Law & Order (1990) Episode Scripts

N/A - Burden

NARRATOR: 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.
My baby, I can't wake him.
He's not breathing.
Was he choking? I don't know.
I came to change his diaper, and he wouldn't wake up.
ANDERSON: This kid wears diapers? He's a quadriplegic.
Help him! Get an airway.
CARSON: Right.
Can I get a hand with the O2? CARSON: Got it.
Here we go.
Pupils fixed.
You got a No, nothing.
This kid's blue.
Temp is way down.
Mom, what's wrong with Mikey? I don't know, honey.
This kid's gone.
Still nothing.
You're not giving up! We're not stopping.
Three, four, five.
There's something wrong here.
I think you need to call Homicide.
Increasing the rate.
Are you guys the detectives? We're undercover.
Special jaywalking duty on 14th Street.
He's got writer's cramp.
Must've given out 20 tickets.
What's this about? Michael Sutter, 12.
His mother says he was paralyzed from the neck down.
She's the one that called 911 at 5:17.
The paramedics pronounced him dead.
So a sick kid dies.
Why call us? Ask him.
HOWE: Check his lips.
Blue tint.
Cyanosis.
Kid's got micro-hemorrhaging in both eyes.
Suffocated? Looks that way.
LOIS: No, you're wrong.
You must be wrong.
Nobody could have done that.
I was alone with him all afternoon.
Why don't you take Mrs.
Sutter and her daughter to the living room? Did I just hear a confession? Michael used to be all straight As.
Played soccer.
But then Dad took him skiing two years ago.
They were driving back, and hit some ice.
There was only one airbag.
Dad's.
Was anybody else here when your mother found Michael? Just Mom.
We don't get a lot of company.
What about your dad? He was working.
On Long Island.
He's a landscape engineer.
And where were you this afternoon? After school, I hung out with some friends, and then I had to pick up some groceries.
Then I came home, and And he was Michael's care is your mother's responsibility? The insurance stopped covering the health care worker, so Mom had to quit her counseling job.
Your mom get along with Michael? Nobody gets along with Michael.
His brain was like a baby's.
We were at the hospital today.
Every Tuesday he goes for dialysis.
We came home around 3:00.
He fell asleep on the way back in the van.
And from 3:00 until you found him, did you check in on him? Do you do this kind of questioning after every family tragedy? Only when we need answers.
So you never went out for coffee or anything? I went to pick up the paper.
I wasn't gone more than five minutes.
And nobody dropped by? Nobody.
You take care of your son by yourself.
You gave up your career? It was no sacrifice.
You were holed up with your kid for two years.
You couldn't have been too happy about it.
What are you saying? You think I killed him? Michael was my son.
He was a sick little boy.
He just died.
God just took my boy away! Kid was a quadriplegic.
Could he have just stopped breathing? The M.
E.
says that if somebody hadn't suffocated him, he would've kept on breathing for another 60 years.
And there were no marks? No abrasions around his mouth or nose? No.
It wouldn't have taken much pressure.
Probably a pillow.
M.
E.
's preliminary report sets the time of death around 3:30, 4:00.
Well, the call to That gives Mom plenty of time to clean up.
So the mother might have tampered with evidence that might have existed.
Unless somebody came in while she was out getting the paper, and did her the favor of killing the kid.
Well, so far, she's the only one with the boy all afternoon.
Did he get any kind of insurance settlement? Maybe in trust? Single car accident.
Nobody to sue.
The insurance covers most of the medical bills, but that's it.
What's the daughter think? That Mom's not a happy camper.
See if Mr.
Sutter agrees.
And, guys, about this jaywalking assignment, it came from the top.
It's all about my lawsuit.
I'm sorry.
It's not natural, picking out a casket for your son.
Salesman starts telling me about mahogany and hardware, like I'm comparison shopping or something.
We appreciate how hard this is for you.
(SIGHS) Mrs.
Sutter, she was the one who usually took care of Michael? Well, I did what I could on the weekends.
Was your wife resentful about being stuck at home? You know, Lois warned me about you guys.
Look, if she were happy about it, she'd be a fool.
She quit being a social worker, I quit going for overtime, which has made us practically broke, as I'm sure you know by now.
Mr.
Sutter, we're trying to be fair.
But your wife was home, and your son was murdered.
I don't believe that.
