Law & Order (1990–2010)
3 user

Cruel and Unusual 

Evidence indicates that the death, in police custody, of an autistic teenager was the result of longstanding abuse. Suspicion falls on the treatment center where he lived and on its therapist, Dr. Colter.


Matthew Penn


Dick Wolf (created by), Rene Balcer | 1 more credit »

On Disc

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Jerry Orbach ... Lennie Briscoe
Chris Noth ... Mike Logan
S. Epatha Merkerson ... Anita Van Buren
Sam Waterston ... Jack McCoy
Jill Hennessy ... Claire Kincaid
Steven Hill ... Adam Schiff
Jeffrey DeMunn ... Professor Norman Rothenberg
Lawrence Pressman ... Dr. Alan Colter
Sheila Tousey ... Mrs. Vilardi
Shawn Elliott ... Judge Joseph Rivera
Dan Ziskie ... George Jeffries (as Daniel Ziskie)
Carolyn McCormick ... Dr. Elizabeth Olivet
Margo Skinner Margo Skinner ... Eleanor Jeffries
Jennifer Harmon Jennifer Harmon ... Mrs. Serena Davidson
Leslie Hendrix ... Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers


Detectives Briscoe and Logan investigate the death of Kevin Jeffries, an autistic teenager who died while in police custody. The medical examiner determines that he died from a blood clot - and not from anything the police may have done during the arrest - but also reports that he had bruises on his body. Kevin was living at a behavioral modification clinic but constantly ran away. The clinic admits they kept him in restraints, particularly on those bad days when he was deemed injurious to himself. The head of the clinic, Dr. Alan Colter, generally used aversion therapy to treat his patients. This included electric shocks and a black box that created a complete sensory deprived environment. Colter clearly exceeded New York State guidelines on the use of electric shock and as far as ADA McCoy is concerned, it amounted to torture. The biggest hurdle he will have to overcome are the parents who support Colter and his methods. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

19 April 1995 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Chris Noth (Mike Logan) & T. Ryder Smith (Detective Mathers) also worked together on episode 5.9, The Good Wife: Whack-a-Mole (2013), of The Good Wife (2009), as Peter Florrick & AUSA Figgs respectively. See more »


When David Vilardi types out the word "FLOWR" with the help of his mother, in the courtroom, his hand never goes near the 'F' on the keyboard. See more »


Jack McCoy: You made sure Kevin Jeffries' life could never be fixed.
Dr. Alan Colter: Can you honestly tell me he's not better off?
Jack McCoy: I hope that's not your closing argument.
See more »

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User Reviews

This is a Sad One
6 June 2018 | by Better_TVSee all my reviews

This one is depressing. Steve Burns of "Blue's Clues" fame plays the victim here, an autistic child who was bruised, beaten and shocked by experimental therapies at a clinic for disabled youth run by Lawrence Pressman, playing Dr. Alan Colter. The case leads to a debate over the efficacy of the treatments - including a terrifying white noise helmet called a "buzz box" - and another, even more fascinating debate over something called "facilitated communication."

Pressman is solid as yet another rich, holier-than-thou professional whose desire for success leaves injuries and bodies in his wake (this show really hates doctors, doesn't it?), and Sheila Tousey is fantastic as the mother of the victim's mute roommate (played quite convincingly by the non-mute-in-real-life Edoardo Ballerini); she has a different view of the clinic, one that complicates things for the prosecutors, and she also delivers the last, powerful line of the episode.

Even still, there's a bit of goofiness where it is clear that Kevin, the victim, has some kind of disability and isn't just a "wacko" off his face on drugs as Briscoe, Logan and the movie theater owner where Kevin was last seen separately reiterate for the first 5-6 minutes of the episode. While silly, I guess it sorta kinda makes sense given the blunt, hard-nosed personalities of both detectives.

This one's got that classic L&O scaremongering thing going on with regards to its creepy portrayal of a clinic for persons with disabilities, but it's also well-written and has a devastating ending. Worth your time!

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