Public Service Homicide

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"Public Service Homicide"
Law & Order episode
Episode no. Season 17
Episode 5
Directed by Constantine Makris
Written by Chris Levinson
Original air date October 20, 2006 (2006-10-20)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Law & Order episodes (season 17)

Public Service Homicide is an episode of the NBC crime drama series Law & Order. It aired on October 20, 2006. The episode was inspired by To Catch a Predator, a series of specials of the NBC newsmagazine Dateline, which depicts the capture of pedophiles red-handed on camera after they are lured to a certain location in an online sting operation.



District Attorney's Office[edit]

Plot synopsis[edit]


A woman in an apartment argues with her mother over the phone as the two are simultaneously watching a newsmagazine called Hard Focus. In the show, pedophiles are lured to a house believing they will have sex with an underage minor, only to be confronted by a reporter and a camera crew. The woman is shocked when her next-door neighbor, Carl Mullaly, is confronted on the show. Later on, a delivery boy with Chinese food arrives at Mullaly's apartment to discover him on the floor, stabbed to death. When detectives Green and Cassidy arrive on the scene, the woman shows them the TiVoed Hard Focus clip featuring Mullaly. After watching the clip, Detective Green remarks, "No wonder Mr. Mullally's dead".

The detectives learn that Mullaly's next-door neighbor, a surgeon named Evan Fleming, has an eight-year-old daughter. When they interview Fleming, he claims he was at work while his daughter, Abigail, asleep at home during the murder. He further claims that he did not know Mr. Mullaly, but expresses a lack of concern over his murder. Green uncovers phone records showing that Mullaly had received a series of cell phone calls from a woman named Hannah Welch. He and Cassidy go to Welch's office to find her holed up in a restroom. Cassidy goes inside alone. Welch says she hasn't recently seen Mullaly, and also says didn't learn about his appearance on Hard Focus until that morning.

Cassidy also learns from Welch that Mullaly had been fired before Hard Focus aired, from a job working at community center around children. There, Green and Cassidy learn from Mullaly's old boss that he was tipped off about his employee's pedophilia by one of his neighbors. The detectives interrogate Fleming, who says he learned about Mullaly from an anonymous note slipped under his door. He says he threw the note away, but had Abigail checked by the psychologist. Fleming expresses gratitude for Mullaly's killer.

Another pedophile from Hard Focus is found severely beaten. He gives Green and Cassidy a detailed description of his attacker. The detectives later arrest a businessman who openly admits to assaulting the pedophile, saying his actions were caused by the brutal rape and murder of his daughter. He denies killing Mullaly, but says he learned about Hightower from a website called ScumWatch, which has assisted Hard Focus in its investigative reports. When the detectives visit ScumWatch, and learn that its list of targeted pedophiles is kept confidential, except to Hard Focus. They also go to the 24/7 News Network, which airs Hard Focus, and meet producer Ellie Harper. She denies that the show has been inciting violence or is connected to Mullaly's murder.

Cassidy expresses doubt over Hannah Welch's alibi for the night of the murder, noting the lack of a ticket stub for the movie she claimed she went to, and the fact that nobody at the theater saw her. Green discovers, however, that it was Fleming who ordered the Chinese food for Mullaly. During the second interrogation of Fleming, he admits that he found Mullaly's body first, and arranged the body for the delivery boy so that he didn't have to be involved. He further claims that he was awakened by his daughter, Abigail, who heard fighting in Mullaly's apartment and saw a fleeing woman with a knife in her hand. Abigail is later interviewed by Van Buren, and confirms her father's story. She also picks out Hannah Welch in a police lineup. Welch is arrested by Cassidy for Carl Mullaly's murder.


At her arraignment, Hannah Welch pleads not guilty to second degree murder. Afterwards, Welch and her lawyer meet with Rubirosa and Jack McCoy. Welch says that she watched Carl Mullaly on Hard Focus, and that she went to his apartment to confront him. She further claims that she was forced to stab Mullaly in self-defense after he violently attacked her. Her lawyer argues unsuccessfully that she serve probation. McCoy later discusses the case with District Attorney Branch, who points out that despite the amount of evidence stacked against Welch, McCoy faces an uphill battle winning over a jury since Mullaly was an exposed pedophile, and that Carl Mullaly's murder satisfied the desires of any person watching his appearance on Hard Focus. Branch, McCoy, and Rubirosa further discuss the public's collective desire for controversial shows such as Hard Focus. When Branch suggests finding dirt on Welch's credibility, the three decide to have Rubirosa travel to Pittsburgh to learn about her life before moving to New York.

In Pittsburgh, Rubirosa arranges a meeting with Welch's ex-fiance. He says that he last spoke to Welch in person three weeks prior, but that she didn't mention Carl Mullaly. He also says, to Rubirosa's bewilderment, that Welch was living with five roommates in a trendy apartment on the Upper West Side, even though Welch's residence was in the East Village. Back in New York, Rubirosa talks with the doorman of the apartment Welch was living in, who says that she and her other roommates simultaneously moved out after Hard Focus stopped paying their rent. The doorman gives her the address of one of her roommates, Kyle Risko. While meeting with her, Risko, a former molestation victim, reluctantly tells her that he was a living in the apartment with Welch because they were participating in a cancelled 24/7 News Network reality show, Confront and Heal, based on the Hard Focus reports, in which former victims of sexual abuse confronted their former abusers.

While meeting with Rubirosa and McCoy, they deduce that since both Hannah Welch and Carl Mullaly came from Pittsburgh, and Mullaly worked in the same insurance company as Welch's father, Welch's story of a romantic relationship between the two was a lie and that Mullaly molested her as a child. During a meeting with McCoy, Welch confirms this theory, saying that Mullaly had indeed molested her, and that Hard Focus had intended on letting her confront Mullaly. She further claims that she was given a knife and a camera by the Hard Focus producer, Ellie Harper, before the murder. Welch says that she didn't have the camera turned on when the murder took place. Welch says that Harper had sent her to Mullaly's apartment with the camera in the hopes of getting Confront and Heal back on the air. She further claims that she has hidden the knife.

McCoy and Rubirosa later meet with Harper and her attorney, Wendy Weiss.