DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To beurre.blanc[at]yahoo.com
SPOILERS: 4.16 Tortured

The Sum of Contradictions: 46. Public Knowledge
By beurre blanc


"It's called 'selection bias'."

"Selection what?"

"Selection bias. It's when a scientific study or survey reaches a conclusion which is correct for the group of subjects they studied, however that group isn't representative of the general population. So, generalizing the findings is erroneous. All the subjects in Shelton's study were serious violent criminals, and many also had frontal lobe injuries. So the association between aberrant behavior and injury holds for that group. And that's 'association', mind you, not cause-and-effect relationship. You can't reach any conclusions about causation from this kind of observational study. You need an interventional trial to do that. More importantly, the conclusions don't hold in the other direction: having a brain injury doesn't predict future criminal violent behavior."

George watched as Alex's eyes narrowed, and her brow furrowed as she grappled with the concepts. "Try and think of it this way," he offered. "If you had a theory about brain injury and criminal behavior, what you'd want to know is whether people with brain injuries are more likely to be imprisoned, or whether brain injury of a certain type is over-represented in the prison population. And then you design your study so that any other factors which might be associated with criminal conviction are equally represented in each group. Factors like educational level, or socioeconomic background. And then you analyze for a significant difference in the frequency of head injury in the two groups, and you assess whether any observed difference is big enough that it's very unlikely to have occurred by chance."

She sighed heavily. "You know, I have an Ivy League education, and I can't follow you on this. All a jury is going to hear is 'frontal lobe injuries cause violent behavior, and the defendant has a frontal lobe injury'. That's all. If I stand up and say 'selection bias' the jury will glaze over in moments. I'd like to try the step-by-step logic approach, leading him through the scientific process until he ends up discrediting his own conclusions, but even that's a gamble, because I have to rely on the jury being able to apply and follow that logic too. Most of them are still going to get stuck on the simple implication: 'frontal lobe injuries induce violent behavior, and the defendant has a brain injury of just the right type'."

"Alex, there are days when I really don't envy you your job."

"Yeah, well right back at you. Here's hoping Defense Counsel gives me something to work with."

"Who is it?"

"Gina Bernardo."

"The 'charming and professional' Ms Gina Bernardo?"

"Charming, professional, and so much of a narcissist that she doesn't realize how completely - and predictably - she endangers her clients' cases. She spends all

that time building up the mystique, promoting herself as some fearsome and invincible opponent – time that would be far better spent constructing a solid defense for the client. Nobody likes to go up against her, but she's just so much hot air and bluster, and if you pay attention to the substance, her cases are really easy to take down."

"As usual, I hope so, for your sake."

"Thanks, George."

"How are you doing otherwise, Alex?"

"Fine. Why?" Alex looked up to see George's trademark look of inscrutable complacency.   He waited a moment, and then said. "If you need to talk, Alex, I'm here."

"In here." Alex paused to pull open the shop door, ushering Olivia in ahead of her.


"Uncle Marc, there's someone I'd like you to meet. Marcus Fletcher, Ol-,"

"Hello, Someone!" Marcus thrust out a pudgy hand, all jolly and beaming. "Delighted to meet you'," he shot a sly accusatory glance at Alex, "at last!"

"Mr Fletcher," grinned Olivia, reveling in Alex's very obvious discomfort.

"Oh, now you just call me Marc," he cooed. "It's so wonderful to be able to put a face to 'Miss Hyacinth'. Well, my darling Alex," he went on, before she could interject, "I must say, it's about time!"

"Hey," she pouted, "you don't have to look so gleeful."

"Why? Why does it have to be so far away?"

"June is there, and since Dick died she has both empty space, and time on her hands."

"But Mom…" Burning tears blurred her vision. "…does it have to be East Amherst?"

"Alexandra, my apartment here is too big, and the house is even bigger. I am going to need more help soon, and I don't want it from strangers. I'd rather be with my oldest friend. And, to be frank, I miss the quiet closeness of a smaller town. I miss the snow."

"Snow? Since when? You hate snow, and you know it." Alex changed the phone to her other ear, and reached for a Kleenex. "Do you even know any of the doctors there?"

Mrs Cabot sighed deeply. "My darling, it's the best compromise."

"Compromise? The only thing you'll be compromising is your care."

"Alexandra, that's not fair."

"Mom, please."

"Alexandra, I'm sorry, but it's too much for me to manage here. That damned protein is building up again, and my kidneys have been getting steadily worse since July." She paused, before adding quietly, "Dr Lannigan says it's only a matter of time now, before I need dialysis."

"Oh no, Mom."

"Hopefully it will be a temporary thing, until they get me stabilized on the new medication. But there are no guarantees, and I will need someone with me, caring for me, for much of the day. Junie can do that for me, she wants to. The Cancer Center is only thirty minutes away, and they have a dialysis facility right near the house. It's only three blocks."

"Mom, it's seven hours."

"We've been through this before, over and over. If our relationship becomes public knowledge, our professionalism will become the target, and one or both of us will wind up losing our jobs."

"But this is different. It's not 'public knowledge', Elliott's my partner," Olivia reasoned, trying not to overreact. "We rely on each other; I need to know he's got my back."

"And how is that going to be any different if you're seeing me? He'll still be there to protect you, and it's not as if you're suddenly going to drop the ball and stop backing him up." Alex's voice became softer, and her tone more gentle. "Liv, you're good at your job, and so is he. Why would that change?"

"Alex, why can't you understand?" Olivia wasn't falling for it. "It's not the fact that I'm seeing you, it's that I haven't told him about it. It's a matter of trust." She paused for emphasis. "Elliot is gonna realize sooner or later, and then he'll wonder why I – we – didn't trust him enough in the first place to let him know. And the longer it goes on, the worse it'll be."

"Oh come on, Olivia." Alex crossed her arms. "Does he tell you every little thing that goes on in his life?"

"No. No, he doesn't"


"So, this is different."


"Alex, it's… I feel like I'm hiding. He should be told." Olivia closed her eyes, and rubbed her forehead. This is like trying to win an argument with my mother.

"But Olivia, every person who knows becomes a potential source of disclosure. He becomes another link in the chain."

"Is that how you see Elliot – as a weak link?"

"No, Liv, that's not what I meant."

"Well what did you mean? Because the way I see it, it's fine to confide in your mother, your friends, but my partner is automatically excluded because somehow he doesn't measure up?"

"No, Liv, that's not it. I just think that the risk of him inadvertently saying or doing something that reveals our relationship is that much greater, simply by virtue of the fact that we work with him. We both work with him."

"And we both should be able to trust him."

"Look, Olivia, I really don't want to argue about this right now."

"Gee, when would it suit you, Alex? Huh? I've got a break in my schedule at 4pm tomorrow."


"Look, Alex, just forget I said anything. I'm going home to get an early night."

"You're leaving?"

"Yeah. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Wait. Olivia, wait. Don't go, please. Don't…"

"She didn't!"

"Yeah, she did."

"She called you 'an uptight, self-righteous little b-' "

"All right, all right! Yes, John, those were her words." Alex still looked murderous, and his partner's fortitude in the face of almost certain death sent Fin's respect for him soaring.  Man, You. Are. A. God!

The End

Return to Law & Order: SVU Fiction

Return to Main Page