Follow TV Tropes


Awesome / Law & Order

Go To

"In the series about the criminal justice system, Moments Of Awesome are shared by two separate, yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are those moments."


    open/close all folders 
     Season 1 
  • In the controversial Season 1 episode "Life Choice", ADA Ben Stone is prosecuting Rose Schwimmer, a radical pro-life activist who planted a bomb on fellow pro-lifer Mary Donovan (who was going to a clinic to have an abortion) in order to turn Donovan into both an unwitting suicide bomber and a martyr for the pro-life movement. When Schwimmer takes the stand, she begins an impassioned rant about Stone putting her on trial and tries to justify her actions by saying she believes bombing abortion clinics to protect unborn children is protecting life. The judge tries to remove Schwimmer from the courtroom, but Stone interjects and receives permission to ask her one simple question:
    Stone: If abortion is murder, then no matter how you feel towards Mary Donovan, aren't you guilty of the murder of her unborn child?
    • The look on Schwimmer's face when she realizes she can't answer the question is priceless.
  • When Ben Stone discovers a defendant he plea-bargained was the only participant in the crime:
    Attorney: Are you threatening me?
    Stone: Why, yes, I am.
  • Paul Robinette got one early in the first season episode "Out of the Half-Light", in which a black teenager claims she was raped by white police officers and a publicity hungry congressman uses this to inflame racial tensions. By the end of the episode, Robinette finds out the whole thing started as a lie to the girls parents that spun out of control. As he privately confronts the congressman with this evidence, we get this exchange:
    Congressman Eaton: You look me in the eye and you tell me this system is just. That this system is equal.
    Robinette: Sometimes the system stinks, Eaton. I know that as well as you do. But don't tell me for one damn minute that tearing down a 200 year old justice system, no matter how flawed, is going to alter the consciousness of a society! We're past the separate drinking fountain stage. We're past legal discrimination. We're at the hearts and minds stage. And believe me, there's no quick fix.
    Congressman Eaton: Another zombified soul casts his vote for order rather than justice. Negative peace over positive peace.
    Robinette: Paraphrasing Martin Luther King's thoughts won't lend credence to yours. King walked with the angels. You'd slide in slime on your belly to get what you want.
  • The Abusive Parents from "Indifference" (Season 1, Episode 9) severely physically abused their elder daughter (resulting in the child's death) and both have shown a large indifference to said daughter's death or their son. They get karma in two big ways:
    • Mrs. Perez, the girl's teacher, testifies on seeing marks on the girl's body that indicated physical abuse. When she is about to leave, she gives just one word to the mother. Just one and its effect is lasting.
      Mrs. Perez: Bitch.
    • The scene where Stone questions Dr. Lowenstein when he’s on the stand is amazing to watch. Stone is absolutely livid at this man for what he’s done, and it shows. And while he does raise his voice once or twice during the questioning, he doesn’t completely lose his composure despite how badly he wants to take this asshole down.
      Stone: Now, Dr. Lowenstein, you have previously testified that when you came home just before midnight, Carla told you that she had hit Didi earlier that evening, is that correct?
      Dr. Lowenstein: Well, I certainly didn’t think it anything serious.
      Stone: And you also testified that when you came home, Didi was laying in the middle of your living room floor in her school clothes.
      Dr. Lowenstein: I thought she was sleeping.
      Stone: Does she usually spend the night on a parkay floor without a blanket?
      Dr. Lowenstein: Of course not.
      Stone: Did you go to Didi and check to see if she was alright?
      Dr. Lowenstein: ...I-I didn’t feel it was necessary.
      Stone: Even with a blood stain under her head?
      Dr. Lowenstein: I didn’t see that.
      Stone: (grabs a photo of the desk and gives it to him) Please, sir, I direct you to examine People’s Exhibit #37; it is a photograph of a blood stain on your living room floor. A blood stain measuring 27 inches by 38 inches. A blood stain the size of a small rug!
      Dr. Lowenstein: It was dark... there wasn’t, uh, many lights about...
      Stone: So when you saw your unconscious daughter on the floor and that stain on the same floor, did you pick up a phone and call 911?
      Dr. Lowenstein: I already—
      Stone: Did you pick up a phone and call her pediatrician?
      Dr. Lowenstein: You’re twisting everything I say!
      Stone: Did you even bother to pick up Didi, or did you leave her in a pool of her own blood?
    • The judge gives this brutal teardown on the two at the end.
      Judge Erdheim: As eloquent as your counsel was in your behalf, you are not the victim here, Mrs. Lowenstein. The victim was an innocent 6-year-old girl who couldn't defend herself. On the count of manslaughter in the first degree, the court sentences you to 7-10 years in a women's correctional facility. [to Dr. Lowenstein] As for you, sir, from this seat, I thought I had witnessed every degradation, every monstrosity possible, but you, Doctor, are beyond contempt. You have helped a woman destroy herself. You engineered the tragedy of a little girl's death. But you took pretty good care of yourself, didn't you?
