|Jolene aka Paula Deen played by Cybill Shepherd|
I'm not surprised they based an episode around these cases. I'm more surprise they chose to do it so soon and all in one episode. They added more fuel to this controversial fire by adding New York's unpopular "Stop and Frisk" law, which allows law enforcement to stop people at random on the street and frisk them if they think they might be a potential criminal (Majority of the people stopped are black or brown males). Yea, the writers were doing the most.
Cybill Shepherd plays Jolene (Paula Deen) who shoots a black kid (Trayvon Martin) who she thinks is going to rape her because there is a black serial rapist on the loose. Come to find out, she shoots the wrong black guy and now Jolene is on trial. Like the real life case, the question is was it self-defense or some white lady shooting black people because she's really a racist and assumes all black men are trying to harm her? SPOILER ALERT (was this disclaimer really needed?): Jolene is found not guilty.
Like the original trial, I felt my blood boiling. I have written prior posts about my feelings for the George Zimmerman trial so it is no surprise I felt my inner Malcolm X coming through. Every emotion I had during that trial came rushing back. But one thing that L&O added was this serial rape case. In the George Zimmerman situation, there was no ongoing investigation that made Zimmerman feel he should approach Trayvon. But in this situation, there is a black rapist on the loose. Was Jolene really wrong for making this assumption? Now do not get me wrong. I do not agree with shooting people because you think they are criminals. But as a woman walking by yourself to your home, how do you not live in fear when you know there is a serial rapist on the run? Also, Jolene felt she was being followed and so felt it necessary to defend herself like Trayvon Martin did with Zimmerman. But unlike Trayvon, Jolene was painted as a racist for defending herself. There are a lot of angles to this episode which make claiming self-defense even more complex.
I'm not sure if Law & Order tackled these two cases too soon or not but what it did do was make you realize how tricky race is. They even made Fin (Ice-T's character) admit that protection could be miscued with racism. How do you make a prompt decision to protect yourself but not come off as if you are targeting someone because of their race? There has been times I have been out running and I see two dudes walking on the sidewalk. Do I assume they are no threat to me or do I cross the street at the risk of stereotyping? Decisions, decisions.
Even with my synopsis I recommend you watch this episode. You see that race isn't always black and white (sorry for the corny last line).