Law & Order (1990) Episode Scripts

N/A - Custody

In the criminal justice system the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups, the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.
These are their stories.
Quentin Tarantino and his buddies over there were shooting a video.
They found him.
They were scoping the place out a couple of hours before, around 7:00.
They didn't notice the deceased then.
We've been canvassing the area.
All right, thanks, Kelly.
Let me know if anything turns up.
Lawrence Bello, 47.
Lives in Syosset.
Not anymore.
All his credit cards.
And a wife.
Looks like blunt-force brain surgery.
Probably took a header into the climbing blocks.
CSU found some blood and tissue on the corner there.
What did he do, slip on the ice? With a little help.
He's got some bruises on his neck.
Finger marks.
Probably got grabbed by the throat.
Big hands, going by the spread.
Detectives, CSU's got something across the street.
It's monogrammed, initials LB.
Same as your vic, right? Uh-huh! The perp leaves the wallet, but takes the briefcase? What was he expecting to find? I don't know.
Bello didn't look like he was carrying gold bricks.
Long Island Railroad commuter pass, Sporting News.
A screwdriver.
Might be the perp's.
The locks look like they were jimmied.
Go ahead and bag it.
New York Child Health and Welfare Agency.
Lawrence Bello, case supervisor.
A social worker.
Yeah, the taxpayers will be heartbroken.
The playground, is it famous for its after-hours recreation? According to the beat cops, the worst thing that goes on there is some underage drinking.
Anyway, looks like gambling was Mr.
Bello's vice of choice.
That Sporting News we found in his briefcase, he already had his picks of the week circled.
He could have been paying off a bookie and come up short.
Or some nut doesn't like the welfare system.
But the only prints on the briefcase belong to Bello, and there's no prints on the screwdriver.
Tradesman All-Pro.
Expensive item.
Professionals use these.
Plumbers, electricians.
There's a Mrs.
Wants to see you.
Usually, Larry takes the 6:30 from Penn Station.
Yesterday, he called to say he had a late appointment.
I assumed it was about his kids.
His kids? I mean, his foster kids.
He took kids out of bad homes and found families for them.
Can you think of any reason why he was in that park last night? No.
He didn't like the cold.
He was always getting sick.
Was he mugged? We're not sure.
Bello, did your husband ever talk to you about his gambling? Gambling? He didn't gamble.
What makes you think that? Well, we know he was interested in sports.
No, he'd watch it on TV and read the sports page.
Did any of his friends share his interest? Larry and I didn't socialize very much.
We had each other.
He was here for a couple of hours in the morning and then he left to do his fieldwork.
He was always very busy.
How busy with his gambling? You know, you're not doing him any favors by pretending you don't know about it.
So, sometimes he liked to talk about how many points the Jets got instead of how many cigarette burns he found on a five-year-old.
Some days, this job How did he make out with the betting? Did he lose? I wouldn't know.
He always seemed on top of things.
You see what he had in his briefcase before he left? The usual stuff.
I put his case files in for his visits.
An appointment sheet.
Did he check in, in the afternoon? For his messages.
Um He got one from his wife, one from our supervisor, Mr.
De Simio, and one from the Pattersons.
Who are they? Foster parents.
Bello kept playing phone tag with them.
He needed to see them.
I didn't see their file in his briefcase.
Well, he didn't connect with them until late afternoon.
The way he was talking, I thought they were candidates for an action memo.
Bello seemed pretty angry with them.
You have an address? Patterson, Henry and Sharlene.
Three blocks from where he was killed.
Sure, Mr.
Bello was here.
He left just before 7:00.
Why, he do something wrong? Other than getting himself killed in your neighborhood last night, no.
Sharlene, take the kids into their room to play, okay? Are they both fosters? Just the little one.
Robbie is ours.
They told us at Health and Welfare that Bello had a beef with you.
Because we put a deposit on a new place.
We should have checked with him first.
He said moving was going to mess us up with the agency, that we might not be able to keep all our kids.
How many fosters you have now? Three.
Anyhow, we got it all straightened out.
I signed some forms, then Mr.
Bello left.
That's funny, we didn't see any forms with your name on them in his briefcase.