      Dr. Lowenstein: Your honor, I've lost my family.
      Judge Erdheim: Yes, you have. Jacob Lowenstein, having been found guilty of murder in the second degree by depraved indifference to human life, this court sentences you to 25 years to life in a state penitentiary.
  • Don Cragen gets his moment near the end of "The Blue Wall" when, after finally being forced to confront the truth that his mentor in the force is a dirty cop, decides to nail the bastard himself by taping a conversation in which he requests to get in on the action since his name has already been smeared across the precinct. Don's tape becomes the key piece of evidence that leads to the chief's conviction, along with an accomplice evidence clerk and a U.S. Congressman.
     Season 3 
  • Ben Stone was really good at these. In "Conduct Unbecoming", Stone manages to secure an indictment against a Navy Captain for the murder of a young female Lieutenant. Captain Bunker takes the stand in his own defense, and during cross-examination, Stone tells the jury about the officers who had served in the same prestigious position at the U.S. Naval Academy: all of the other men who served in the position were now Admirals and hold important commands, while Captain Bunker received no promotion and command of a relatively minor warship due to a prior complaint filed against him by the murder victim. Stone continues to press on about several incidents where the Captain assaulted prostitutes while on shore leave until he hits the right trigger:
    Stone: What about the prostitute eyewitnesses saw you with, Miss Tammy White? They reported that you got very angry towards her-
    Captain: That bitch deserved it!
    Stone: ...Which bitch is it, Sir? Lieutenant Hagen...or Tammy White?
    • Earlier, Captain Bunker is railing against Stone daring to put him on trial:
    Bunker: I have served my country for thirty years! You have no right to judge me!
    Stone: I'm not judging you, sir; that's up to your conscience and twelve honest citizens. And I assure you, the latter wil be less generous to you than the former.
  • A corrupt CEO who sold defective pacemakers is faced with three murder charges. Realizing he has no way of avoiding a seventy-five year sentence:
    CEO: Okay. Fine. I make deals for living, I can make one more. I am a businessman. What are you offering?
    Ben Stone: I'm not a businessman, sir. I offer you nothing.
     Season 4 
  • The amount of contempt Stone could put in a single "sir" was truly a thing of beauty. In "American Dream":
    Ben Stone: I guess you just weren't clever enough.
    Phillip Swann: I got this far, Ben.
    Ben Stone: A lot of effort to wind up right back where you started. And in polite society, sir, you don't call people by their first name unless they ask you to. I didn't do that. You're not a friend, and you're certainly not a colleague.
  • In "Profile", the police arrest a man who had been shooting minorities feeling that they got special treatment and had "invaded" his old neighborhood. One of the victims (an elderly black man) survives, and testifies against him. When the defense attorney asks how the victim is so sure his client was the shooter (it was night and the man was wearing a cap pulled down), the victim gives a beautiful response.
    Mr. Jackson: I remember the voice of the first white man who told me not to come in his store. I remember the voice of the doctor who told me I had a healthy son. And I remember the voice of the man who took out a gun and shot me.
    • Even earlier than that, when they talk to him first about how he survived: he turned and ran from the guy when the gun came out, where the other victims mostly froze.
    Mr. Jackson: D-Day, 761st Battalion, Omaha Beach. I saw what happened to people who didn't break for cover!
  • In "Wager", Ben Stone is interviewing someone involved in a murder-for-hire, a Scary Black Man who threatens Stone during the interview. Stone, clearly less than impressed, takes off his glasses and delivers his own, very eloquent threat.
    Ben Stone: Mr. Lang, I get the feeling that you did this for hire. Now, I can charge you with murder, and if you don't start talking you're the one who's going to be serving a life sentence.
    Joey 'Dogs' Lang: Well, if I'm going for one, I might as well go for the deuce.
    Ben Stone: Is that a threat, sir?
    Joey 'Dogs' Lang: I could be over this table and crack your head before that clown could do anything about it. See, I'm not going down for something I *didn't* do.
    Ben Stone: Sir, you just threatened a man who could charge you with murder. And right now, I don't give a damn about your innocence. So what good did that do you?

     Season 6 
  • DA Adam Schiff was everyone's favorite curmudgeon, but in "Jeopardy", he gets his own Awesome Moment. An old law school friend of his - who is now a judge - throws out a triple-murder case against the son of a wealthy family, and when Schiff orders an investigation of the judge's finances, the police and the DA's office discover the family matriarch secured a favorable loan for the judge to keep him from being financially ruined. Schiff personally goes down to the 27th Precinct, walks into the interrogation room where the judge is being questioned—and with just a look, gets Jack, the cops, and the man's lawyer to leave, tells the cops to turn off the audio pickup, and then proceeds to quietly ask the judge why he did it. The judge says his wife left him and was cleaning him out in the divorce, and the bribe was too good to resist - and he also claims claims McCoy would've lost the case anyway. Schiff, disgusted, tells him it shouldn't have mattered - he's going to tell the police everything, and then spend a very long time in prison.
