'Law & Order: SVU' tackles transgender issues



[Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers from "Law & Order: SVU"]

The bullying of a transgender teen leads to tragedy for two different families on this week’s installment of “Law & Order: SVU.”

15 year-old Avery Parker (Christopher Dylan) is taking photographs in Fort Tryon Park when she is met by a group of African American kids from a nearby private high school.

Taunting leads to pushing and shoving and before long, Avery — who is biologically a boy, but dressed as a girl — is accidentally pushed over the side of two story high bridge.

Three boys — including aspiring graphic artist Darius McCrae (Dante Brown) — are quickly picked up in connection with the assault.

At the precinct, 15 year-old Darius is visibly upset, and appears to be sincerely remorseful for what has happened. 

“Sorry mom… I didn’t mean to hurt him,” the boy sobs, before attempting to justify his behavior. “I didn’t want my boys to think I was gay.”

At the hospital, Avery’s father reveals that this is not the first time his child has been bullied. He says the local precinct has been informed but never follows up.

“We will,” Sgt. Benson (Mariska Hargitay) assures him. “We take this very seriously.”

When all three boys admit their roles in the attack, and cell phone video is discovered online, it appears the case is closed. But Liv has Avery pick the boys out of a line up just to be 100 percent sure.

In Family Court, two of the boys say it was Darius who pushed Avery over the bridge. They are given probation and sent home. Darius is now facing time in juvenile detention.

To demonstrate his remorse, Darius gives a series of apology notes and drawings to Detective Finn Tutuola (Ice T) to deliver to Avery. “I need him to know that I am sorry,” he says.

Everyone seems moved by the gesture, but things take an unexpected turn when Avery suddenly dies from injuries related to the fall.

ADA Kenneth O’Dwyer appears on the scene and says his office wants to make an example of Darius. He is going to charge the boy as an adult and attach the charge of “hate crime.” 

Even though it appears that Darius is a good kid who just made a mistake, “We cant wait for a more overtly evil perp,” O’Dwyer says.

Cut to Avery’s memorial service, where her parents tell Benson and Carisi (Peter Scanavino) that they don’t want to see Avery charged as an adult. “It’s not what Avery would want,” they insist.

The case eventually goes to a bench trial with no jury. 

The prosecution says Darius made a conscious decision to engage in the bullying that led to Avery’s death and should be held accountable.

The defense maintains that he is too young and impulsive and that the part of his brain that makes those kinds of decisions is still forming.

Before resting, the defense calls Avery’s father to the stand.

“My wife and I want to make sure that Avery’s death means something,” he says. “But we also want to make sure that the tragedy is not compounded by the tragedy of taking another child away from his family.”

The judge is moved — but not enough.

Darius is found guilty of manslaughter and committing a hate crime. He is sentenced to seven years in prison.

Now the viewer debate can begin: did the punishment fit the crime?