He said he was gonna come back with some forms.
Where are the other two kids, Mr.
Patterson? My sister took them to a movie.
On a school night? You know, I got three kids myself, and a whole pile of winter clothes by the front door.
Here, I hardly see enough for two kids.
If I go into your kid's room, I bet I'll find two beds, two bathrobes, just two of everything.
Am I right? Henry, what's going on? He was just about to tell us why you're short two foster kids.
Sharlene, don't say anything.
Yeah, maybe we'd all be more comfortable not saying anything downtown.
Come on.
I swear to God, I didn't kill Mr.
You know what, Henry? Let's forget about Bello.
We want those kids.
I'm not saying anything else.
I want a lawyer.
Fine with us.
Maybe Mrs.
Patterson will be a little more cooperative.
You can't talk to her without a lawyer.
Hey, unlike you, she's not a suspect.
She can leave anytime she wants.
Now, how about it, Mrs.
Patterson? You want to tell us what your husband did with those kids? You know, if we find out later that you had anything to do with it, they're gonna take your son away.
You know what that means? They're gonna put him in foster care.
You leave her alone.
Hey, excuse me, you aren't talking until your lawyer gets here, remember? So, shut up.
Now, what about those missing kids? There weren't any other kids.
It was Bello's idea.
He made them up on the computer and we pretended to take them in.
And the state shoots you a check 800 bucks a head every month, right? We only kept half.
We gave the rest to Bello.
He said it was okay.
He'd done it before.
It was going fine, until we decided to move to a nicer place.
Bello went crazy.
He said moving would bring a whole new inspection by the agency down on us.
He told us to tear up the lease.
Then he left, just before Virtual foster kids.
Yeah, after virtual sex, it was only a matter of time.
Their story makes sense to you? They confess to fraud to avoid a murder charge? Maybe.
Or we're giving them too much credit.
Bello had a gambling habit to feed.
Chances are, these aren't the only foster parents on his team.
All those kickbacks.
He'd be walking around with a lot of cash in his briefcase.
Somebody knew.
Another parent with virtual kids? Book these two for fraud.
And find out who else was working the scam.
I could spot all the phony kids in a half hour if we were directly hooked up to birth records, like we're supposed to.
They've been promising us for two years.
They've been promising to fix my chair for three.
This is gonna take days.
Look, the first time somebody gets a foster kid, they get put under a microscope, right? Yeah, there's a probationary period, weekly inspections.
There's a whole battery of people in the loop.
But not the second time they get a kid? Well, the foster home's already approved.
There's less scrutiny.
Only one caseworker is involved.
I'll check foster homes with multiple placements, cross-ref, name Bello.
Here we go.
This doesn't make sense.
This file here, it's been dormant for over a year.
Then yesterday Bello downloaded it.
The same day he was killed.
Whose file is it? The Corbins.
Two fosters over a period of four years.
Then nothing since a year ago.
And the file wasn't in Bello's desk or his briefcase.
Alan Corbin? And who are you? The police.
Do you mind if we come in? Lennie Briscoe.
What are you doing here? I'm working a homicide, Sal.
Larry Bello.
And you? Larry Bello from Health and Welfare? You know him? He placed Alex with us.
Alex being Their adopted son.
He was kidnapped this morning.
We'd just gotten to the children's zoo.
Alex wanted to see the polar bears.
I turned away for a second and he was gone.
He's a good-looking boy.
How long have you had him? Well, we signed the adoption papers about seven months ago, and we had him as a foster nine months before that.
Alex was a crack baby.
When he came to us, he was so small, so frail, but you see, now he's just fine.
The ransom call came in about an hour after the abduction.
Now the male voice, sounded black to me.
How much do they want? Nothing specific.
Said the boy was fine, and he would call back with instructions.
You think that the same people who killed Mr.
Bello took Alex? Could be a coincidence.
We looked at everybody who ever set foot in the Corbin's house.
Maids, trades people, but a social worker? Come on.
That's a new one on me.
If Bello was in on the kidnapping, what's he doing in the morgue? After he gave his partners the Corbin's address, maybe they got greedy, they cut him out.