Well, can you think of anyone else who would want to hurt Michael? Nobody wanted to hurt Michael.
I mean, maybe somebody broke in when Lois stepped out.
Tried to rob the place.
There was no sign of that.
I mean, you didn't find anything missing, right? Anyone outside of your family have a key to your apartment? There's our neighbors, the Hodges.
I think they still have a key.
But they didn't kill Michael, either.
He was a nice boy.
You know, Joe blamed himself for what happened, driving so fast.
Next drawer over.
Joe saved the boy's life.
Gave him CPR for half an hour.
Could the key be missing? No, no, no.
It's in here someplace.
Did you see any of the Sutters Tuesday afternoon? I said hi when Lois brought Michael home from the hospital.
I was on my way out.
Tuesdays it's ceramics, and today it was art class.
I tried to encourage Lois to do that.
Bridge, book club, something.
I know she started going to a dance studio right around the corner.
She needs to get out.
No one should have such tsuris.
Here it is.
She was pretty bitter, huh? Alone with Michael all day? She seemed happier lately.
That's the makeup.
She started painting her face again.
Can't change the inside, you change the outside.
(SLOW INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC PLAYING) Would you two like to be fixed up with partners? No, we're together.
You have a student named Lois Sutter? Lois? Yes.
Yes.
She comes every Friday afternoon.
How long she been coming here? About three months now.
Quite talented.
She's moved up to intermediate.
I mean, really, she's a natural at salsa and tango.
Any particular student she's friendly with? I couldn't say.
I teach beginners.
Mr.
Gilbert teaches the Latin steps, but he's off today.
I'm sure he'd know.
He sometimes shares a cab with her.
Excuse me.
Something I really have to put a stop to.
She shares a taxi for a half-a-block ride? I'm guessing Gilbert's bedroom's a little further away.
(MUSIC PLAYING) Who I share a taxi with is none of your business.
And I haven't done anything improper with any of my students.
Maybe we should get them all together for a teacher evaluation.
Yeah, women are a little harder to charm when they find out they're number 12 in the conga line.
I teach dance.
It's sensual.
It's only natural that bonds would form.
(MUSIC STOPS) With Lois Sutter? Mr.
Gilbert, we're not the press corps, and you're not the President.
We need an honest answer.
It's not what you think.
We've grown very close.
Close enough she'd share confidences about her family? Yes.
I'd say her husband doesn't understand her, but Lois's husband doesn't even know her.
CURTIS: What about her son? She talk about him, too? Husband, son, her daughter.
She wanted out of that situation.
She told you that? Foreplay generally consisted of letting her vent for half an hour.
When she was here on Tuesday, it was the same drill.
This Tuesday? What time? She came by mid-afternoon, around 3:30.
She left at 4:40.
You seem pretty sure about the time.
Well, she looked at her watch.
She said she had to go.
Anybody see you two together? Well, the whole point was not to be seen.
She checked her watch, huh? Guess you couldn't have been all that good.
LOIS: Please don't tell my husband.
It'll just kill him.
Tell him what? About Gilbert, or that you killed your son? I did not kill Michael.
No, you were too busy doing the horizontal cha-cha.
Yes.
It's a nice alibi, but we're not buying it.
You wanted out of your marriage.
No.
You couldn't stand sleeping next to a guy who'd turned your son into a potted plant.
As long as Michael was still alive, you didn't have the guts to walk out.
No.
No, please.
How'd you do it? With a pillow? A blanket? Michael just died.
Here's the Medical Examiner's report.
Read what it says right here.
"Hemorrhaging in his eyes, cyanosis," "depleted oxygen in his blood stream.
" You know what that means? That can't be Michael.
"Michael B.
Sutter.
" That's your son.
"Death by manual asphyxiation.
" No, it can't be.
That's impossible.
It's right there in black and white.
She couldn't have.
Who? I can't believe she'd hurt him.
Who'd hurt him? I left him with Stephanie.
Your daughter? (SOBBING) Oh, God.
I don't care what you say, I wasn't home, and Mom was watching Michael.
Your mother spent the afternoon with her boyfriend.
Now, we don't know what she told you she was doing, but she told us that you were at home covering for her.
You killed your brother.
She She said that? Why'd you do it, Stephanie? Were you jealous of all the attention he got? All the trouble he caused? No.
Come on.
The whole family was falling apart because of him.
Okay, take it easy, take it easy.
