Here’s why Peter Stone left Law and Order: SVU

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT -- "End Game" Episode 2024 -- Pictured: Philip Winchester as Peter Stone -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)
LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT -- "End Game" Episode 2024 -- Pictured: Philip Winchester as Peter Stone -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC) /

Find out why Peter Stone left Law and Order SVU in the season 20 finale, and why Philip Winchester left SVU before season 21.

Peter Stone’s final Law & Order: SVU episode aired Thursday night, and the former Chicago Justice character’s time in the Dick Wolf universe ended with some controversy.

The SVU season 20 finale “End Game” featured the Special Victims Unit squad desperate to stop Rob Miller (recurring guest star Titus Welliver, Chicago PD) after he murdered a young woman.

Miller had already raped defense attorney Nikki Staines (a returning Callie Thorne) and was also menacing Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and her son Noah Porter-Benson.

But there was no case against Miller this time, either, as potential witnesses claimed they knew nothing and evidence wasn’t materializing.

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When Peter told Benson he didn’t see where Miller had made a mistake the SVU team could use against him, she pulled him into his office and asked, “Whose side are you on?” Naturally, he did not take kindly to the accusation.

However, after she became emotional and poured her heart out about the possibility of Miller getting away again, Peter decided to take matters into his own hands.

He worked with Nikki, Fin Tutola (Ice-T) and Sonny Carisi (Peter Scanavino) to frame Miller for the murder, including having Nikki deposit money into a defense witness’s bank account and Carisi taking her phone so that it appeared said witness had lunch with Miller. That was enough for a judge to sign an arrest warrant, and the case went to court.

When Miller’s defense attorney (Richard Kind) called Nikki Staines to the stand, she admitted to the frame job—but on cross-examination, Peter got her to say that she had done it because she was that scared of Rob Miller.

That, plus audio of Miller threatening Nikki from the previous episode “Blackout”, was enough to get the other man convicted of the second-degree murder of the new victim. “You set me up!” an outraged Miller snarled at Peter before being hauled away.

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Having learned before the verdict that the frame plot was Peter’s idea—thanks to Nikki Staines at a bar—an angry Benson confronted him outside the courthouse after the verdict, and Peter Stone had his SVU tenure end with what the show had toyed with for a while: his feelings toward Olivia Benson.

“I put my integrity and my career and everything I believe in, in jeopardy for a good friend,” he said, and when Benson retorted that she hadn’t asked him to do that, Peter started to come unraveled a bit.

“I simply lost perspective. This is on me,” he added. “You became more important to me than the case I was trying and that is not me, Liv…I have to move on. I have to go or risk getting blindsided again.”

And Peter Stone walked away from Benson—and from the show, the implication being that he was about to resign from the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Will fans ever find out where he went? Maybe and maybe not; it depends on if the series will mention his absence in the season 21 premiere. SVU is under no obligation to, but it could throw in a line just for closure.

Of course why Peter Stone left SVU is only half the story. Why did Philip Winchester leave SVU? He let fans know that he wouldn’t be returning next season in March, shortly before the series was renewed.

That plus NBC not officially commenting on his departure, and the Dick Wolf world having written out three other stars this season, makes it look like this was a creative decision made by the show and not the actor choosing to leave.

But now that his final episode has aired, it’s possible that more information may come out, and we’ll learn more about what led to Philip Winchester’s exit.

This was Winchester’s first—now only—season as a series regular; he joined the cast in the middle of season 19 as the replacement for Raul Esparza. His tenure was the second shortest by an ADA in SVU history, behind only the 14 episodes Michaela McManus spent as Kim Greylek in season 10.

Next. 5 reasons why we'll miss Peter Stone. dark

For the latest SVU season 20 spoilers and news, plus more on all of Dick Wolf’s other series, follow the Dick Wolf category at One Chicago Center.