This isn't about money.
You got one call eight hours ago.
Didn't even name a price.
What do you think it's about, Rey? Well, when kids are adopted, their files are sealed, right? To protect the birth parents' privacy.
And the kid's.
If the birth parents are trying to find Alex, Larry Bello is the man to see.
No, the mom is a pipe head.
That's been known to dampen the maternal instinct.
Yeah, but a man killed Bello.
A man made the ransom call.
We could be looking at the father.
What the hell? Wonder Boy might be right.
I'll look into it.
No, we'll look into it.
We caught the homicide, Sal.
That makes me and Wonder Boy the primary.
Your deceased is not gonna go anywhere.
I've got a missing kid.
Put them back in your pants, gentlemen.
There's enough work to go around.
Detective Martel, talk to the Corbins, see what they know about the birth parents.
You two get over to Health and Welfare, get that boy's file opened.
You know what happens to me if I let you guys see the file without a judge's say-so? You mean besides having dinner on us at The Palm? That will make a nice change from standing in the unemployment line.
We don't have time to suck up to a family court judge.
Now, you give us the name of the kid's parents, we promise nobody will know where it came from.
Sorry, I can't do it.
I could get sued.
Now, you listen to me! If we get to that kid too late because of you, a lawsuit's gonna be the least of your worries.
Rey, take it easy.
Listen, we're not trying to get you in any trouble.
Just point us in the right direction, you know? You said the mother was a crack addict? When Bello put her kid in the system, he would have referred her to one of six rehab clinics we have under contract.
A referral from Larry Bello Even if I had time to look, those files are in storage.
Well, maybe this will help.
It's a photo of her son.
His name is Alex.
Oh, yes.
I've seen a baby picture of him.
I remember because of the raspberry birthmark on his wrist.
You know the mother's name? Mays.
Like Willie.
Jenny Mays.
Attitude to spare.
She said the kid's name was Jamal.
What about the boy's father? She ever mention him? She hardly even mentioned the boy.
I practically had to beg her to show me a picture of him.
Any idea where we could find her? No.
She was in and out of here for a few months.
Then she came down with pneumonia.
We sent her to Mount Sinai.
That's when the state terminated her parental rights.
That must have boosted her morale.
Standard operating procedure.
She showed no interest in her boy.
The state had to do something.
What about calling her next of kin? She mentioned she had people in Springfield, Massachusetts.
I'm sure they tried to contact them.
You want to find her, try Mount Sinai.
They'll have her Medicaid records.
Jenny Mays.
Lived in 2D.
Chipped two tiles in the bathroom.
I could have charged her for it, too, but I didn't.
She moved out five months ago.
The hospital gave you this address? That's right.
Well, she didn't look sick.
She didn't have nothing catching, did she? No.
Did she leave a forwarding address? Uh-uh.
Most likely living with her boyfriend.
He came by a couple of times to pick up her mail.
He got a name? Michael.
Nice looking boy.
Did Jenny have a job? Well, she used to work a register at Loehmann's, but she quit that before she moved.
I'm told she got a better job somewhere else.
All right, let's try it this way.
When she paid the rent, do you remember what bank her check came from? Checks? I don't take checks.
Hard currency only.
Except for one month, I did let her pay in trade.
What did she do, bake cookies? My fuse box sparked out.
Her boyfriend replaced it.
Got me a new one at cost.
He's an electrician.
Now, where does he work? Well, there's a sticker on the fuse box with a phone number on it in case I need service.
Come on.
We're looking for a Michael Walters.
Hey, Mikey.
What did I do, man? What did I do? Nothing, until you cut out.
Michael Walters, you are under arrest for obstruction.
You have the right to remain silent.
He's not my boy.
But you helped Jenny take him, right? No.
I didn't even know she had a kid.
So what, you ran just to give us a workout? Call it a survival reaction.
Pale faces, dark suits.
Usually bad news.
Hey, you want real bad news? He dropped his screwdriver next to Larry Bello's briefcase.
A Tradesman All-Pro, just like the rest of his set.
Just like a lot of tools sold in this city.
Well, it was enough to get us a search warrant for his apartment.