You're a minor, your family has big problems.
The judge is gonna be sympathetic.
You just have to tell us what happened.
I mean, your brother was barely living anyway, right? I wasn't there.
I was with Kara from my bio class.
Your mom's a better liar than you are, Stephanie.
It's the truth.
My mom was always sticking me with him.
I mean, all he ever did was lie in bed.
And all he ever cared about was watching TV, eating, and crapping his pants.
So as soon as my mom left, I ditched him.
I'm sorry.
I just couldn't stand to be with him anymore.
KARA: Hooked up with Stephanie around a quarter after 3:00.
Where'd you go? The Asteroid Palace, down on Broadway.
We played video games.
How long were you there? I don't know, about an hour.
She have anything to say about her brother? Steph's always got something to say about the vegetable.
That's what she called him.
He's a pain in the ass.
Why? She used to trip over him? Steph and I were gonna go away to college together.
Not anymore.
No money.
Stephanie was pretty angry about that, huh? Look, Stephanie's not a bad person.
Just nothing ever seems to go her way.
What was her mood Tuesday afternoon? I don't know.
She was fine.
She seem nervous? Distracted? Yeah, she was distracted by one of those guys that gives you the quarters.
I think he was hot for me, though.
Couple of the arcade workers confirm the girl was there.
Yeah, and in high spirits.
Her brother's dead, all her problems are solved.
That's pretty cold-blooded.
Is that the kind of girl she is? I didn't see a lot of ice in her veins.
She walked out on her brother.
She's cut from the same iceberg as her mother.
So the boy was alone from 3:00 to 5:00, which is when he got murdered.
Go back to the M.
E.
Nail down the time of death.
Forget the time he actually died.
He was poisoned two hours before that.
Poison? When you called, I had the lab pull out all the stops.
Kid's tox screens spiked for nicotine.
I knew he was a so I figured he wasn't a smoker.
Unless somebody was holding the cigarette for him.
I checked the intestinal contents.
What we thought were carrots tested positive for coniine.
Hemlock root.
Poison hemlock? Isn't that what Socrates died from? Forensics says the stuff grows wild.
Not just in ancient Greece.
Paralyzes the muscles, and finally the lungs.
Already paralyzed, nobody'd notice he was dying.
Nobody'd notice because no one was watching him.
The kid had lunch at the hospital with his mother.
Thanks.
SEMENKO: Michael Sutter came in at 9:30 and was discharged at 2:15.
He was in this room.
It's okay, you don't have to get up.
So you talked to Mrs.
Sutter? Yes, about Michael.
Unfortunately, nothing had changed since the accident.
Mr.
Blake, you're not feeling too dizzy this afternoon? Good.
Michael was a real trouper.
The kind of damage he suffered is terribly tragic.
More than Mrs.
Sutter could deal with? You can't imagine the pressure this puts on a family.
If Mrs.
Sutter did do something to help end her son's pain, nobody can fault her for feeling the way she did.
Did she fix his lunch? Michael was supposed to have a hospital lunch.
Why? The meal may have been tampered with.
Anyone other than Mrs.
Sutter have access to it? That I don't know.
I wasn't in the hospital at lunchtime.
Oh.
Here we go.
Michael had his usual meal at 1:00.
One of the candy stripers would've delivered it.
My school's vocational program lets me work here two days a week.
I hope I'm not in any trouble.
No, no trouble, Martha.
Did you keep an eye on your food cart last Tuesday? I don't watch it all the time, but I just leave it alone in the corridor for a sec when I'm in the patient's room.
Do you remember bringing a food tray to Michael Sutter? Michael? Sure.
Nice family.
Who'd you hand the tray to? I don't remember.
I might have just put it on his bed table.
Did you happen to notice if his mother did anything to his food? No, I don't remember seeing her.
Okay.
Thanks, Martha.
CURTIS: Any visitors? NICHOLLS: I don't know.
People come, people go.
I don't much notice.
What about the food cart? You notice anybody messing with it? Nobody.
That I'd notice.
Excuse me.
(PHONE RINGING) The girl doesn't remember seeing Mrs.
Sutter near the food.
Well, somebody had to feed the kid.
And somebody had to see them do it.
There are two beds in the room.
I've had too many difficult days lately.
Dialysis once a week for two years.
Just like the Sutter boy.
Last Tuesday, he was in your room at Hudson Terrace, the next bed.
