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Law & Order: SVU Shake Up: Raul Esparza Exits as Philip Winchester Joins the Cast

Big changes have hit the Dick Wolf drama

Keisha Hatchett

A huge shakeup has hit Law & Order: SVU as one major character leaves so that another can join the team.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, ADA Rafael Barba (Raul Esparza) has exited the series and Chicago Justice's Peter Stone (Philip Winchester) will officially take his place. Wednesday night's episode saw Barba vacate his job after overstepping his boundaries in a right-to-die case. While he was ultimately found not guilty of the charges brought against him, the former ADA felt it was time to move on, making room for Stone to step in full-time.

Ezparza spoke out about his exit, thanking his cast and crew in an emotional tweet. "Goodbye Barba. Thank you. You changed my life. My squad. And you, you always, my Liv, my friend Mariska. I will always treasure my time with all of you," he wrote.

Showrunner Michael Chernuchin also opened up, hinting that this probably isn't the last we've seen of Barba. "Raul is family and we look forward to seeing his talent shine in new projects. As for Barba, SVU fans may see him again soon," Chernuchin said in a statement to THR.

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Though it's unclear when he might return, Esparza's exit means Winchester will now be a series regular following Justice's cancelation. Winchester's Peter Stone has strong ties to the Law & Order family as the son of Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty), the ASA on the first four seasons of Law & Order before Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) took over the position.

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.