    • Jack McCoy gets one in this episode as well by successfully convincing a new judge to vacate the original dismissal of the case, as double jeopardy protections did not attach at the rigged trial ("This defendant was never in jeopardy to begin with"). After securing a second chance to convict the murderer, McCoy manages to squeeze a plea bargain out of said murderer by threatening to convict his mother - the family matriarch who bribed the judge in the original trial - of bribery and conspiracy and send her to prison.
    Schiff: "You got around double jeopardy. You climbed Everest in your shorts, on a very cold day."
  • In “Slave,” a suspect flees when confronted by Briscoe, Curtis, and Van Buren, who were staking out his residence. As he runs up a flight of stairs, Van Buren grabs him, drags him back down said stairs, and proceeds to slam him into the wall before cuffing him. It’s one of the few times we get to see her in action in the field, and shows she’s a force to be reckoned with.
     Season 7 
  • Season 7, episode 1 gave us Mrs. Rankin, the victim. The first shot is of her pleading with an unseen man, trying to talk him down from killing her. She seems oddly in control of her voice, until he takes her out of the car. At that point, she starts screaming and fighting. Later on, we learn Mrs. Rankin wasn't doing nothing: she carried a tape recorder on her, to record her lectures for the classes she was teaching, and had secretly used it to record her conversation in the car with the killer. The tape recorder was found in her purse where the killer dumped it, but the cassette? Found near where she was killed. That means she had to have somehow slipped the tape out of the recorder under the killer's nose, then dropped it without him noticing. It's rare we get an awesome victim on the show, but Mrs. Rankin certainly counts.
     Season 8 
  • A small moment in the episode "Navy Blues" during an interview with the suspect, Lt. Blair's, landing training officer. Throughout the episode, Miss Ross has been trying to turn this into a gender issue in regards to the Navy's policies, and gets ruffled when the officer states he wouldn't have qualified Blair if the Navy hadn't ordered him to get female officers through ASAP. She demands to know what he has against female pilots, and he states it's not female pilots, it's bad pilots. He goes on to say that she had 5 downs- critical mistakes made while flying- where most pilots were permitted only two, and hands them a recording of her training run that he kept just in case. Gutsy, considering the Navy had been going to great lengths to protect Blair earlier and probably would have come after him if they'd known he made it.
    • Skoda in "Faccia a Faccia", when he's asked to evaluate an old mafia don to determine if he's truly mentally incompetent. Skoda starts mocking the old man, talking about how this great old gangster was reduced to crapping in a diaper. His grandson, who is in the room and much larger than Skoda, gets enraged and imposes himself between his grandfather and him. Skoda quickly apologizes. Turns out it was all a Batman Gambit to see if the "mentally incompetent" mafioso had the awareness to move away from the fight (he did).
  • Jamie Ross gets one of these in Season 8's "Ritual" when the local Egyptian ambassador is stonewalling her. After brushing her off, he leaves his office for a meeting, only to find that his car is being towed for unpaid parking tickets. When he protests diplomatic immunity
    Ross: You have it. Your car doesn't. We can have it towed...and towed...and towed.
    • Cut to a scene of Ross telling Schiff and McCoy that she's been assured they're now the ambassador's top priority.
     Season 9 
  • In the episode "True North", Jack McCoy prosecutes Stephanie Harker, who ran over a rich guy's wife so she could marry him, then years later hired a friend of hers to kill the guy and his daughter, then murdered her friend. She had lived in Niagara Falls and was ashamed of her humble beginnings, and had a lot of hatred for the rich even as she craved their lifestyle. When Jack gets her on the stand he pokes a bunch of holes in her story, getting her more and more worked up, then really starts pushing her buttons.
    McCoy: Your good friend Wendy told us that you'd been dumped before. Is that right?
    Stephanie Harker: It happens.
    McCoy: By a rich boy who treated you like trash. Your father owned a souvenir stand, right?
    Stephanie Harker: Yes.
    McCoy: Is that why the boy dumped you?
    Stephanie Harker: There is nothing wrong with the souvenir stand.
    McCoy: Then why were you so desperate to get out of there?
    Stephanie Harker: I had some bad memories.
    McCoy: Of being dumped because you were poor trash?
    Stephanie Harker: Look, I was an idiot! He wanted one thing: My body, and he got it!
    McCoy: You weren't gonna let that happen again, were you?
    Stephanie Harker: No!
    McCoy: From then on, you were going to be the one using people.
    Stephanie Harker: I don't use people!
    McCoy: How 'bout the used car king? How 'bout your husband?
    Stephanie Harker: I helped my husband in a lot of ways!
    McCoy: The chairman of a multi-million-dollar software company? How exactly does a drug-whacked daughter of a souvenir-stand owner help him?