Plays his TV too loud.
You recall you both ate lunch in your room that day? I certainly do.
Meatloaf.
Too dry.
I hate dietetic pudding.
You know, Michael can't even wipe his own chin.
On Tuesday, you remember seeing Michael's mother feed him his lunch? No, I don't.
His father fed him.
He cared enough to bring something with a little taste to put on the food.
Lord knows, it needs it.
The stuff he put on the food, what did it look like? I couldn't really see it.
He said it was cinnamon.
CASHMAN: Hemlock? What's that got to do with Joe Sutter? Well, it grows wild.
You're in the landscape business.
He works for you.
Yeah, for nine years.
Helped turn my business around.
Nobody worked harder than Joe.
Worked? When did he stop working hard? His kid's condition made it impossible for him to pull a full week.
He resent that? I resented that.
(SIGHS) When I heard the kid died, part of me actually felt relief.
I get Joe back, he gets his life back.
Well, if I had a kid like Michael, I wouldn't want to see him suffering.
Is that how Joe felt? Who wouldn't? One time, after work, Joe hoisted a few too many.
Said he wished he'd never breathed air into his kid.
Said he didn't save Michael, only pieces of him.
So the hemlock, would Joe know where to find it? Any one of us could find it.
Why? We're gonna need a list of Sutter's last few projects, all right? Yeah.
You're backed up against a wall.
Your life's falling apart.
It was somebody else.
The hospital.
I mean, they kept changing the nurses, and then they stuck us with this doctor, Semenko.
I mean, they didn't give a damn.
They had no reason to want to see him dead.
You did.
Look what's happened to your beautiful family.
Your wife's sleeping with some dance teacher, your daughter's one step away from living on the street, and you have no money, and all because of that kid.
You don't know me.
If you knew me, you would see.
I know you.
If you had the stones You don't know this man, Lennie.
Look, this isn't about money or adultery or anything like that, is it, Joe? My wife's got MS.
I picture her life 10 years from now and it kills me because it might not be a pretty picture.
You see your boy, he used to be strong.
Played soccer, yeah? Yes.
My wife used to run three miles every morning.
Did you imagine Michael at Still in that same room, same bed, same tortured pain? Yeah.
Me, too.
And you want to know the worst thing? I know why it's happening.
It's my fault.
God is punishing her because of something I did.
No.
No, see, you cannot think like that.
I tell myself that, but Every time I look at her, I feel the guilt.
Every time I think of her, every time I think of my daughters and what they're going to lose.
Someone you love is suffering.
They have no hope.
What can you do to help this person? I mean, how often have you asked yourself this question? When you bathe him? Every time I kissed him good night.
And you knew there was only one answer.
You had to do it.
You had to do it because you loved him.
(SOBBING) Let it go.
It was an act of love, Joe.
I loved Michael.
All right, maybe I But I didn't do this.
I didn't kill him.
I thought Curtis had him.
VAN BUREN: Three months ago, Sutter spent a week replanting the median on the Southern State Parkway.
Forensics surveyed the area.
"Conium maculatum.
Hemlock, two acres scattered growth," "30 meters east of construction site.
" Not exactly a smoking gun.
We've got motive, access to the exact poison, a witness to the feeding.
They can't all confess.
Can I leave now? Not for about another 30 years.
You're under arrest for the murder of your son.
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you do say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney.
If you cannot afford one Mr.
Sutter's not a flight risk.
His only family's here in New York.
He's charged with killing a member of that family.
Even if we accept the People's allegations, Mr.
Sutter can't be considered a threat to the community.
Bail is set at $100,000.
Next case.
(GAVEL POUNDS) CLERK: "Docket number Excuse me.
Who do I see about posting bail? Who are you? Roy Cash man.
You're posting bail for Joe Sutter? Yeah, so what? I have you down as a prosecution witness.
You told the police he said he wished he'd never saved his son.
I never said anything like that.
Look, I know what Joe is going through.
I'm not going to help you put him in jail.
Cashman's going to testify for Sutter.
Briscoe and Curtis can rebut.
Plus, we've got two others who confirm Sutter wanted the boy dead.
I spoke to the kid's doctor, Lyle Semenko.
He's backing off, too.
This father kills his kid, and the world still loves him.
They think he committed an act of mercy.
Character witnesses, Cashman, Semenko, none of it matters.