We got people in there right now.
Oh! Rey, I don't think Mikey likes it.
Help yourself out, Mr.
Tell us where the boy is.
Michael, don't say anything.
He's with Jenny, right? Where are they? I don't know what you're talking about.
Okay, thanks.
That was Detective Martel.
He just found a pair of shoes in Mr.
Walters' apartment.
Matches the footprints found at the playground.
And guess what? There was blood on the soles.
Give us a minute.
Thanks for the call.
I knew it sounded too good to be true.
Martel did call from Walters' apartment.
Confirmed Jenny lived there.
He's staying put just in case she turns up.
In the realm of the "what if.
" Bello agreed to sell Jenny Mays an address.
She asked my client to act as go-between.
Then Bello upped the ante, there was a scuffle.
Oh! I get it.
The whole thing was an accident.
Huh? Yes, it was.
He pleads to man two, minimum sentence.
And we get Alex Corbin.
He'll help you any way he can.
I'll make a recommendation to the D.
Now he talks.
Jenny took him to my sister's.
Please, don't hurt her.
Jenny Mays? No, I'm Darla.
Darla Walters.
Where are they? Where are who? What's going on? Hey, Darla, you want to join your brother Michael down at the station? Just keep being a wiseass.
She left about an hour ago with her boy.
She took her suitcase.
Going where? Where? She called a cab.
I heard her say Port Authority.
She's got family in Massachusetts.
Keep an eye on her.
We caught it just as it left the terminal.
We kept the passengers on board.
Not a happy bunch.
Hey, kiddo.
Are you Alex? His proper name is Jamal.
And you're Jenny.
Don't worry, Jamal, everything is going to be all right.
Stand up, please.
Jenny Mays, you're under arrest for the kidnapping of Alex Corbin, for the murder of Lawrence Bello.
You have the right to remain silent.
Unless they changed the rules since I sat on your side of the table, felony murder requires a felony.
Try kidnapping, Paul.
In the commission and furtherance of which, Larry Bello was killed.
Mike never told me what he did.
I didn't find out until I heard it on the news.
He was your accomplice.
Share the crime, share the time.
An accomplice to what? She had no intention of kidnapping her son.
She just wanted to see him.
I was a sick junkie when they took him away from me.
I never got to say goodbye.
You were saying goodbye all the way to Springfield? She saw her boy on the street, she was overcome by emotion.
She took him.
Chalk it up to maternal instinct.
That doesn't explain the ransom call.
I only wanted to let the Corbins know Jamal was okay, so that they wouldn't worry.
Look, Jack, you've got a dead, corrupt bureaucrat and his confessed killer.
I've got a reformed drug addict, with a good job, who's only guilty of wanting her son.
Offer us something reasonable.
I'll let you know.
For the record, we'll take custodial interference and a suspended sentence.
If I don't hear from you by tomorrow, I'll prepare my motion for dismissal.
I imagine you already have a draft in your briefcase.
She just wanted to see him.
That's all it was about.
We didn't scheme any kidnapping.
You told the Corbins you were after ransom money.
We didn't want money, she just told me to call them, to throw them off.
She thought of that, and you expect us to believe that she didn't think of kidnapping her son until she saw him? Well, if she told me she was gonna kidnap him, I never would have helped her.
I don't want kids.
She knows that.
We are done talking, Mr.
We were promised a deal.
No deal until he tells us the truth.
He lied about her leaving town, and he's lying now about her involvement.
I didn't know she was taking the bus.
She must have just panicked, that's all.
Look, I told you all everything I know.
Me and Jenny didn't set out to hurt nobody.
Things just went wrong.
She's laying the murder on her boyfriend.
As long as he keeps lying for her, she might get away with it.
This is giving me a headache.
Drop the felony murder.
See if she'll take a plea on kidnapping.
Paul is asking for Custodial Interference and no jail time.
It's not acceptable.
Split the difference.
Split the difference? Have you read the file on Jenny Mays? I'm sure I'm about to get a synopsis.
Crack addict since the age of 17, in and out of rehab.
Arrests for vagrancy, petty larceny, possession.
So far, par for the course.
