Hurd eventually left the series to join the De Showtime drama Leap Years. After leaving the show, Hurd said, «I think it`s just sad that they can`t believe in staying with me.»  However, she said she didn`t have any bad feelings about her time at Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but she felt that casting on Leap Years was a «rare opportunity.»  Gossip blogger Roger Friedman reported that Richard Belzer ordered Hurd`s dismissal because his character received too many stories and diverted his attention, but this report was never confirmed. Although Jeffries left the special victims` unit during the episode «Asunder», his character was still present in the episode «Runaway», which marked the last appearance of the character. «Runaway» was originally scheduled to air before «Asunder», but was released out of service;  and therefore new scenes were shot to present the episode as a «flashback». The retcon explanation in «Runaway» is that Detective Jeffries passed to Vice and briefly returned to the SVU Squad room when they needed extra manpower for a case. Hurd was replaced by rapper and actor Ice-T, who began playing detective Odafin «Fin» Tutuola. Fin and Rollins go to Sean and tell him what happened to Ashley. He seems surprised by this and immediately says, «Ashley is dead! Melanie must be panicking. Asked about an alibi, Sean says he was in a strip club with a boyfriend. Melanie still holds out hope that Sean is innocent. She says she was so sure last time and then she was wrong and now she feels like she just can`t trust herself. She says she doesn`t want to testify. Sean stands side by side with Melanie Harper and her adult daughter Ashley in the lineroom for the announcement. Melanie is the woman who accused Sean of rape all these years ago.
Now she and Ashley want to make amends and tell everyone that they invited Sean to Ashley`s next wedding. The trio then leaves the roster room to celebrate Sean`s birthday. Detective Elliot Stabler: Barely took off his gloves. It has become ballistic. The fifth episode, «Baby Killer,» has a tragic opening in which a seven-year-old is shot dead by one of her classmates, played by Nicolas Martí Salgado. Carlos Leon portrayed a gang leader who played a big role in how Elias came to own the gun and how he became traumatized enough to shoot it. In the sixth episode, «Nonconformity,» Kevin Breznahan played a schizophrenic whose mother (Kathleen Chalfant) and other family members, even though they know he`s mentally ill, want him to stay without medication because the real world seems even scarier to him than his delusional world. The seventh episode, «Asunder», in which he played a policeman accused of rape by his wife, was the first of two appearances as a SVU guest for Nestor Serrano. Amy Carlson had a guest role as his wife. Martin laughs and lowers his voice a little when she reveals: «He passed for 20 minutes. But you know what, you let the VP pass if he wants to! Benson tries to make sure Fin is okay and he replies that he is the one who came down.
She offers to speak, and he quickly replies in a really fine way that talking is overrated. In the fifteenth episode of «Countdown,» Andrea Bowen played a key witness who helps SVU find a serial killer. In the episode «Runaway», Kelly Karbacz played a missing teenager. Sean Nelson has played a guest role as an informant who helps SVU find her. Of «Runaway,» showrunner Neal Baer said, «It`s the only episode that`s only ever aired on the network once — because it stinked.» However, the producers still decided to feature a scene from the episode in the season 1 DVD extras to analyze Cragen`s character.  At the end of the episode, Barba says that some days this justice is not pretty, to which Benson replies, «Ugly this time.» In the thirteenth episode, «Victims,» Eric Roberts played a guest role as a former vigilante police officer. His character killed sex offenders who are known to spread HIV every time they raped. In this episode, after a visit to a crime scene exposes him to the blood of an HIV-positive victim, Elliot Stabler begins taking antiretroviral drugs, which are mentioned in the next episode «Paranoia», in which Khandi Alexander was a guest as a police officer who secretly works for home affairs. Outside, Melanie tells Benson that at least this time she knows he did. Benson tells her it`s not his fault, to which Melanie replies, «Who is it then?» It`s a safe bet that everyone can agree that there`s nothing ugly about it. In fact, it`s damn good. Again, Hargitay laughs as he interjects, «Yes, you just don`t say, `Hey Joe, we have to cut you here!` David J.
Burke and Neal Baer were the chief executive producers to replace Robert Palm. In the season finale, Baer took over. Neal Baer, a former pediatrician, left the emergency room to work for Dick Wolf`s first spin-off of Law & Order. When Neal Baer explained how he became interested in the series, he said he was «attracted to Mariska», who appeared in the emergency room. Mariska Hargitay felt that Baer was giving the show the direction it had previously lacked, explaining: «There was no consistency. Dick wasn`t really there. We didn`t have a leader, we didn`t have a vision. Jonathan Greene also credited Baer with improving the quality of the series, saying, «He literally took that, not only at the next level, but five or six levels above.  In a video interview, Richard Belzer said: «The show is better this year, so I think it`s directly due to the fact that he`s at the helm.  It was ugly to see Barba give up his belief in Fin, rollins being hanged almost dry because he had «helped» a witness remember certain things, and the whole team running around trying to believe that a guy who had just been released from prison after being wrongly convicted, Has not committed any crime.