Who told us his father spiked the food? That's your witness to nail down.
Miss Goring told me I didn't have to talk to you.
She was wrong.
What did you tell her? That I was in the room when Mr.
Sutter was feeding Michael.
That he didn't do anything to the food.
You told her? Or she told you? I'm pretty sure about it.
I was in the room.
Mrs.
Bing says she saw Mr.
Sutter spike Michael's food.
She also doesn't remember you being in the room.
Maybe Mrs.
Bing's wrong.
Martha, Miss Goring's job is protecting murderers.
You're helping her do that.
I used to talk to the Sutters all the time.
I saw the way they were with Michael.
They loved Michael.
I see Martha McSorley all the time.
She works hard, but she cares too much.
Whenever somebody dies, it becomes personal.
She says she stayed in the Sutters' room right through lunch.
She's got 30 trays to deliver.
You know how much time that takes? No way she can hang out in one patient's room and deliver all those trays.
No way she could do it, or you know she didn't do it? You told the police you saw her during her rounds.
You're gonna want me to testify? That's the idea.
Guess I can't say for sure.
It was quiet.
I snuck out to the stairwell for a smoke.
Then how do you know nobody tampered with the food? 'Cause nobody could have.
'Cause when I ducked out, there was a doctor standing by the food cart doing some paperwork.
He was still there when I came back.
Nobody's gonna mess with trays while a doctor's right there.
Do you remember which doctor? Dr.
Semenko.
McSorley's definitely lying.
We've got a bigger problem.
Dr.
Semenko's lying, too.
The boy's doctor? An orderly said he saw Semenko hanging around the food cart while McSorley was making her rounds.
Semenko told Briscoe and Curtis he was out of the building.
You sure he didn't just forget where he was? (SIGHS) I just hope we didn't put the Sutters through the wringer for nothing.
Talk to Semenko's boss.
Find out if he's just absent-minded.
LINDROS: Semenko's a good physician.
Well-liked, hard-working, responsible.
Even Dr.
Schweitzer had his detractors.
Well, there was one complaint.
About three months ago.
A young woman badly injured in a car accident.
She'd been here four days, seemed to be out of danger, then she just died.
Unexplained respiratory failure.
She was in Dr.
Semenko's care? She was under the care of several specialists.
Dr.
Semenko wasn't even her primary.
What was the conclusion? An investigation determined the patient died of natural causes.
Stuff like that just happens.
Whose investigation? Ours.
And you never thought to mention any of this to the police? Our counsel advised we were under no legal obligation.
And like I said, Semenko and the others were cleared.
Just this one incident? How long has he worked here? A little over six months.
But I think you're barking up the wrong tree.
Where did he work before Hudson? Bergen County Clinical in New Jersey.
He came highly recommended.
It was a mutual decision.
We were facing cutbacks.
Dr.
Semenko wanted to move to the city.
The fact that his mortality rate was 14 times that of any other staff physician had nothing to do with your decision to cut him loose? How did you know I just came from the County Coroner.
A 61-year-old woman has gallbladder surgery, a 17-year-old boy having back surgery, and about a half dozen others.
None of them had life-threatening problems.
All of them were treated by Dr.
Semenko, and now they're all dead.
He was cleared of any malpractice charges.
We're talking about murder.
He was cleared in each of the incidents you mentioned.
By your own impartial review board? The primary concern of this hospital is our patients' well-being.
If one of our doctors is a danger, we want to deal with the problem.
By passing it along to the next hospital.
Dr.
Semenko is a responsible physician.
I've watched him work.
When his patients suffered setbacks, he always compiled complete case studies.
He attended every postmortem.
And yet his patients kept right on dying.
You can't predict an appendix patient having an aneurysm.
You can't predict a high school senior suffering nicotine poisoning.
Nicotine poisoning? It happens.
There's no way Dr.
Semenko could have known.
The boy's parents didn't even know he used tobacco.
Nice botany books, Doc.
Anything in here on how to grow poison hemlock? I'm surprised you don't seize my anatomy books and arrest me on porno charges.
Got stuff here looks like oregano.
Smells like oregano, too.
And is oregano.
If you're making pasta later, take some.
No other greens except for some Romaine lettuce that I can tell you is for real.
But you can get rid of it.
You got no snap in your stems.
Can I have my home back now? CURTIS: Hey, Doc, where do you keep this baby? We'd like to take a look under the hood.
