Law & Order: Season 7, Episode 6

Double Blind (6 Nov. 1996)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
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A schizophrenic chemistry student is on trial for killing a former school janitor, but a professor claims that he is part of one of his drug studies and that his sickness is under control.


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Title: Double Blind (06 Nov 1996)

Double Blind (06 Nov 1996) on IMDb 7.7/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Christian Varick
Mark Bateman ...
Alan Sawyer
Richard Hamilton ...
James 'Jimmy the Pin' Poulos
E. Katherine Kerr ...
Mrs. Sawyer
Dan Ziskie ...
Fred Sawyer
Jennifer Van Dyck ...
Jill Perry
Vivienne Benesch ...
Lori Franklin


Detectives Briscoe and Curtis investigate the murder of a building janitor Greg Franklin who is found shot to death in his apartment. Franklin was relatively new in that particular job and had previously worked as the night janitor at a local university for 9 years. The autopsy shows that the bullets used had been treated with fulminate of mercury and the evidence leads them to a student, Alan Sawyer who eventually confesses to the crime. When Alan tells them voices told him to kill Franklin as the janitor was a 600 year-old Templar knight they learn he is schizophrenic and the question becomes whether he should be committed. Alan was part of a study run by psychiatrist Christian Varick who it seems is more interested in keeping his grant money coming in than the health of those in the study group. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

6 November 1996 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


During her visit to Fred Sawyer's home in Baltimore, Jamie Ross tells Sawyer that, as a lawyer, he should know that "the law requires him to report a lost or stolen weapon", and Sawyer says he knows the law. In fact, the state of Maryland has no such law. See more »


D.A. Adam Schiff: A manic-depressive commits suicide: somebody call Ripley's.
See more »


Remade as Law & Order: UK: Trial (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Shenanigans in Science.
16 January 2011 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

You must admire Littman and the other writers for some of these episodes because more is involved than simply sitting at a typewriter and hammering out plots. Somebody had to do their homework.

This is an exceptional story of a young man (Bateman) who murders a janitor at a drug research laboratory because the voices of historical personae, including Pope Clement, told him to do it. Bateman not only does well by the part of the flagrantly schizophrenic young kid but looks the part as well, with his bony features slightly askew and his unfashionable and clumsy crew cut.

It develops that Bateman was a subject in a study of an experimental anti-psychotic drug. The "double blind" of the title refers to the research method routinely used in such studies. The subject doesn't know whether he's in the experimental group (taking the real drug) or the control group (taking a placebo) and neither does the person doing the testing.

John Bedford Lloyd is nearly perfect as the doctor in charge of the study (BA, Harvard; MD and PhD, Yale). He's not EXACTLY snooty, just snooty enough.

Lloyd's study of the experimental drug is being paid for by one of the pharmaceutical corporations and they're relying on Lloyd's judgment regarding the drug's effectiveness. But Lloyd is fudging his data. He's been charging the company for tests that were never performed and reporting good results where none exist.

In Bateman's case, Lloyd has been sending in reports of improvement even while Pope Clement continues his argument that the dead janitor is a 600-year-old Knight Templar. Inevitably, Lloyd realizes that Bateman is seriously screwed up and orders a PET scan, which reveals that Bateman has a brain tumor. The tumor could have been removed when the study began, had Lloyd actually ordered the scan, but now it's inoperable. (The writers needed a bit more homework because the photo of the scan we see isn't "a coronal section" but a transverse section.) McCoy charges Lloyd with murder for allowing Bateman to run around in a dangerous state, despite the pleas of his family and friends that he be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. When Bateman dies of the tumor, in a year or two, McCoy intends to add another murder charge.

Maybe because of my own background in research, I found the story unusually involving. Like other human beings, scientists have a tendency to seek glory and celebrity even at the expense of truth sometimes. The case of Robert Gallo's extravagant claims regarding the AIDS virus is a recent notorious example. As the French researcher Luc Montagnier, one of those at the Pasteur Institute which first identified the virus but published only a proper, prudent paper about it, remarked of the Gallo incident: "Scientists in the United States are forced to produce results, which sometimes warps their sense of ethics." But, to a lesser extent, this goes on daily. Like Lloyd, some doctors make their primary living running drug studies out of their offices and getting paid to produce positive results. Well, don't get me started.

All those ethical issues aside, this is a well-done episode, but it's the issues that it raises that make it more than ordinary.

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