When Child Welfare was called in 18 months ago, they found her son lying in his own filth.
He'd been crying for 10 hours straight, while she was out buying drugs.
He was malnourished, underweight, covered with rashes.
If they hadn't taken him away from her, he'd be dead.
And if the police hadn't found her, who knows what fresh hell she would have put him through.
She's not charged with being a lousy mother.
Her story doesn't make sense, Adam.
I'm not giving her a walk for lying to us.
You think she premeditated the kidnapping, prove it.
Before Paul throws the charges back in our face.
This is her desk.
The police said they'd be by today to pick up her things.
I never thought I'd see her on the 6:00 news.
She talk to you about Jamal? Just that she put him up for adoption because of a medical situation.
An addiction to crack.
Past tense.
Not Jenny? Well, she certainly kept that to herself.
She ever mention wanting him back? No.
I wasn't that close to her.
She was taking her son to Springfield when she was arrested.
Did you see any signs that she was planning to leave? She mentioned Springfield a couple of weeks ago, when I helped her change the direct deposit on her paycheck.
She was moving her account from the Credit Union to the bank on Union Square.
I don't get the connection.
There's a branch in Springfield, where her parents live.
She said they only had social security to live on.
She wanted to send them money every month to help out.
She was in a rush to get the paperwork done.
She's meticulous.
She was skipping town, but not without making sure she'd get her last paycheck.
Paul will argue the bank move was to support her parents.
Only makes her halo shine brighter.
The only people wearing halos would be her parents.
I checked with the county registrar in Springfield.
They're both dead.
Good going, Claire.
It's still only circumstantial evidence of premeditation.
We need to back it up.
Her boyfriend.
Unless Jenny never told him.
It wouldn't surprise me.
You're making this up.
Look at the date stamped at the bottom.
She opened the account a full week before she kidnapped Alex.
But she would have told me.
Walters, all this lying on behalf of Jenny is noble, but it's just putting you in a very deep hole.
I can't believe she didn't tell me what she was doing.
Okay, so she played him.
You here to rub it in? Actually, we were hoping that she had said something to him.
What about Larry Bello? What did she tell you about him? She knew he might get hurt.
He said he wanted a grand for the address, so she scraped it together.
An hour before the meeting, he said he wanted two grand.
Jenny flipped out.
She told me she wanted that address, whatever it took.
Including murder? No.
We thought I might have to scare him, but not kill him.
I wouldn't be seeking a dismissal if I thought my motion had no merit.
I prosecuted dozens of felony murder indictments.
I know the requirements.
This crime doesn't meet them.
It's textbook.
It takes a felony, in this case a kidnapping, and a murder during the commission of that felony.
The intent to kidnap wasn't formed at the time of the murder.
They're separate crimes.
Referring to the moving affidavits, Your Honor, Ms.
Mays made preparations to leave the state with her son a week prior to Mr.
Bello's death.
That evidence can be interpreted any number of ways.
She spent her last dime to get the boy's address.
It wasn't just to say hello and goodbye.
Whatever plans she had, she did not communicate them to her boyfriend.
How can his killing Bello be in furtherance of a kidnapping he wasn't even aware of? His knowledge isn't important.
Mays was calling the shots.
She told Walters to get the Corbins' address by any means necessary, including the use of force.
That's enough for me.
Robinette, your motion is denied.
The charges stand.
Voir dire to begin tomorrow.
Judge, can we go off the record here? Tomorrow, I intend to move to recuse you from this case.
On what grounds? Your bias against my client.
Three years ago, over dinner at Elio's you said all drug addicts should be rounded up and sterilized.
I don't remember saying anything of the kind.
I do.
And if I subpoena him, so will Ben Stone.
We nearly fell off our chairs when you said it.
You can either recuse yourself now, or after your views on forced sterilization become a matter of public record.
Let's do this by the book, Paul.
I want a hearing.
Thank you, Mr.
For the record, I won't be available to hear this case.
I'm sending it back to Part 40 for reassignment.
Congratulations, Paul.
You just bullied a judge.
I'm a bully? I don't have 500 attorneys in my office, or a $200 million war chest, the power to investigate and arrest any citizen, and a well-armed police force to back it up.