I don't own a car.
You just collect the manuals? I sold that car.
What's this? "Car-Finder.
" This one of those satellite locating systems? It was an expensive car.
I was concerned about it getting stolen.
Well, why don't we activate the system, see what turns up? (DIALING) Lake Hill Country Club.
Dr.
Lyle Semenko.
What, you threw the clubs in with the car? Hey, Lennie, what's this? More oregano? Wouldn't want to sprinkle this on my pasta.
Unless you want some.
You're under arrest for murder, Doc.
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
GILLUM: You've got no witnesses.
You've got no forensic evidence linking my client to Michael Sutter's food.
We've got poison hemlock in his car.
I'd love to hear his explanation for that.
You and I both know that the jury will crucify him.
Murder two.
He does 25.
Your client took the life of a defenseless child.
What life? That boy was in constant pain.
You want us to start weighing crimes based on the value of the victim? I had a 95-year-old client in Florida.
Shot his agonizing, cancer-ridden wife to death.
Jury hit him with a $50 fine.
This jury's gonna know that Dr.
Semenko was acting out of compassion for the victim.
I think your client's shown a little too much compassion.
We've looked into his employment history.
I estimate he's responsible for 17 deaths at four different hospitals.
The hospitals let him skate by, but the buck stops here.
Get your affairs in order.
We're going to trial.
You're spending the rest of your life behind bars.
ADAM: Mercy killing.
It worked for Dr.
Kevorkian.
This guy's no Kevorkian.
I'm giving you my opinion without having met the guy, but he sounds like what we call a custodial poisoner or asphyxiator.
ADAM: Plain vanilla serial killer? DR.
SKODA: A little more charming than most, but yeah.
He rubbernecked at every patient's postmortem, like a kid torturing a bug and watching it die.
And these deaths.
Starts with ODs on prescription medicines.
Then he gets bolder, uses poisons.
Stuffs bandages down some lady's throat.
He didn't get charged on that one? Half a dozen of the staff had access to the patient.
The hospital just fired them all.
You don't think Semenko wanted to get caught? DR.
SKODA: No.
No, he got bolder because he got more confident.
He believed he was operating above the rules.
When nobody caught him, everything got reinforced.
We haven't caught him yet, either.
Motion in limine.
Semenko's lawyer wants to preclude any mention of the other deaths.
Oh, yeah.
GILLUM: A doctor has a run of bad luck, but that does not make him a killer.
JACK: Bad luck had nothing to do with this.
Mr.
Semenko is a serial killer.
He was never charged in those other deaths.
Your Honor, People v.
Molineux.
They are prior bad acts.
The evidence is not admissible.
It's not even relevant, Mr.
McCoy.
People v.
Mees.
These acts establish motive.
The defendant is trying to convince a jury that he acted out of mercy when he has a track record of killing perfectly healthy patients.
Molineux, even as extended by Mees, allows only similar prior bad acts.
Not one of these other deaths involved a patient who had zero expectation of recovery.
JACK: This is perverse! Mr.
Gillum is saying that because this killer never showed mercy, he should be allowed to argue that he's a mercy killer this time.
You have a point, Mr.
McCoy.
But this doesn't meet the Molineux exceptions.
And if I have to choose between an A.
D.
A.
and the Court of Appeals, guess who wins? The evidence is suppressed.
JACK: Michael Sutter was murdered by the defendant.
This is not in dispute.
The defense will give you reasons why it's not a bad thing.
They'll tell you that Michael Sutter had no quality of life.
It's true that Michael Sutter wasn't going to grow up to be a teacher or an engineer or a doctor, like the defendant.
But he liked to watch TV.
He loved his family.
And he was alive.
The defense will tell you that taking Michael Sutter's life was the merciful thing to do.
Michael Sutter's family will tell you that they loved Michael.
They miss Michael.
This case is not a debate about euthanasia.
It's about a thrill killing by a monster masquerading as an angel of mercy.
Michael Sutter is dead.
He was murdered.
That's all that matters.
Mr.
McCoy is right, the law is simple.
It only sees black and white.
But reality? Well, reality has all sorts of shades of gray, doesn't it? Dr.
Semenko didn't just wake up one morning and on a whim decide to kill Michael Sutter.
Michael Sutter's parents know that.
And although it may be very hard for them to admit it, they wanted this death.
And they made that very clear to Dr.