    Stephanie Harker: There were a lot of things my husband didn't understand! Him and his friends! Jane Austen, like that matters.
    McCoy: He understood you, though, didn't he?
    Stephanie Harker: What do you mean?
    McCoy: He finally understood you were just a hick-town party girl who didn't belong here!
    Harker's Lawyer: Objection! He's harassing the witness.
    Judge: Sustained. Watch it, Mr. McCoy.
    Stephanie Harker: I belong here as much as any of them!
    McCoy: Did he tell you he was shipping you out?!
    Stephanie Harker: Nobody ships me anywhere!
    McCoy: He'd be able to face his friends again, wouldn't he?
    Stephanie Harker: The bunch of snobs!
    Harker's Lawyer: Your honor, may we have a recess?
    McCoy: It's not being a snob if they're really better than you!
    Stephanie Harker: The women were jealous of me! The men all wanted to get me in bed!
    McCoy: And you were happy to oblige!
    Stephanie Harker: No! Not anymore! Nobody takes advantage of me anymore!
    McCoy: You were on your way back to that souvenir stand, weren't you?! Where you belong?
    Stephanie Harker: I am smarter than all of them! They had it handed to them! I had to work for it! They think I was trash? They don't know anything!!
    • You could have felt sorry for her if she hadn't been such a psychopath. By the time he's finished with her, the jury had no problem convicting her AND giving her the death penalty.
    • Abbie gets one when a Canadian bank refuses to cooperate with a subpoena for bank records, citing a directive from their government. She points out that while the bank may be based in Canada, the office they are standing in is in Manhattan and unless the Canadian Army is coming to help them pack up their stuff the police will just seize everything and take a few weeks to sort through it. She gets the records.
  • In Season 9's "Agony", a Smug Snake of a serial killer is about to get off scot free with six murders - after leading the D.A's office to the bodies - after finding out he didn't commit the crime he pleaded guilty to (he led them to the other bodies by claiming he was speaking theoretically, so he hasn't technically implicated himself). Abbie is appropriately pissed, and wants to let him plead to the crime anyway, but McCoy refuses, much to Abbie's disdain. But then McCoy gets a better idea, and asks Abbie if she still has letterhead from her time at the Houston DA's office. In the following scene, they show him a supposed extradition request from Texas, and inform him they're dropping all the lesser charges to make it easier for Texas to extradite. In desperation, the killer agrees to confess to one of the other killings in order to avoid being sent to a death penalty state.
    • The best part is Abbie's response when the killer tries to argue the extradition based on his previous confession, a perfect Ironic Echo of her conversation with McCoy.
      Abbie: We can't have you plead to a crime you didn't commit. That would be wrong.
  • Peter Kelly from "Admissions" was an Upper-Class Twit Jerkass who kept stonewalling investigators by protecting his friend Dennis Michaels who killed his pregnant mistress and throwing in their faces how inept they are. Kelly's father then comes in, seemingly in blind support of him...only for him to threaten to cut him off financially and leave him in prison unless he tells the truth. He not only turns on his friend, but Michaels' going to prison, the victim's father is going to file a wrongful death suit against him and Kelly ends up expelled.
     Season 10 
  • The case (in "Fools for Love") deserves mention as well. The killers were a boyfriend-and-girlfriend team who raped and murdered several women, including the girlfriend's younger sister. (The case was inspired by Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo.) The girlfriend claims she only went along with it all because she feared for her life, so the cops and DAs give her a light plea agreement and go after the boyfriend. But as things move along it becomes clear that she's as bad as he is, and maybe even worse. They convict the boyfriend, and then at the girlfriend's allocution McCoy starts asking her questions that expose to everyone (including, unfortunately, her parents) how depraved she is. The judge rejects the plea agreement. The defense attorney objects, saying that McCoy baited the judge, and the judge just says, "Well it worked."
     Season 11 
  • Despite her short run, DA Nora Lewin gets one near the end of "Judge Dread", when she calmly tells off Hanging Judge Linda Karlin for Karlin's sentences. note  The defendant's desperation to avoid decades in prison had driven him to hire (and not repudiate) a hitman with the help of another prisoner sentenced by Judge Karlin. Karlin, however, is incredulous that Jack and Abbie offered him a plea deal, which also covered his original fraud charge. Nora's "The Reason You Suck" Speech states in no uncertain terms that "any judge who reflexively imposes the maximum in every case just forces the hard decisions on the rest of us."

     Season 12 
Jenny Snyder's Calling Your Parents Out "The Reason You Suck" Speech from "Dazzled".
Jenny Snyder: [Crying] Oh, my God. You two are so pathetic! You run around, like, throwing bombs at each other when everything was falling apart!
Don Snyder: I don't want you to say another word. Do you understand me? Sweetheart, do you understand me?
Jenny Snyder: So, now, like, you're going to be my father again, is that it?
Dr. Claire Snyder:Jenny, honey, don't.
