A widely-watched episode of NBC's "Law and Order" Wednesday night was based on the Dunster murder-suicide and the Gina Grant case, two Harvard events that made headlines and stirred debate nationwide last year, according to the show's executive producer.
"We like to take little twists that people might recognize," said Michael S. Chernuchin, who, in addition to being the executive producer, wrote the show's script.
In the episode, titled "Paranoia," a student at a fictitious New York college stabbed her roommate and tried to commit suicide. Interrupted by police, she was convicted of the murder.
Her past emerged--a story that characterized her as a paranoid orphan who had also killed her sister.
Chernuchin said his character survived her suicide attempt, unlike the real Sinedu Tadesse '96, because "it's interesting to hear her side of the story."
Viewers apparently agreed: "Paranoia" earned a 21 share rating in the first half hour and a 23 share in the second. It came out on top of the other programs in its time slot.
"Gina's story is fodder for TV and movies because there's lesson in there," said Curtis M. Dickson, Grant's uncle, who watched the program. "(The protagonist of the episode) killed again, but that's not Gina. She would never do that."
Dickson said he believes an important aspect of the show's story line was that juvenile criminal records are sealed. He said he thinks most juveniles with sealed records do not commit crimes again and go on to become productive citizens.
"(The episode) is not necessarily a reflection on Gina," he said.
"Do you know how many people there are at Harvard who have sealed records? They're sealed for a reason, so that a person can have a second chance at life, because they're children. People make mistakes, especially children."