Semenko, who had the courage, in the face of an antiquated law, to act in the best interests of a suffering child.
The State tries to lock up people like this.
They have put Dr.
Jack Kevorkian on trial over and over again, but he's never been convicted.
Because juries, juries just like you, have always recognized the truth.
Dr.
Lyle Semenko is not a criminal.
He's a hero.
I read him stories every night.
It's funny, he had the same favorites he did as a baby.
After all the suffering, after all the damage, he was still the same little boy.
Did you love him, Mr.
Sutter? You don't stop loving your son when he gets hurt.
And you don't stop loving your son when he dies.
Mr.
Sutter, did you ever ask Dr.
Semenko to end your son's life? No.
It's horrifying that he could blame this on us.
I mean, that anybody could think that we wanted this.
Mr.
Sutter, Michael's care has cost you almost a quarter of a million dollars since the accident, hasn't it? Whatever it was, it was worth it.
GILLUM: I understand.
But you had a college fund for your daughter, and now that's gone, isn't that right? SUTTER: Yes.
And your relationship with your wife has grown strained? She was having an affair? Michael's condition made things very difficult for all of us.
GILLUM: And he wasn't going to get any better, was he? SUTTER: We hoped.
But, no.
In fact, there was only one way that Michael's suffering was going to end, and you knew that, didn't you? No.
I could never take Now, on December 12th, did you take Michael to an appointment with Dr.
Semenko? I took Michael to many appointments.
And did you say to Dr.
Semenko that Michael didn't deserve to live like this? Didn't you tell Dr.
Semenko that you wished Michael's suffering would end? No, I might have said that, but I didn't mean I wanted him dead.
GILLUM: Mr.
Sutter, if you had to do it all over again, I mean, if you had known how much Michael was going to suffer, would you have pulled him out of that car? I loved Michael.
I know that, Mr.
Sutter.
But would you have saved his life? No.
Thank you.
Do you remember coming to the hospital with your daughter Stephanie on a Saturday morning last November? Michael woke up with a fever of 103.
It turned out to be a flu virus.
And did Stephanie want to come to the hospital? Her brother was sick.
Didn't she tell you that she would rather be skating with her friends? Objection.
He's leading his own witness.
Sustained.
GILLUM: Did you fight with your daughter at the hospital? I don't recall.
Do you recall Dr.
Semenko being in the room when you were arguing with Stephanie? Objection.
She doesn't recall arguing.
A priori, she can't recall who might have been present.
Next question, Mr.
Gillum.
Your Honor, permission to treat this witness as hostile.
Go ahead.
Didn't Stephanie tell you that she didn't give a damn about Michael? That she had stuff to do? JACK: Objection.
Hearsay.
Offered to show the defendant's state of mind, Your Honor.
Overruled.
The witness will answer.
She might have said some things she shouldn't have.
Like calling Michael a vegetable? She was angry.
She wanted to hurt me.
Wasn't she worried about hurting her brother? He couldn't understand.
Exactly.
He couldn't even understand when his own sister said that she wished he were dead, could he? She didn't mean it.
She just didn't want to see Michael suffer anymore.
None of us did.
I know.
Thank you.
(SIGHS) Mrs.
Sutter, did you ever tell Dr.
Semenko to end Michael's life? No.
Thank you.
GILLUM: Dr.
Semenko, does Hudson Terrace Hospital have a policy regarding assisted suicide? SEMENKO: Yes.
In all New York hospitals it's strictly prohibited.
And is this ever a subject of discussion amongst your fellow physicians? Frequently.
The rules reflect a wrong-headed view of dealing with death and dying.
Do you and your colleagues have methods to get around these rules? We physicians risk being charged with trafficking in drugs just by providing morphine to terminal patients.
The State doesn't want us to turn them into junkies.
And every day, in every hospital in this country, a doctor calls for a slow code.
Objection.
Contrary to what the defendant thinks, he can't possibly know what goes on in every hospital in the country.
Sustained.
Dr.
Semenko, would you please define the term "slow code"? When a patient is beyond hope and requires life-saving measures, a slow code means the staff just goes through the motions.
They let the patient die.
And this is done according to the patient's instructions? No, it's done when, in the attending physician's opinion, death would be best.
Michael Sutter wasn't terminal.
He could have lived another, what, 50, 60 years? His heart would have kept on beating, his lungs would have kept on breathing, and the pain would never stop.
