Playing out a liberal dream of vengeance, the season premiere of NBC's Law & Order 
delivered a plot in which the local Manhattan district attorney
prosecuted a former Justice Department lawyer for "depraved
indifference murder" based on the fact an Abu Ghraib prisoner died in
the custody of soldiers who were following the lawyer's memo on the
techniques which could be used on suspected terrorists.
In the key scene in the show now relegated to the 8 PM EDT/PDT, 7 PM CDT Friday slot, "District Attorney Jack McCoy ," played by Sam Waterston, contends: "This memo he wrote for the Department of Justice laid out the legal architecture permitting the abuse of prisoners, abuse that led directly to this death in Iraq. You could argue this memo is an element in a conspiracy to commit assault and depraved indifference murder."
An astonished "Executive Assistant DA Michael Cutter ," played by Linus Roache, asks: "Jack, you want to prosecute a member of the Bush administration for assaulting suspected terrorists?" To which, a cocksure "McCoy" declares: "The word is torturing. And, yes, it's about time somebody did."
Audio: MP3 clip  (1:25)
In the September 25 episode which re-ran Saturday night, "Memo from the Dark Side," lawyer "Kevin Franklin," now a law professor in New York City, kills an ex-soldier. As the show unfolds, detectives determine he wanted to silence the soldier, who blamed "Franklin" for the prisoner's death while he was working at Abu Ghraib. The soldier was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and wanted "Franklin's" help to get health benefits the Army had denied.
By the end of the episode, "McCoy" has added former Vice President Cheney and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to his indictment. Incredibly, the case brought by a local DA against federal employees over the conduct of their official duties goes to trial, but before a verdict is rendered a federal court orders the trial stopped - thus getting NBC out of the bind of either characterizing the Bush administration as guilty or not guilty.
- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center