That's you, Jack.
You're the biggest badass on the block.
Ben Stone.
He's traveling in Europe.
He's not available to testify at any hearing.
Paul knew.
Yeah, pure poker.
He caught a break with the new judge.
Lisa Pongracic.
Permanent resident of the Great Society.
No breaks.
I'm sure Paul checked the roster before making his move.
You talk to him about a plea? I offered him man one.
He won't even discuss it.
Paul knows how it works.
If we go to trial, we'll have to seek the maximum.
Murder two.
Whatever his reasons, I think a trial is exactly what he wants.
Jenny Mays sent her boyfriend to beat an address out of Lawrence Bello.
Then she followed Alex Corbin from that address and kidnapped him.
She says that she never thought to kidnap him until the moment she saw him on the street.
The evidence says that, that was her intent all along.
Lf, after you've heard all the testimony, you think she's telling the truth, you must find her guilty of kidnapping.
If you think she was lying, then you must also find her guilty of murder.
Robinette will ask you to feel sorry for Jenny Mays.
That's all right, you can feel sorry for her.
But don't forget that there is a dead man here and a grieving family.
And don't forget Alex Corbin was abducted by the woman who got him addicted to crack in her womb, who neglected him in ways that will turn your stomach, and who finally abandoned him to the care of strangers.
So, go ahead and feel sorry for Jenny Mays, but never forget who the real victims are here.
The People's case rests on one word, kidnapping.
They use it to describe what my client did.
They could have used other words.
Custodial interference.
That's right, justice.
But they're stuck on kidnapping.
They say she planned it all along.
They're right.
She did.
But it doesn't matter, because the real kidnapper here is the state of New York.
It stole Jamal Mays from his mother, and gave him to a white family, to raise as a white child.
Now, over the next few days, I'm going to talk to you about racism in this country.
About black children lost in white America.
I'm going to show you how trans-racial adoption has become the code word for the cultural genocide of African-Americans.
Now, you won't hear this from them.
They don't want to talk about race.
Because they are good, moral people, they'll concede there is racism in America, and, oh, what a shame that is.
But they'll never concede it has any bearing on what happens in this courtroom.
Or in the district attorney's office.
I know, because I worked in that office for seven years.
And they won't point the finger at the Child Health and Welfare Agency, because one hand washes the other.
Because they're all a part of the same racist system.
I'll lay the facts out before you.
Then it's up to you to right the wrong that was done to Jenny and Jamal Mays.
The zoo had just opened for the day, and I stopped at the concession stand to buy Alex some hot cocoa.
Just like that, he disappeared.
And what did you do? Well, I went crazy looking for him.
The whole time he was gone, I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't eat.
I just prayed he'd come back to us.
When Alex was first placed in your home, what condition was he in? He was underweight.
He was always sick.
He was difficult to feed.
He never cried.
He didn't know more than a couple of words.
He was 20-months old and he couldn't even walk without help.
And now? I can hardly keep up with him.
He knows his numbers up to 20.
He talks constantly.
He's as normal as our other child.
Thank you.
You sound like an excellent mother, Mrs.
Tell me, why did you change Jamal's name? Alex is my father's name.
I wanted to make him feel like he was a part of the family.
Did you ever consider Jamal might have been his father's name? No.
I didn't know anything about his parents.
So, when he grew up and asked you about his roots, what were you going to tell him? I don't know.
His file was sealed.
All they told me was his mother was a crack addict.
Then you didn't know his grandfather was a cabinet maker in Springfield.
Or that his mother's great-great grandmother rolled bandages for the Union Army.
Or that her uncle was a surveyor for the Union Pacific Railroad.
You couldn't tell him about any of those people.
Because I wasn't allowed to know.
But you could tell him his mother was a crack addict.
They didn't take Alex away from her because of me.
She couldn't take care of herself, let alone a defenseless baby.
Then why didn't they take away your daughter five years ago, after you were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs? Objection.
In my chambers.
Donna Corbin was hooked on pain killers for three years.
When the police pulled her over, she had her two-year-old in the back seat.
There's a record of this? Well, thanks to Mrs.