Jenny Snyder: Mom, I'm sorry.
Don Snyder: Come on, let's go. We're getting out of here.
Jenny Snyder: [Screams] You can't tell me what to do! Not anymore! [to Claire]
Jenny Snyder: You were drinking you were taking that drug and passing out every night. [to Don]
Jenny Snyder: And you were following that stupid bitch around and the whole time she was making a fool of you. She didn't love you she just wanted your money.
Jenny Snyder: [Crying] I took some Dazzle from my mom. The same night we carried you out of the bath. I hid it at Dad's and I just waited for the right time.
Jack McCoy: What happened the night Kate died?
Jenny Snyder: Dad had to work late. Kate went to her apartment to paint. I got the Dazzle, I left Tim at Dad's and I went over to Kate's. We hung out for a while... She was so happy 'cause I was, like, finally coming around. So I asked her to see the roof. She was always bragging what a great place she had, how cool her life was. And after a while she put her glass down and I just put it in when she turned her back. We kept talking, and then after a couple of minutes she got really dizzy. I helped her so she could lean against the rail and then I... Everything was falling apart. Someone had to do something. You weren't going to do it. So I did.
  • "Oxymoron": The Body of the Week is a doctor who was working with a drug dealer, Tommy Avakian, writing fake prescriptions until she got too uncomfortable and tried to back out, at which point Avakian killed her. McCoy bluffs Avakian a bit, making their case sound stronger than it is. Avakian confesses to the murder but agrees, in return for no jail time, to testify against his father, a major gangster who had been in witness protection but was suspected of re-entering the drug trade. The elder Avakian tries to get the DA's office interested in some information he has, but when that doesn't work out his son gets out of his plea deal thanks to some skillful lawyering (though the judge does say that if he takes the stand to deny his guilt McCoy can still introduce his murder confession). McCoy is more than a little annoyed by now and is pretty sure both Avakians together engineered getting their cases to fall apart, leading to this conversation:
    Simels: Why should he plead? You have no case now.
    McCoy: On the murder charge, maybe not. But you're forgetting the oxycodone he had in his possession when we arrested him.
    Southerlyn: Possession with intent. It's a B felony.
    Simels: You can't make out intent with that amount.
    McCoy: With the pharmacist's testimony, that he was in cahoots with your client, it shouldn't be that hard.
    Avakian: You think that wimp is actually gonna show up at court?
    Southerlyn: We have him in protective custody as a material witness.
    Simels: So then my client will take the stand and say that this guy's lying. That the pills the police found on him were for his bad back.
    McCoy: Except your client can't testify. According to Judge Kerner's ruling, if he takes the stand we can introduce his murder confession.
    [Avakian and his lawyer both get an Oh, Crap! look on their faces]
    Avakian: So? I blow trial on the drugs... and do a few years.
    McCoy: You don't just do a little jail time. You have two felony convictions.
    Southerlyn: Which makes you a discretionary persistent felon. You're facing a life sentence just as if we were trying you on a murder charge.
    [The Oh, Crap! look gets worse]
    • Avakian is left with no choice but to testify against his father for real, and this time he doesn't get a no-jail-time plea agreement.

     Season 13 
  • A small one but no less awesome one in the season premiere "American Jihad", when Ed gives a particularly annoying Insufferable Genius suspect a beautiful Shut Up, Hannibal!.
    Suspect: "Very good. A primate can regurgitate what it heard. Nice. Let's move on to sentences."
    Ed: "Let me ask you something."
    Suspect: "Primate? It's like a monkey."
    Ed: "No, I want to ask you about Einstein's theory. Because I'm not sure he was right."
    Suspect: "Headline! Cop cracks relativity!"
    Ed: "No, not that theory. His theory on genius. See, and correct me if I'm wrong, Einstein said that genius has no personality. But you proved a negative. You definitely have a personality. And it makes this primate wanna whoop your ass. Now say something."
  • D.A. Branch gets in a good one in "Bitch". The Martha Stewart expy tries to use her connections, money and the fact that she's a woman in the business world to get away with sleeping with her daughter's fiancee, killing him in a supposed PMS rage and engaging in illegal insider trading. When she tries to invoke the former (namely in using her connections to him to manipulate things in her favor), this angers him to the point of threatening to go back into court himself and exposing her secrets including all of her other underhanded business dealings and every man she ever slept with. This drives her to have a breakdown.
     Season 14 
  • In the episode "Shrunk", psychologist Emil Skoda is interviewing a man who murdered a woman by stabbing her eight times. The man is unbalanced and troubled. At the end of the interview, the man loses control and gets right in Skoda's face. An orderly rushes in and Skoda, without taking his eyes from the man or losing his cool in the slightest, raises his hand to stop the orderly so he can finish his interview.
