"Law & Order: SVU" Tackles Paula Deen, Trayvon Martin Cases

By Colin Bertram
|  Friday, Aug 23, 2013  |  Updated 12:22 PM PDT
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Paula Deen

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Paula Deen Apologizes

Embattled Food Network star Paula Deen released a video statement addressing her past use of racial slurs, which overnight became a national scandal. In the clip, Deen appears visibly upset and at times close to tears. "I beg for your forgiveness.... please forgive me for the mistakes that I've made," she said.
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Taking plot inspiration from real-life headlines has been a long-standing practice on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and this fall the drama series is mashing two subjects into one hot-topic story line.

The series' 15th season will feature an episode that combines the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin and the Paula Deen racism scandal, according to the show's executive producer Warren Leight.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Leight explained, "(Jeffrey) Tambor is a defense attorney representing a very high-profile celebrity woman chef who thought she was being pursued by a rapist and turned around and it was a teenager, and she shot him."

Deen came under intense scrutiny after admitting to using racial slurs in a May 17 deposition in a discrimination lawsuit. In the aftermath the self-described Queen of Southern Cooking lost major licensing deals and the Food Network declined to renew her contract.

Reps for Deen did not reply to a request for comment from NBC News.

Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in February last year while walking to his dad's girlfriend's home in Florida. Zimmerman, who was accused of racially profiling the black 17-year-old, was found not guilty of murder.

Photos from the set posted on BuzzFeed appear to show the slain young man will be named Mehcad, and protests similar to the ones held during Zimmerman's trial will be part of the episode. Cybill Shephard will be playing the part of the chef according to EW, and can also be seen in the set images.

"Is racial profiling justifiable? Can self-defense involve racial profiling? We're diving right into that," Leight went on to tell EW, adding that this may not be the only "ripped from the headlines" story audiences can expect to see. “For better or for worse, this is a good season. It’s almost like we’re being bombarded by headlines. It’s tricky, but we’ll be doing that a lot this season.”

"Law & Order: SVU" returns Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. The Martin/Deen episode is scheduled to air sometime in October.

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