Law & Order: Season 4, Episode 8

American Dream (9 Nov. 1993)

TV Episode  |  TV-14  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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The discovery of skeletal remains on Roosevelt Island leads to a new trial for a former Wall Steet junk bond broker now serving time in the victim's murder. The defendant chooses to act as his own counsel.



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Airs Wed. Jun. 03, 7:00 PM on WE

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Title: American Dream (09 Nov 1993)

American Dream (09 Nov 1993) on IMDb 8.1/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Elizabeth Olivet (credit only)
Phillip Swann (as Zeljko Ivanek)
Billy Doyle
Mark Tymchyshyn ...
Chip Rafferty
Bernie McInerney ...
Sophie Hayden ...
Beverly Dorfman
Bernie Passeltiner ...
Harry Schuman
Margaret Hilton ...
Mrs. Whitaker
Guy Davis ...
Russell Bobbit


An old case comes back to haunt ADA Ben Stone when a body is discovered buried on Roosevelt Island. Stone had obtained a murder conviction against Phillip Swann without the victim's body ever having been found. What he did have was the sworn testimony of the man who helped him bury the body in New Jersey. Finding the body elsewhere calls into question that witness' testimony. Swann has become quite a competent jail house attorney and represents himself before the Court of Appeal who grant his request for a new trial. Briscoe and Logan try to track down the witnesses from the first trial but only a few are still available. When Swann is acquitted, Stone faces a lawsuit but decides to fight fire with fire. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




Release Date:

9 November 1993 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Ben Stone: I guess you just weren't clever enough.
Phillip Swann: I got this far, Ben.
Ben Stone: A lot of effort to wind up right back where you started. And in polite society, Sir, you don't call people by their first name unless they ask you to - I didn't do that. You're not a friend, and you're certainly not a colleague.
See more »


Remade as Law & Order: UK: Unsafe (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

Wise Guy Goes Pro Se.
6 July 2012 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

By and large this is a superior series and this is one of the more interesting episodes.

A skeleton is dug up by some salvage archaeologists on Roosevelt Island and it turns out to be that of a man who disappeared eight years earlier. The man convicted of the killing was a Wall Street scam artists, the charming and persuasive Zeljko Ivanek. He's a fine actor, by the way, but he's never going to get anywhere with me until he changes his name to something that's easier to spell and pronounce, preferably some palindrome so that it comes out right even if you get it backwards.

At any rate, Ivanek, who has spent all these years in Sing Sing, was convicted mostly on the testimony of an accomplice, Guy Davis, who may have been involved in the murder but at least has an easy name. Ivanek is a smart young man, though, and has spent his years in the slams studying law. Representing himself, he not only wins a new trial but brings a civil suit against New York and against Michael Moriarty, who prosecuted him and sent him up the river. Says Stephen Hill, "You're being out-lawyered by an amateur." Things get complicated. Davis, Moriarty's prime witness, disappears. There is evidence that he took off for the Bahamas. But, aided by Jill Hennessy in her off hours, Moriarty manages to set things aright and Ivanek is back where he belongs with all the other reprehensible miscreants who have difficult names.

The acting, as usual, is quite good, and the plot is just complicated enough to be thoroughly engaging. Imagine trying to identify an eight-year-old skeleton recently unearthed in a vacant lot in New York City, where there are so many historic unmarked graves. The pathologist was unable to give Moriarty an estimate of the victim's age, but the cops should have asked the archaeologists who dug it up. The sutures in the skull gives you a strong hint, or so I was told in my Physical Anthropology class.

It's interesting, too, because Moriarty's character is ordinarily so unflappable, so earnest and collected. Nothing much is made of his being successfully challenged by a particularly bright jailbird, aside from Hill's remark about being "out-lawyered," and yet Moriarty and the director lend Ben Stone an underlying sense of the anger and indignation of a professional who is being humiliated by an alien from outside the social borders. The episode ends with Moriarty making a cutting remark as Ivanek is hauled off in handcuffs, and the camera lingers a while on Moriarty's face wearing an expression that can best be described as a smirk.

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