     Season 15 
  • The episode “Fixed” is honestly almost an entire episode of awesome for the murderer. Why? Because of who the victim was; none other than Jacob Lowenstein, the abusive father from the Season 1 episode, “Indifference”. After getting released on parole after 15 years in prison for the murder of his daughter Didi, he soon moves in with his new girlfriend Cheryl and her two children. Only to get mowed down in a hit and run. He survives long enough to tell police that he believes that it was deliberate, and proves to still be the Jerkass he was 15 years before, taking no responsibility for what happened to his daughter and blaming everyone else for his incarceration. He soon dies of his injuries, and Green and Fontana soon find the driver of the car that hit him; his own prison therapist, Joyce Draper. Why did she do it? During their therapy sessions, Lowenstein taunted Joyce and all but openly threatened that after he got out of prison, he’d do to Cheryl’s kids what he had done to Didi. After his release, Joyce checked in with Cheryl, and discovered that her daughter broke her arm in an “accident” shortly after Lowenstein moved in with them. Joyce ran him down because she didn’t want what happened to Didi to happen to anyone else. And even better? She got away with it!
     Season 16 
  • In "Cost of Capital":
    Judge: I'm allowing every bit of this depravity into evidence to impeach your client's alibi.
  • In the episode "Red Ball", a little girl is kidnapped. The perp, life-long criminal offender Dwight Jacobs, is caught shortly after, but he knows enough about the justice system to exploit it: Jacobs says he'll only reveal the girl's location if the prosecution offers him a plea bargain with no jail time. McCoy, who realizes he's working against time, tries everything possible to both rescue the girl and put Jacobs in jail — but he's eventually stonewalled by the system, which is when he realizes he can't save the girl and put the bad guy away. (This is one of the few times McCoy comes close to legitimately punching a suspect, judging by the look on his face.) McCoy finally succumbs and takes the deal so the girl can be saved from dying. When Jacobs appears to be getting off scot-free, the presiding judge — who had been described as a stubborn battleax — proclaims she won't accept the plea bargain, since honoring the deal would be a "perversion of due process". The judge cranks Jacobs' sentence to the max, which results in a massive Villainous Breakdown as the cops drag him out of the courtroom:
    Dwight Jacobs: That's not right. We had a deal. You can't do this!
    Deirdre Hellstrom: You had no deal with me, Mr. Jacobs.
    Dwight Jacobs: We had a deal! Son of a bitch! We had a deal, you son of a bitch! WE HAD A DEAL!!
    • Why did the judge refuse to take the plea as it was written? DA Arthur Branch had, in a way, encouraged her to do so after figuring out Jack was preparing to make the plea bargain — which was a variation of a trick McCoy himself pulled in an earlier episode to get out of a plea bargain he'd made with a murderer.
  • In "Acid", the egotistical scumbag criminal threw acid in the face of his former girlfriend because she rejected him. He acts quite arrogant about being convicted...up until his victim's sister calmly enters into his apartment to throw vinegar in his face, which angered him enough to admit his crime. And at one point, she managed to slap him after he called her sister a "slut".
    • Gets even better at the end when the own criminal's lawyer tells him point-blank to shut up and the lawyer doesn't even bring up asking for a deal for the asshole. Why? Because the lawyer has daughters of his own.
     Season 17 
  • "Over Here" has McCoy and Rubirosa visiting the inadequate VA Hospital that the suspect was in when an injured soldier held the door open for that and after Jack thanked him, the man whispered in his ear to check out the closed wing. Upon doing so, they viewed horrid conditions such as asbestos covered ceilings and the presence of vermin throughout. This infuriated McCoy to the point of reporting about it in open court, even as the U.S. Army had previously warned him not to. In the end, as annoyed as Branch was that he went against the authorities, he still was happy that he did what he did (since it shone a light on the apathy shown towards injured veterans) and was more than willing to defend McCoy at his disciplinary hearing.
  • Connie Rubirosa's closing argument in "The Family Hour" easily qualifies as one of these.
    Connie: There is nothing imagined about the wrongs of Trina's childhood. Whatever she was in her adult life, she learned from a master. Randall Bailey had a pathological need to abuse his daughter. A need that he finally took to its logical, deadly conclusion. And thanks to a tricked-up claim of self-defense that has been a staple of crime fiction for decades, he thinks he can get away with it. But consider this. 6-foot, 180 pounds vs. 5' 5", 110 pounds. Consider 13 deep, devastating stab wounds vs. 8 pin pricks. Consider what it took to drive this knife through meat and bone into the body of his own daughter. (stabs a book with Randall's knife repeatedly) Not once. Not twice. But 13 times! This was not paternal love, or instinct! No! It was murderous rage! (stabs once more)
    • And before Connie's awesome moment, Cassidy got hers by coolly deflecting the criminal's lawyer accusing the detective of pretending to have seen the defendant stab himself in order to get back at him for his earlier jerkass moments. This is made even more amazing given how much of impulsive, hot-head she can be.
