Genes have been getting a bad rap lately on Dick Wolf shows.
On Law & Order: SVU Season 18 Episode 13, a rapist tried to use the "rape gene" defense while another worried about inheriting a predisposition to rape women.
And on Chicago Justice Season 1 Episode 7, a murderer tried using the same argument to claim she was not responsible for a brutal double homicide because she inherited irresistible urges to kill from her serial killer father.
I'm glad the defendant didn't get away with this ridiculous defense. I hope it's the last we hear of it for a long time.
Having David Zachariah's DNA turn up at a new crime scene could have gone in so many different directions instead of rehashing the bad genes defense to indefensible crimes.
Stone's story of the bad plea deal he made with Zachariah to give the victims' families closure was rich with dramatic possibilities. Maybe the DNA could have been a coincidence or perhaps Zachariah could have been grooming a family member to continue killing women while he was in jail.
Valdez: You worked out a deal with a murderer?
Stone: I did it for the other families. Not knowing whether their daughters were alive or dead... it ground them down.
Valdez: Did it help?
Stone: Losing a child? I doubt a real funeral even helps.
Either way, the heart of the story could have and should have been Stone questioning the decisions he made in the past and wondering whether his choices somehow contributed to this woman's death.
Instead, we got a woman who didn't know she was related to a serial killer for 90% of her life then using that killer's existence to try to excuse her own bad behavior.
Stone: Your Honor, he's trying to argue for the warrior gene, which no court -
Matthews: I'm not going anywhere near the warrior gene.
Stone: Could have fooled me.
Judge: And me.
Matthews: My client is claiming that she is not guilty by reason of insanity, which under the statute includes involuntary intoxication.
Stone: Involuntary intoxication? That's meant for circumstances where someone's drink has been drugged.
Matthews: My client wasn't intoxicated by bourbon, but by the stuff of life itself. The genetic makeup that she inherited from her father, a serial killer.
Stone: That's nonsense.
Judge: I'm inclined to agree.
Matthews: Then let me show you.
I was disappointed that the judge allowed this defense to go through. Matthews claimed he wasn't going for a warrior gene type defense at all, then did just that.
I'm especially disappointed that two African American men gave any credence to this theory at all.
It wasn't that long ago that tough on crime laws that disproportionately affected people of color were being justified by claims that African American boys were genetically predisposed to act violently and had to be jailed before they could act on their urges.
So to have a black attorney promote this defense and have the black leader of the State Attorney's office claim that denying it was like denying climate change was problematic, to say the least.
Jeffries' claim was especially ridiculous. Denying that there's a gene that makes people involuntarily commit violent crimes is not the same as denying there's any such thing as genetics at all.
In fact, genetics doesn't work at all the way proponents of these kinds of stupid claims think it does, so the bad gene defense itself is far more analogous to denying climate change than disagreeing with it is.
Of course, Stone did need to prove his case to a potentially gullible jury, and he did so masterfully.
From the moment Dawn told Dr. Charles about her inability to have children, I knew it would come into play during trial. It didn't make sense that a woman who was physically unable to have children and desperately wanted one would kill a baby.
In fact, when Dawn was arrested she seemed to be soothing the dead baby as if it were alive.
I went to see a play downtown one time. I got there early so I walked around. And this homeless woman asked me for money. I gave her a dollar but she wanted more. And she pointed this finger that hadn't been washed in months.... this filthy finger... at the corner. And I saw four filthy children. They were skinny like toothpicks and she said she had to buy them food. How come she gets four children and I can't even have one?Dawn
From that point forward, I assumed she had killed the baby's mother because she wanted the baby for herself and didn't realize it was not viable outside the womb. Why nobody in the SA's office considered this theory is beyond me.
Laura: You know, the whole time I was pregnant, it never really registered that I was going to end up with a baby.
Antonio: Yeah, me and the nightmare always thought we had more time to get ready.
Laura: Every morning, I'd eat at Norma's, read the paper. It got so I was out to here but I still got a table for one. About 8 1/2 months in, it finally registered. The thing I thought was never going to happen was happening. Things were about to -
Antonio: Get crazy?
Laura: I was gonna need a bigger table.
One thing I will say for this silly storyline is that it gave Laura a ton more depth than before. I've gone back and forth on how I feel about this character all season long. Sometimes she's just plain nasty, yet her banter with Antonio is fun.
But learning about her backstory and then later realizing she's fighting to regain shared custody of her child made her a lot more sympathetic and I'm interested to see where this goes.
Laura questioned whether she popped pills because her father was an alcoholic. While there's a genetic component to addiction, again it's not so straightforward, and I really wish Chicago Justice had made that clear.
Viewers who are struggling with addiction don't need to be confused about who is responsible for their actions or to feel that change is impossible because of their genetic makeup.
Putting that aside, though, I really felt for her when she was denied custody at the end of the hour. It seemed unfair that she was presumed to be an addict on her ex-husband's say-so and that there was no real way for her to prove she was a suitable parent.
I'm interested to see where this goes. I hope Laura and Antonio, at some future point, work together somehow to get her custody restored.
It was interesting how the murderer was a woman who literally stole a child because she couldn't have one, while Laura was struggling with a child being taken from her. I would have liked to have seen more emotion from Laura over the case since she was connected to it in this way.
What did you think of "Double Helix?" Have you had enough of bad genes defenses? Did you like the way Peter got one over on Zachariah at the end of the hour?
Weigh in below, and don't forget you can always watch Chicago Justice online if you missed anything.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.