‘Law & Order’ Episodes Ripped From the Headlines
The opening disclaimer of many episodes of the Law & Order franchise reads, “The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.” Despite these definitive words, as anyone who has ever marathoned the show knows, many of said stories take direct inspiration from recent headlines. Ahead, 12 episodes from Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent that referenced major news stories that had everyone talking.
SVU Season 17, Episode 7 "Patrimonial Burden" (Nov. 4, 2015) Inspired by: Josh Duggar's molestation scandal
Josh Duggar’s scandal involving his alleged history of molestation inspired a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode just months later. Much like Duggar, the character on the episode is the star of a reality show about a large religious family – this time called 13aker’s Dozen. The storyline also included issues of molestation in the family and the attempt by the parents to handle the problems on their own.
SVU Season 17, Episode 1 "Devil’s Dissections" (Sept. 23, 2015) Inspired by: Robert Durst's murder allegations
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit opened its 17th season in September 2015 by taking inspiration from real estate heir Robert Durst. The episode nods to the happenings of the hit HBO series The Jinx, as the episode’s alleged killer confesses to the crime in a bathroom, muttering, “This is unfortunate. I think I killed that woman and cut her up.”
SVU Season 16, Episode 2 "American Disgrace" (Oct. 1, 2014) Inspired by: Jay Z and Solange's elevator fight
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit worked in a reference to Solange and Jay Z’s famed 2014 post-Met Ball elevator fight in the beginning of the 16th season. While much of the storyline focused on an athlete who has fallen out of favor, the two performers are worked in with a scene in which the athlete is seen in security footage from an elevator being attacked by one of his female associates after wronging her.
SVU Season 15, Episode 3 "American Tragedy" (Oct. 2, 2013) Inspired by: Paula Deen's downfall
In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘s 15th season, the show combined the events of Trayvon Martin’s death with the scandal involving Paula Deen’s use of racial slurs. The teenage boy who died in the episode was shot by a blonde celebrity chef with a history of racism.
SVU Season 14, Episode 16 "Funny Valentine" (Feb. 27, 2013) Inspired by: Chris Brown domestic violence incident with Rihanna
The horrendous 2009 domestic violence that allegedly took place between Chris Brown and Rihanna served as inspiration for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘s 14th season. In the episode, the two characters inspired by the performers get into a bit of a spat before the male singer beats up his girlfriend.
SVU Season 10, Episode 19 "Selfish" (April 28, 2009) Inspired by: The trial of Casey Anthony
Hilary Duff guest-starred in a 2009 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that took clear direction from Casey Anthony and the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. In SVU‘s take, the little girl’s grandmother called authorities to report her disappearance, leading to a trial.
Criminal Intent Season 6, Episode 20 "Bombshell" (May 8, 2007) Inspired by: The life and death of Anna Nicole Smith
An episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent‘s sixth season took inspiration from the life of the late Anna Nicole Smith. The bombshell in the episode is a blonde woman who marries an older billionaire. Much like the tragedy of Smith and her late son Daniel Smith, the woman in the episode dies after the death of her son.
Law & Order Season 17, Episode 7 "In Vino Veritas" (Nov. 3, 2006) Inspired by: Mel Gibson's mid-2000s breakdown
Nodding to a similar alleged incident that took place with Mel Gibson in 2006, a Season 17 episode of Law & Order featured a character played by Chevy Chase. The man in question is a somewhat washed-up actor who gets pulled over by police and hurls anti-Semitic insults at those detaining him.
Criminal Intent Season 6, Episode 6 “Masquerade" (Oct. 31, 2006) Inspired by: The death of JonBenét Ramsey
Law & Order: Criminal Intent took on the shocking death of JonBenét Ramsey in 2006, 10 years after the little girl was killed at the age of 6. The episode focuses on the death of a child beauty queen much like Ramsey and the confusing investigation that ensues.
SVU Season 5, Episode 19 “Sick” (March 30, 2004) Inspired by: Michael Jackson's child abuse allegations
A character in the fifth season of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was a wealthy man who had sleepovers with children much like those described in the mid-2000s trial of Michael Jackson.
Law & Order Season 13, Episode 3 "True Crime" (Oct. 16, 2002) Inspired by: The death of Kurt Cobain
A Season 13 episode of Law & Order featured a rock couple who took inspiration from Courtney Love and the late Kurt Cobain. While the story went in a different direction when the character who mirrored Love ended up passing away in the episode, there was a storyline involving Cobain’s character’s band and the rockers’ relationship to the deceased female performer.
Law & Order Season 12, Episode 9 "3 Dawg Night" (Nov. 28, 2001) Inspired by: P. Diddy's involvement in an investigation relating to a shooting
In its 12th season, Law & Order adapted a 1999 incident, in which P. Diddy and Jennifer Lopez were allegedly present when a shooting took place at Manhattan’s Club New York. In the show’s version of events, the character inspired by Lopez was responsible for the violence.