|Affiliation|| Laguardia Psychiatric Hospital|
Mid-Hudson Institute (former)
|Last Appearance||"Producer's Backend"|
Emily Sopher is a neurobiologist who studied human behavior and is often called to testify as an expert witness for the defense.
Sopher is first introduced as the Chair of Neurobiology at the Mid-Hudson Institute and is called to testify in the defense of Sean Webster. Sopher tells Dr. George Huang that violence is influenced by genotypes that cause low levels of monoamine oxidase. When Huang counters with the fact that hate is learned, she claims that emotions are genetically determined. Huang argues that, with her approach, psychiatry will turn into social control and they argue about living in the past and the future.
At trial, Sopher testifies that violence and racist violence are mental diseases. She claims that a smaller prefrontal cortex, which controls emotions, is the cause of Sean's behavior and is found to be the case in people convicted of hate crimes. Whenever Sean hears the word or see someone who is Arab, there is more activity in the sub-cortex. Just hearing the word puts Sean in a state of extreme hatred and violence. Sopher's theory is quickly shot down by Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak, when Novak argued that her research can't predict which of her patients will eventually become violent. Sopher tries to argue that she would eventually but Novak puts Huang on the stand; he testifies that genetics play a part but it is also about people's experiences. (SVU: "Hate")
Sopher was called in by Andrea Kent and Paige Summerbee's defense attorneys. The girls were charged for the murder of Emily Sullivan. Sopher testifies that behavior is influenced by environment and claims that intense situations create intense solidarity: adolescents are arguably under years of stress, physiologically, emotionally, and hormonally; and solidarity makes the urge to conform irresistible. This would explain how Paige and Andrea watched and participated during Emily's murder. Sopher's theory is quickly shot down by Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak, who argues that the two defendants were just too weak to withstand the pressure of a group. Sopher agreed that Novak's theory would be the simple explanation. (SVU: "Mean")
A few years later, Sopher is called to testify in Jack Tremblay's defense after he is arrested for raping three girls and one boy. Sopher testifies that children Jack's age have almost unlimited access to television and internet. Because of this they have easy access to pornography and that because of changing cultural norms, teenage boys are building rules about sex based on what they see on the media. She backs up her theory with the fact that the rate of oral sex between adolescents and infectious syphilis has doubled over the last ten years and 35,000 minors were accused of rape in 2007. (SVU: "Unorthodox")
Sopher testifies at a Frye hearing to allow an alcohol intoxication defense at Dalton Rindell's trial. She argues that while the person can choose to drink, the addiction switch in one's brain makes it impossible to stop. The defense attorney asks about a study Sopher conducted where she examined the brains of alcoholics. When Sopher tries to explain the result, EADA Paxton rudely interrupts to renew her objection to holding this hearing in the first place.
The judge overrules her objection and Sopher testifies that the results of her study concluded that addiction is a neurobiological disease. Scans revealed that addicted people's brain showed significant changes in part of the brain involved in judgment, memory and behavioral control. She then goes on to say that because of this, while Rindell took one drink of his own volition, once he started he couldn't stop. On cross, Paxton gets her to admit that not all addicts are killers and then makes a comparison to a brain tumor. Paxton uses this to demonstrate that alcoholics can stop while those who have a brain tumor cannot "will it away." The judge ultimately denies use of the defense. (SVU: "Hammered")
When Jake Stanton is arrested and tried for rape in the third degree, Sopher testifies at his trial about the symptoms of CTE (pugilistic dementia). Sopher testifies that someone suffering from the advanced case of this disease wouldn't remember their actions afterwards. On cross, ADA Cabot gets Sopher to testify that she can't know if Stanton has the disease or not because the only plausible way to know is an autopsy. (SVU: "Spiraling Down")
Sopher eventually got a job working at the Laguardia Psychiatric Hospital. Detectives Benson and Rollins ask to speak to one of her patients, Renee Clark, who is a potential rape victim and witness. Sopher informs them she is undergoing ECT therapy and it is per Clark's request. Sopher explains that because of the way the school buried the rape investigation she was severely depressed and opted for the treatment to let go of the pain and had no support system to help her. Sopher allows them to talk to her when another girl has been raped, but warns them she is fearful and resistant to authority and needs to talk to her first before they do. After she reassures Clark, she lets the Detectives talk to her and they leave. When the Detectives come back, Sopher explains that they believe her and lets Clark tell them what happened to her. (SVU: "Girl Dishonored")
Sopher is later called to examine Tensley Evans to see if she is competent to stand trial. During the evaluation, Evans tells Sopher her entire history as an actress and the sexual abuse she suffered even though Evans didn't consider it abuse. Evan also tells her that she knows the law but just doesn't agree that what she did was wrong in her mind. She walks with ADA Barba and Sergeant Benson and tells them about her statements regarding the charges against her but holds Benson back after Barba leaves. She subtly implies Evans was raped and that is why she is acting this way, but can't get into specifics because of priviledge. (SVU: "Producer's Backend")