Law & Order: Season 3, Episode 7

Self Defense (11 Nov. 1992)

TV Episode  |  TV-14  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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A Greek immigrant jewelry store owner kills two robbers and claims self defense. However, it is soon questioned whether his actions went beyond self defense and crossed into revenge and murder.


(as Ed Sherin)


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Title: Self Defense (11 Nov 1992)

Self Defense (11 Nov 1992) on IMDb 7.8/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Elizabeth Olivet (credit only)
George Costas
Paul Butler ...
Judge Edmond Francis
Marissa Chibas ...
Christina Costas
Alex Drakos
Frank Savino ...
Nick Fortas
Robert Hirschfeld ...
Detective Morelli
Christine Farrell ...


Detectives Cerreta and Logan investigate the shooting of two young men. They were known small-time drug dealers and one had convictions for armed robberies. They focus on one particular shopkeeper, George Costas, after part of his story doesn't check out. They subsequently learn that he was previously involved in shooting a robber and was something of a local hero as a result. It turns out the two dead men did try to rob him and he did shoot them. Costas however then reloaded his gun and ran after them outside his store to finish them. The question for the jury is whether Costas was simply acting in self-defense or whether he's a murderer. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

11 November 1992 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Adam Schiff: Always think you have a smoking gun, till the smoke blows in your face.
See more »


References Death Wish (1974) See more »

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User Reviews

Controlling the Rush.
19 December 2010 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

The police find two dead bodies. One is slumped over on a car seat; one is found in an alley some distance away, a .45 in his hand. Seretta and Logan track the shooting down to Adam Arkin, a Greek immigrant who runs a nearby shop and has been robbed at gunpoint before. A surveillance tape reveals that the two dead men entered the shop as far as the anti-robbery gate would allow, demanded entry, Arkin produced his revolver and a shoot out followed. The two robbers, wounded in the exchange, managed to make it outside. Arkin rushed after them, shot them and killed them.

Ben Stone's problem: convince the jury that there is a difference between self defense, which is justified in cases like this, and revenge, which is not. Arkin's shoot out, with bullets whizzing past him, was self defense but the chase and subsequent killings were murders.

Stone really does have a problem and it goes way behind conceptual distinctions between defense and offense. It gets into endocrinology. In the movies, policemen shoot an armed and threatening suspect once or twice and the suspect immediately drops his weapon and falls to the ground. In real life, as video clips often show us, the shooting doesn't stop until the perp is clearly dead. The police officer isn't prosecuted for using more force than was necessary to just disable the suspect.

The problem is that people aren't robots responding to programming that has incorporated charter documents like the NYC penal code. They're biological entities, whether police or civilian. Once the glands start twitching and the adrenalin squirting, once the amygdala hijacks the brain, no human being can simply shut it off. It's why police officers tend to shoot armed suspects full of holes. It's why soldiers in combat rush into a danger zone and slaughter the enemy, armed and unarmed alike, soldier or civilian. If Arkin had been a U. S. Marine he'd have been decorated for his act.

Nobody in the episode brings this up because to them it all looks like a question of legal and illegal motives. Stone and Robinet are lawyers after all, and to somebody with a hammer every problem begins to look like a nail.

As it is, the writers leave the issue hanging in the air, which they usually do. Arkin is judged guilty of murdering the guy in the car, who may have been reaching for a weapon on the floor, but he is found innocent of executing the other man. At any rate, Arkin is headed for Attica.

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