each state has its own rules. In D.C. the rule allowing prosecutors to try minors as adults is called Title 16, and it applies only to the most serious violent crimes. Not every minor who’s eligible will be tried as an adult. In making the decision, prosecutors consider the suspect’s criminal record, the severity crime he’s accused of committing, the strength of the current case, and the likelihood that he’ll re-offend.
The system where the suspect is tried is important. In the juvenile justice system, the goal is rehabilitation, so the focus is on counseling. In the adult justice system, the main goals are punishment and deterrence, so the focus is incarceration. Additionally, if you’re convicted in the juvenile system, you’ll have no criminal records after you become an adult, and your sentence can’t go past your 21st birthday.
Another thing this show got right was that suspects often make claims against the cops that arrest them. Like the beat cop said in this episode, “Every drug bust I ever made claimed that I planted the drugs.” Prosecutors and the Internal Affairs branch of the police department have to carefully sort out the few legitimate claims from the countless bogus ones.
What They Got Wrong: This kid wouldn’t have been tried as an adult for sleeping naked in a woman’s bed. For the other stuff we eventually learned, yes, sure. But the initial crime was a stretch for adult prosecution – it wasn’t very serious and the kid had no criminal history.
Elliot should have gotten off this case, and stopped making any contact with the kid, as soon as the kid accused him of molesting him. But you knew that.
I’ve never heard of a 14-year-old serial rapist. It’s rare to find a 40-year-old with 8 confirmed victims. That said, if there was such a predator, he probably would have been molested himself as a child. History tends to repeat itself with sex crimes.
Finally, in real life, poor Elliott would be fighting off the kid’s false charges of molestation for the next two decades.
All the views expressed on this website are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the view of the U.S. Department of Justice.