SVU’s New Look

SVU recently revealed the actors who are set to replace Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni.  They are Kelli Giddish and Danny Pino. Giddish is known for her role on Chase; Pino played Desi Arnaz in Lucy: The Lucille Ball Story.

So, we’ll be going from this:


to this:

What do you think? [Read more…]

The Top Five Things Hollywood Gets Wrong About Prosecutors — a guest blog by DV expert Roger Canaff

My colleague Allison’s “top five” post on what crime dramas get wrong inspired me to pen something similar, namely the top five things that just plain annoy me when I see my life as prosecutor depicted by Hollywood. In no particular order, here they are:

1. The Grand-Central-Station-sized apartments and offices. Yes, the one with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the major city in which the show is set. Believe me, if I knew the office that paid this well, I’d be camped out offering to sweep up at night. Between crippling law school loans and starting salaries not too much higher than the age of the young ADA herself, the crib isn’t going to look like this unless she’s independently wealthy. Likewise, office space for ADA’s is seldom mahogany-paneled and cavernous. If we just have our own door to shut behind us, we’re grateful.

2. The thirty-year-old superstar.  Before I’m justifiably accused of just being jealous, I’ll point out that there are places in the U.S. where very young ADA’s do get seriously major cases. But those places are usually far, far away from the glittering lights those huge apartments look out over on TV. Major city ADA’s in particular usually wait years for the big cases, even when demonstrably gifted and hard working. Similarly, the savvy, street-wise homicide dick is normally not a cocksure, 25-year-old with perfect hair and expertly tailored suits.

3. Sex, sex, sex.  Okay so maybe I AM just really jealous. But seriously- I’ve prosecuted in three jurisdictions, taught in dozens more, and I’ve yet to find the free-love bacchanal environment depicted in the typical crime show. Without a doubt, a bigger DA’s office can and will have it’s share of incestuous hooking up, and young female prosecutors in particular are sometimes chided for “going cop” by jealous male counterparts. But the way I’ve seen it depicted – judges and lawyers, lawyers and lawyers, judges and perps, lawyers and cops and bailiffs and the Fed Ex guy (and much of this occurring between court calls), I don’t see how any of them could stay awake long enough to try a case.

4. The effortless bon mot.  I know, it’s TV; that’s why no one has offered to watch my actual life, which involves repetitive, profanity-laced preparation for anything I have more than hour to get ready for. But it’s not just that everything on TV looks unrehearsed. Equally annoying is the lengthy quote from the long-dead Supreme Court justice flawlessly evoked at the perfect moment. Or the pincer-like line of questioning that flows effortlessly, based on a surprise revelation that popped up on a bathroom break.

5. The ever-grateful victim (and everyone else).  Domestic violence is an area of prosecution that often yields little more than contempt for the ADA involved. There is often a point reached where literally everyone in the courtroom seems to hate you; the judge, the victim, the perpetrator, the cops involved, the court reporter, etc. It’s often tragic and not to be made light of, but the idea that all victims of crime are thrilled with the system’s involvement in their lives is misleading at best. No, they don’t all gaze at you dewey-eyed like Ingrid Bergman at the end of Casablanca and whisper “God Bless You” when it’s all over. There are times when doing the right thing has to be its own reward. Otherwise, there’s alcohol. And that, TV does sometimes get right. Except most of us don’t drink in the office from crystal decanters.

Roger Canaff was a prosecutor specializing in sex crimes and domestic violence in Virginia and New York for over ten years. He has been employed as a Highly Qualified Expert for the Army’s Judge Advocate General (JAG), where he trained and advised military prosecutors about sex crimes and other special victims’ cases. Currently he serves as president of End Violence Against Women International. Read more at 

*All views on this blog are those of the author’s, alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Justice or any other government agency.  

Happy new year!

SVU’s been running reruns for most of December, but I’m looking forward to watching (and nitpicking) some new episodes in January. Meanwhile, what have you been watching? I’ve been checking out The Good Wife – it has some relatively realistic sex offense cases.  Anyway — happy new year! See you in 2011.

Repeat of “Bullseye”

I was all snuggled up on the couch, bowl of popcorn in one hand, legal pad in the other, when tonight’s SVU episode began to look sneakily familiar.  It was a repeat of Episode #2, Bullseye. You can check out my nitpicks of that episode here. Meanwhile, I’ll post a list of the Top 5 Things TV Crime Shows Get Wrong. 

Stay tuned …

Why Doesn’t She Just Leave Him?

If you read this blog, you know I’m a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., where I specialize in sex crimes and domestic violence. Last week, Simon & Schuster published my debut novel, “Law of Attraction,” about a fictional D.C. prosecutor who specializes in (surprise!) sex crimes and domestic violence. 

I tried to make “Law of Attraction” a fun, past-paced read … but I’m proud that it also tackles some tough issues involved in prosecuting the most intimate crimes. Realistically – unlike some episodes of SVU! 

Historically, there has been a tendency to blame the victim in rape and domestic-violence cases. 

America is slowly getting over the blame-the-victim attitude in rape cases. Nowadays, you don’t hear many folks saying, “She had it coming – just look what she was wearing!” People generally understand that “date rape” is rape, and a woman who goes back to a man’s apartment does not automatically consent to have sex with him. 

Many artificial barriers to bringing rape prosecutions are also now gone. Not long ago, many states had rules barring rape prosecutions if the only witness was the victim (which prevented most prosecutions – rape isn’t a crime that happens in crowded restaurants). Only a few years ago, a man couldn’t be prosecuted for raping his own wife. It took women’s advocates years of tireless work to make this happen, but there has been a seismic shift in American attitudes toward rape 

But this shift hasn’t happened in domestic violence cases. In cases where a woman is repeatedly beaten by her husband or boyfriend, people still ask the question: “Why didn’t she just leave him?” This is an important question – but it tends to cast the blame on the victim. 

In “Law of Attraction,” I tried to answer the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave him?” My heroine is a beautiful young prosecutor named Anna Curtis, who suffered a violent childhood herself. She takes her job personally. And she’s devastated when a DV victim lies under oath to protect her abusive lover. The man goes free, the victim turns up dead, and Anna is heartsick and determined to bring the killer to justice. Standing in Anna’s way is her own boyfriend, a public defender representing the accused. As her personal and professional lives collide, she struggles to understand why she and so many women are attracted to men who hurt them. 

Although the story covers some serious themes and weaves through the grittiest streets of D.C., there’s some good old-fashioned fun: a wine-soaked summer romance, inter-office flirtations among Washington’s Ivy-League lawyers, and of course plenty of mystery and courtroom drama. 

I’m thrilled when I hear that folks are enjoying the novel. But, I’m also happy to think that, while enjoying the story, readers will also learn what it’s really like to prosecute the most intimate crimes in D.C. – and why some women don’t “just leave him.” 

This essay was originally posted as an interview on Jungle Red Writers, to commemorate National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is this October.  All the views expressed here are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Justice.