Sometimes I have to tell people the worst news they think they'll ever hear, the death of their loved one.
But somehow they wake up the next morning, and their life goes on.
People couldn't function if they couldn't move on.
The Sutters couldn't move on.
They needed to move on.
Did the Sutters ask you to end their son's life? There was no doubt about what they wanted.
They knew their son's life, in any meaningful way, was over.
I was just the instrument, doing what they wanted done.
What they couldn't bring themselves to do.
Thank you, Doctor.
Your witness.
Your Honor, it's almost 12:00.
I wonder if we could take our noon recess? The jury's buying it.
Semenko's hammering us.
He's smart, he's confident, he's charming.
Same pathology that makes him a serial killer makes him a hell of a witness.
He must have some weakness.
You ever once hear him question what he did? The Sutters needed to move on.
Absolute knowledge.
Absolute certainty.
Some kind of God complex? His narcissism.
Power to save life, power to end life.
More fascinated with death.
Jack, somebody that's in love with himself isn't going to like having his opinions challenged.
He'll hate it.
One weakness he does have, he's not afraid of you.
FILLMORE: Mr.
McCoy, are you ready to proceed? JACK: Yes, Your Honor.
Michael Sutter isn't the first severely handicapped patient you've had in your care, is he? No.
I've had many.
Did you kill them all? Objection! Sustained.
Watch your step, Mr.
McCoy.
I'll rephrase.
When dealing with other patients with similar difficulties, how did you justify allowing some of them to live? Every case must be assessed on its own merits.
By you? No need to consult the family? The Sutters had already made their wishes known.
But ultimately, it was your decision, and you weren't afraid to make it? I have the training.
The training to decide who should die, and when? The training to recognize when there is no more hope.
And did your training tell you to use hemlock to kill a helpless boy? Coniine, the active ingredient, causes the lungs to shut down.
It's an effective agent of death.
It causes all muscles to shut down.
It's a horribly painful death, isn't it? My specialty is spinal cord injuries.
That's why the Sutters chose me to care for their boy.
Michael's death was relatively pain-free.
Relatively? Wouldn't potassium chloride have been quick and completely pain-free? The difference is, that would have raised red flags all around the hospital, isn't that right? If you're implying that my medical opinion was compromised by a desire not to be detected, you're right.
I would rather be in a hospital right now, caring for my patients, than defending this ridiculous charge.
But Michael Sutter's death was humane.
You have no doubt at all? No.
It was the right thing to do.
Then why didn't you come forward when Mr.
Sutter was charged with murder? Come on, Dr.
Semenko.
If you have such confidence in your own goodness, why let an innocent man go to jail? Objection, Your Honor.
FILLMORE: Overruled.
Dr.
Semenko, answer his question.
I don't know.
Is it because deep in your heart you knew what you did was wrong? That you had committed murder? No more questions.
No, I want to answer.
I have confidence in the judicial system.
I knew Mr.
Sutter would be found innocent.
If I stepped forward, I'd lose my license.
I'd lose my ability to continue my work to care for my patients.
(SIGHS) He's awfully slick.
The bastard.
He said the Sutters chose him.
Joe Sutter told the police the hospital assigned Semenko to them.
Maybe Semenko's lying, trying to build himself up.
Check it out.
Has the jury reached a verdict? FOREMAN: Yes, we have, Your Honor.
On the first count of the indictment, Murder in the Second Degree, how do you find? We find the defendant not guilty.
FILLMORE: On the second count of the indictment, Manslaughter in the First Degree, how do you find? FOREMAN: We find the defendant not guilty.
And on the final count of the indictment, Manslaughter in the Second Degree, how do you find? We find the defendant guilty.
(GAVEL POUNDS) (WHISPERING) They're calling Semenko the next Kevorkian.
Read on.
They've already received donations for his appeal from all 50 states.
Yeah, well, don't be surprised if the Sutters kick in a few extra bucks.
The hospital confirmed Joe Sutter asked for their son to be transferred to Semenko's care.
I don't want to hear this.
ROSS: I pulled Lois Sutter's resume.
Her last job, she spent two days a week at Bergen County Clinical.
She was there for five of Semenko's suspicious deaths.
They knew.
They put their kid in front of a loaded gun.
What are you gonna do about it? You couldn't even convict Semenko of murder.
Who's joining me for dinner?