Corbin's lawyers, the record was expunged.
But Mr.
McCoy can confirm the facts, even though he didn't submit them for discovery.
It's not Rosario material.
It's irrelevant and prejudicial.
It dramatizes the double standard that victimizes my client.
White drug addicts go to Betty Ford while their kids stay with nannies.
Black addicts wait months for a bed in a rehab clinic, while their kids are hijacked by the Child Health and Welfare Agency.
This is all a smoke screen.
Your Honor, even if it were true, it's a generalization.
Robinette can't apply it to the specifics of this case.
Why not, if the shoe fits? You're practicing law, not social science.
I'm fighting for my client.
You're playing chicken with your client's future.
To prove what? Gentlemen.
Your Honor, I want defense counsel's last question to Mrs.
Corbin stricken.
And I want special instructions given to the jury.
Denied, Mr.
You can deal with it in your closing.
I've been a supervisor in the Child Welfare Agency for 15 years.
I can tell you that our agency's standards are the same for everyone, regardless of race.
Black parents whose kids are in foster care get the same breaks as white parents.
Normally, how long is a child in foster care before he's put up for adoption? We try to hold off for about a year, you know, to allow the birth parents to get their act together.
Well, according to his records, Jamal Mays was in foster for only nine months.
Why the rush? I really don't know, but it's not appropriate.
It's not policy.
Is it policy to place black children with white families? We encourage same race adoptions, but that's not always an option.
Our primary concern is finding a home for these kids.
Regardless of race.
That's right.
Then tell us, how many white children has your agency placed in black homes? For adoption? I can't think of any.
When your agency went to Family Court to sever Ms.
Mays' parental rights, did you notify her? We certainly did.
We sent her a notice by registered mail.
We have her signed receipt.
If she wanted to oppose the severance, what's the procedure? That's spelled out in the letter.
She could write us, call us.
Sometimes parents just show up in court.
What did Jenny Mays do? There's no record she did anything.
We never heard from her.
Thank you.
Black mothers are programmed for failure by foster agencies.
They're less likely to get long-term housing than white mothers, less likely to get help finding a job.
With what result, Dr.
Simmonds? If they can't establish stable homes, they don't get their kids back.
Meaning, a disproportionate number of black children are funneled into adoption.
And what happens there? Adoption agencies restrict the pool of adoptive parents by setting standards which white couples are more likely to meet.
Why is that? They have the jobs, the education, the resources.
Sounds like an ideal environment for a black child.
Any child.
My research doesn't bear it out.
I tracked a group of black children raised by white families.
As adults, they're typically low-achievers, at risk for suicide and substance abuse.
Having read Jenny Mays' file, is it your professional opinion that the Child Health and Welfare Agency acted in Jamal Mays' best interests when they placed him with a white family? No.
Doctor, are you saying that Jamal Mays will grow up to be a low achiever if he stays with the Corbins? Yes, probably.
Because he's a black child raised in a white family? Yes.
Not because he was born addicted to crack and then neglected and malnourished for the first 18 months of his life? Well, that might have an effect, yes.
Paul started an avalanche.
Black-and-white adoptions are suddenly everybody's favorite whipping boy.
Right along with this office.
Let's end it.
Get in touch with Paul.
See what he'll take.
I know what he wanted before cultural genocide made the front page of The Post.
I don't see why he'd back off now.
You won't find Paul Robinette hawking bean pies for Louis Farrakhan.
Maybe not, but something has changed.
He's still a lawyer.
Make him a reasonable offer, he'll take it.
And what should I do? The way Jenny Mays lost her son was tragic.
What she did to get him back was criminal.
Maybe your jury won't think that exercising the maternal instinct is a crime.
Read the statutes.
Check the case law.
Find something you can live with.
Then somebody have a conversation with Paul.
Scotch and water.
I talked to Jenny.
We're gonna pass on the offer.
I'm sorry to hear that.
The system made her a criminal.
She doesn't belong in prison.
That's a political position, Paul, not a defense.
It's using institutional racism to justify murder and kidnapping.
Racism doesn't exist in a bubble, Claire.
It forces its victims to live in a different reality.
Look at us.
