The struggle within this case was abundantly clear: Making a jury believe that Declan Trask, the “healer” responsible for the rape at the retreat, was guilty. In terms of tangible evidence, there wasn’t much given that there were no drugs found in the victim’s system, and Trask even had a recording in which she consented to sex. The problem was that she did not do so under her own accord, and Barba had to use his past as a way to further damage his credibility. This was a college dropout, someone with a criminal history (even though it was expunged), and this was not the first woman who claimed that something like this happened to her. This was one of the most difficult cases to argue since it was about believability. Luckily, Trask just didn’t have that on his side.
There is an element of tragedy in every episode of this show, and the conviction did not change the fact that a terrible crime occurred, one that damaged a real relationship and one that will likely make many people within this world question visiting such spiritual healers in the future. If this was a story in the hands of a less-talented team, we could see how hypnosis as a means of committing a crime would not be taken seriously. With these writers, however, they made the crime, the construction of it, and the takedown in the courtroom entirely believable and in some ways terrifying. It’s a scary proposition to think that someone, using only their words, may be able to do something like this to another human being.
Benson does score a win in the end, and the case along the way provided a little bit of insight into Fin’s past courtesy of some one-liners. Also, Benson and Barba had a few disagreements that had to be fleshed out as he questioned whether or not he could get a conviction using the amount of evidence that they had. He believed the victim, but it’s hard to get a jury to do the same thing.
It’s hard to compare this episode to the one last week given that there were fewer personal stakes at the center of the case here given that nobody was threatening Benson or Rollins with their malicious website. Nonetheless, “Spellbound” was another very solid, in many ways haunting episode of Law & Order: SVU that emphasizes how far the team will go for justice. Grade: B.