      Cassidy: Mr. Glover, if I really had it in for your client, I could have dropped him with a justifiable shooting when I found him stabbing his own daughter to death. But I didn't, because I exercised the control I learned in my training. That control is why your client is alive today.
  • McCoy's takedown of a "Girls Gone Wild"-esque producer who raped a woman is also an awesome speech.
    McCoy: "You've had quite a run for someone so long. Exploiting unsuspecting college kids. Taking advantage of their youth, their innocence, their vulnerability. And if they change their minds, to Hell with them! A release is a release! Like it or not, the world is going to see you naked! Unless you pay me. Or screw me. That's a lot of heartache. A lot of ruined lives. And no one could touch you. But now, you are directly responsible for a death. And I intend to make you pay for that. Am I happy? Yes. But it's a side benefit."
    • For some context: the guy’s friend was killed by a girl at a party, and after being arrested, the killer claimed the producer raped her and was afraid that his friend would do the same thing. McCoy charged the friend of the victim with both rape and murder. It turns out the girl had agreed to sleep with him in exchange for footage he had previously shot of her and she had signed over to him, which the prosecution was able to get stricken from the record. The producer even had her sign a consent form (the kind some celebrities have specifically so the girls they sleep with will not falsely accuse them of rape) and there was footage of her willingly going to sleep with him and waiting for his friend, meaning the prosecution had a weak "he said, she said" rape case (and the assumption that after being raped, a woman is not responsible for he own actions). McCoy was able to find that another woman the producer had slept with had killed herself afterwards; he brought the woman's mother in to claim the producer was responsible. The fact that this case should have been thrown out on numerous occasions for lack of merits and unrelated testimony, but McCoy was able to keep it in court and get a murder conviction on probably the flimsiest evidence ever presented in the entire franchise, is what made it an MoA.
  • Junior ADA Connie Rubirosa is roped into working as a defense lawyer for an accused murderer thanks to a legal aid strike — and she's been handing Mike Cutter his ass in court. One of the paralegals in the DA's office asks her what it's like "working for the dark side" — but DA Jack McCoy answers the question for her:
    Jack: Is that how you see it — us versus Them? Miss Rubirosa is conducting herself within the bounds of the canon of ethics and zealously representing her client to the best of her abilities. That's what she's expected to do, whether that client is a criminal defendant or the People of the State of New York — and if I hear any more crap from any of you, you'll all be working traffic court for the next five years.
     Season 19 
  • In the Season 19 finale "The Drowned and the Saved", Jack McCoy clashed yet again with Governor Donald Shalvoy and his wife, Rita — and after the duo managed to work their way out of a prostitution scandal by stonewalling McCoy a season earlier (with Rita's support of her philandering husband especially infuriating McCoy), Jack finally got his revenge for it. The executive of a prominent charity is murdered, and when the investigation reveals he was into S&M, the trail eventually leads to the Shalvoys. Rita is accused of setting the murder plot in motion to help sell a Senate seat her husband was ready to give out, and Donald does his best to protect his wife by stonewalling McCoy yet again — but when McCoy manages to secure an indictment against the governor, he promises to destroy the indictment if Donald offers up testimony which would guarantee a conviction against his wife. Shalvoy, seeing the writing on the wall, reluctantly gives up his wife.
    • Jack's moment wasn't the only Awesome Moment in this episode, though. After McCoy leaves, ADA Michael Cutter reveals he continued talking with some of the sex workers involved with the original murder investigation — and found out Shalvoy had kept seeing prostitutes, even after the original stonewalled investigation. In exchange for keeping the information private and letting Shalvoy's reputation stay intact, Cutter asks Shalvoy to resign — and when Shalvoy tells Cutter McCoy said he wouldn't have to resign his seat, Cutter replies with a matter-of-fact statement which crushes Shalvoy for good: "I'm not Jack McCoy." The next scene is of Shalvoy telling the press he's giving up his position in order to support his wife.
      • The best part? Cutter reveals to Jack McCoy later that the list he threatens Shalvoy with in this scene isn't real; he got the governor of New York to resign with a blank sheet of paper.
  • In the episode "By Perjury", ADA Mike Cutter blasts Detective Lupo for an error, which results in considerable animosity between the two. By the episode's end, Cutter has a nasty confrontation with an Amoral Attorney whose career is likely to be destroyed thanks to Cutter's efforts in court. As Cutter walks away, the man follows him, but Lupo and Bernard — who have witnessed the exchange — get suspicious and follow suit, which is how Lupo manages to save Cutter's life when the aformentioned Amoral Attorney pulls out a gun.
  • Another great one for Cutter was in "Exchange." The defendant looks as though he is likely to get away with tax cheating and murders caused by his mentally unstable sister because the evidence of his sister being a sane, willing participant works strongly against the fact that she was not competent enough to have consensual involvement. How does Cutter fix this? During his closing summation, he turns the defense COMPLETELY against the suspect by declaring that her competent involvement with him in his tax fraud means he's just as complicit in her actions as she was! That, as her caretaker and co-conspirator, he can be held liable for anything she did to further their crime, whether it was done with or without his consent. The fact that the defense attorney attempts numerous times during Cutter's summation to try to prevent his argument from being accepted exposes the desperation and panic of watching their case fall completely apart! So simple and yet, so effective! Aside from being for Cutter, it's also a sheer moment of awesome for the show itself too!