A black man and a white woman having a drink.
Now, how many white men in this room have taken note of that? How many of them disapprove? And what are they going to do about it? In Manhattan? That's not something I'd worry about.
In the Manhattan I live in, I'd be stupid not to.
So, thanks to the bigots, every black criminal has a readymade excuse? Not an excuse.
A mitigating factor.
And we end up with verdicts that are about race, not justice.
Everything is about race, Claire.
And all of our goodwill is not going to make a damn bit of difference.
It's a school night.
Okay, Paul.
But this conversation is not over.
What did you think when you read the notice telling you about the adoption? The nurse had to read it to me.
I was on antibiotics for the pneumonia.
I was running a fever.
It just didn't seem real.
Why didn't you oppose the adoption? I didn't know any lawyers.
But I was sure they couldn't just take Jamal away from me without talking to me.
Once you got out of the hospital, what did you do? I was off drugs, and I got a job, found a home.
And I talked to Legal Aid about getting Jamal back.
They told me it could take years.
So I called Mr.
What did he say? He wouldn't tell me where Jamal was.
He said he wasn't even allowed to tell me anything about the kind of people he was living with.
But he did finally agree to tell you? Yes, for a lot of money.
I'm not rich.
But I never meant for Michael to hurt him.
Just scare him, so he'd give us the address.
Tell us what happened when you went to that address.
I saw Jamal with Mrs.
Corbin, and he was beautiful.
He'd grown up so much.
Corbin took good care of him.
But that doesn't give her any more rights than me.
I'm his mother.
He has my blood, and he has my skin.
I bore him into the world, and I'm the one who can help him become a proud black man.
There is just no way a white woman, no matter how smart and rich and decent she is, could do that for him.
Thank you, Jenny.
You wanted your son back even before you knew where he was living, is that right? Yes.
Even before you knew the Corbins were white? Yes.
What if the Corbins had been black, would you still have wanted Jamal back? Yes.
Then this isn't about race, is it? I had to get him back.
They stole him away from me.
They took him away from you because you were a junkie, who would rather smoke crack than change his diapers, isn't that right? I'm not like that anymore.
Now you're someone who causes a man's death, who abducts a child from the streets, who makes ransom calls to his parents.
I had no choice.
What about Legal Aid? Didn't they tell you that you had a chance to win custody back of Jamal through legal means? That was going to take too long.
He'd be all grown up.
By then it would be too late.
Too late for what? To make up for what I did to him.
You felt guilty? Yes.
So you tore this little boy from a good home, just to make yourself feel better? No, I did it for him.
I wanted to take care of him.
How? You quit your job, isn't that right? Yes.
You had no home, did you? No.
No means of support.
You weren't thinking of him, you were thinking of yourself.
Of your needs.
That's not true.
Just like you were thinking of your needs whenever you lit up a crack pipe.
You're twisting my words.
I am his mother.
I have a natural right to be with him.
Whatever it takes? Ms.
Mays, is satisfying your needs so important that it justifies taking a man's life? Objection.
Is it worth your son's future? Sustained.
I have no more questions for this witness.
Madam Foreperson, I understand there has been no change in your situation.
Is that correct? Yes, Your Honor.
You've only been deliberating for three days.
Are you absolutely sure you can't work past this deadlock? We need clarification on the law, Your Honor.
Can we find the defendant guilty on the murder count even if we don't find her guilty of the kidnapping? She's charged with felony murder.
You cannot convict on the murder without convicting on the underlying felony.
Then, Your Honor, I don't think we'll be able to reach a verdict.
Your Honor, I think an Allen Charge to continue deliberations is appropriate.
It's delaying the inevitable.
I'm declaring a mistrial.
The jury is dismissed.
Counsel, I want to hear from you by the end of the week about a new trial date.
My last offer still stands.
Well, I'll talk to my client.
I'll make it work.
I didn't want it to go this far.
I wanted the jury to send a message, and they did.
They sent us both a message.
You're a long way from the district attorney's office.
Ben Stone once said I'd have to decide if I was a lawyer who is black, or a black man who is a lawyer.
All those years, I thought I was the former.
All those years I was wrong.