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You walk around afraid you're never gonna get what you want. I'm not afraid, Detective. Are you?
~ Maggie Peterson taunting Det. Elliott Stabler.

Maggie Peterson is the main antagonist in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Chameleon".

She was portrayed by Sharon Lawrence, who also portrayed Linda Fusco in Monk and Roberta Lynch in Criminal Minds.

Biography

Maggie Peterson was a prostitute and known serial killer of several men. She was the daughter of another prostitute, and her father was not on her birth certificate. She had a male child in her possession which she claimed was her son, but it was later found that she had kidnapped the child after murdering its mother. She attempted to evade murder charges by claiming that the men she killed had attempted to rape her, forcing her to kill in self-defense. However, the discovery that she had killed several men in this manner made such a claim unlikely.

Dr. George Huang determined that Peterson was a medically diagnosable Psychopath. Peterson displayed the classic symptoms of psychopathy, such as being utterly manipulative and without remorse, and utterly compelled to lie in any situation, without hesitating to consider that she was telling mutually contradicting lies.

When Doctor Huang interrogated Peterson, she gave a sob story about being abused as a child, trying to manipulative him because he was a "gentle, caring doctor". However, when Huang left and Detective Stabler entered the interrogation room, Peterson's entire personality changed as if someone flipped a switch. While not minutes before she was claiming to Huang that she was shy and abused, Peterson assessed Stabler as a "strong alpha male" and began aggressively flaunting her sexuality, throwing herself at Stabler and trying to seduce him. Then, when Benson's turn came to interrogate Peterson minutes after Stabler left, she again altered her persona. Gauging Benson as a sympathetic fellow woman, Peterson shifted to acting like a sexual assault victim and claiming she'd been sexually abused. Throughout all three interviews, which happened only minutes apart and with a combined duration of under ten minutes, Peterson was utterly willing to passionately lie, each time telling a backstory which blatantly contradicted the others. Shocked, Benson and Stabler asked Huang how Peterson could possibly believe this would work, because even if she didn't somehow realize that the entire group of detectives was watching all three interviews through the one-way mirror, she should at least consider the possibility that they'd compare the three entirely separate stories she gave them. Dr. Huang explained that this is one of the classic symptoms of psychopathy, being utterly manipulative, utterly willing to tell any lie, but also custom-tailoring each lie on the spur of the moment. As a psychopath, Peterson was excellent at improvisation but bad at long term planning. Huang also said that as a Psychopath, in all probability Peterson truly could not mentally process that she was guilty of her crimes, as she honestly believed each new lie the moment she invented it.

Upon her arrest, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office intended to seek the Death penalty against her. According to Alexandra Cabot, that would have made her the first woman to be put to death in the state of New York. However, DA Nora Lewin refused to sign off on it, stating that she doesn't want to kill anyone who may have acted in self-defense.

In court, Maggie affirms that all of the killings she committed were in self-defense. At first, this defense works, but Cabot eventually uncovers evidence proving that Maggie's son Joey isn't really hers and that she killed a woman named Erin Byers for him. She confronts Maggie and her lawyer over this and then offers her a deal, which Maggie says she’ll think about. Instead, she hangs herself in her cell and leaves a note giving all of her possessions to Joey.

Trivia

  • Maggie was based on a real-life serial killer, the late Aileen Wuornos.

External links

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