  • In "Pledge", the prosecutors are prosecuting a man for murdering a boy, believing the motive was in retaliation for the boy's mother kicking him out of a sorority party thirty years before, thus keeping him away from Susan, the girl who invited him to the party and who he believed was meant to be his One True Love. So Cutter puts a woman named Susan, who was in the same sorority as the boy's mother and married a working-class man, on the stand. This provokes the defendant to lose it and launch into a rant against the victim's mother, during which he admits to killing the boy. Then Cutter drops the final bombshell.
    Cutter: For the record, Mr. Lasky? [The witness'] maiden name is Susan Laramie. She was at Dartmouth two years after that party. Your Susan was Susan Walden. She was murdered eight years ago in the Bahamas by her trust-fund husband during a drug-fueled argument on their yacht.
     Season 20 
  • McCoy gets one in the Season 20 finale (and the show's Grand Finale), "Rubber Room". A teacher who holds the key to stopping a school massacre by a disgruntled fellow teacher is forced to keep silent by her lawyer — and when McCoy tries to change her mind, the lawyer tells McCoy about all of the reasons teachers get so disaffected with their jobs. McCoy fires back and tells the lawyer to shut up and let the teacher talk — then Jack threatens the lawyer by saying he'll convict him of negligent homicide, resign as District Attorney, and then represent every victim's family in a wrongful death lawsuit so that "by the time I'm finished, you'll be ruined!" The lawyer promptly shuts up and lets his client talk, which allows the police to stop the massacre without any loss of life.
    • The rant ends with McCoy calmly offering the attorney some advice: "GET OUT OF MY WAY!"
    • And the teachers who were at the school that the ex-teacher was planning to shoot up deserve a special mention. One teacher (a math teacher) goes with Lupo and Bernard to confront the crazed man. Why? To protect his students. And when the trio make it to where the gunman is, another is seen guiding another student on how to stop the bleeding in a student who got shot. Cool Teachers indeed.
  • In "Innocence", ADA Mike Cutter's law license is put under suspicion after Emily Ryan — an old law professor opposing Cutter in a reopened murder case — reveals he never received his bachelor's degree and lied to the bar overseers (and the DA's office) about it. To avoid embarassment, Cutter agrees to offer a plea bargain, and Ryan, the murderer, and his defense attorney are there to hear him out. A frustrated Cutter offers the murderer twenty years, which is refused (with the client uttering another slur) — and when Ryan threatens to take Cutter's license after he raises the deal to twenty-five years:
    You can have my license — it'll free me up to testify about the hate speech your client just spewed in here! And after he's convicted of murder in state court, I'll walk across to the US Attorney's office and have your client prosecuted for violating the Matthew Shepard Act! Hate murder against gays is a federal offense now! Are you ready to do back-to-back life sentences, Mr. Stuber!? You will die in prison!
    • The murderer takes the deal, and Cutter also gets off relatively scot-free in regards to the deception about his bachelor's degree, which makes the situation win-win for him.
  • The episode "For the Defense," is full of them. First, Connie Rubirosa manages to stick it to Marcus Woll while she's being cross examined, then Mike Cutter goads Woll into saying something that makes some previously excluded (and pretty damning) evidence admissible, and finally, when Woll and his attorney seek a plea bargain, a lighter sentence in exchange for his testimony against the hit man he hired, Mike turns it down:
    You know what? I think I'd rather make the deal with the stone-cold killer.
  • Lt. Van Buren giving Cutter a scathing speech on how he brought her personal medical information to win his case, ending with him being no different than the sleazy company who stole a man's blood to make themselves richer.
  • A junior ADA cross-examination of a suspect often ends up being an Awesome Moment. Two examples are Serena Southerlyn's cross-examination of a sexist Islamic extremist and Alexandra Borgia's goading of a Smug Snake / Manipulative Bastard con-artist (who'd already managed to fool SVU in a previous episode) into implicating herself and her mother (in one of her first crosses, no less).
  • Nora Lewin has many. Despite being an academic, she repeatedly proves that those who try to push her around or intimidate her can't - and she makes that very clear to them. Like the Judge who tries to make her drop the case against a prominent conductor. She might be the weakest DA but she did prove herself.
    Judge: First off, I don't have to justify my decisions to you. Second, that sound you hear is the ice cracking underneath your feet.
    Lewin: With all due respect, your honor, you weigh more than I do...If you threaten me again I'll report this conversation and our last conversation to the presiding judge of the appellate division. And if you step over the line in court just once, I'll take you down and you won't get up again.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: