Law & Order (1990) Episode Scripts

N/A - Endurance

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.
Why can't I come up? No, that's what you said last night.
That's what you said the night before.
Hey, Kendra, man, I blew off the comped list at Justin's 'cause I thought I was gonna see you and now you're telling me that your girlfriend's there? I need your phone! Come on, what is that? That's why I'm standing on What? Hey, what are you, nuts? My house is burning and my son's inside! (FIRE ALARM RINGING) (COUGHS) I need to report a fire.
HARRIS: Building's only 50% involved.
Our guys got here fast.
Not fast enough.
CO asphyxiation Never woke up.
What were the suspicious origins? Some kind of accelerant was definitely used.
Is that the mother? Yeah.
Mrs.
Parnell.
Mrs.
Parnell.
I'm Detective Briscoe, this is Detective Green.
We're really very sorry about what happened.
ED: Were there any other family members home at the time? My daughter's at a sleepover.
It's good that she wasn't here.
Hey, hey, hey! Wait! Where do you think you're going? What happened? Who are you? I'm Richie Zweck.
I have the store.
What? The store that's going out of business? There's one store.
I have the store.
Sir, why don't you park your car? We're gonna need to take some information from you.
This is a frigging disaster.
I got a delivery today of 200 Lladro.
Sir, you're in the middle of the street.
I just got the Leroy Neiman series of New York Yankee lithographs.
That's paper.
It's burnt! This woman just lost her son.
Shut your mouth and move your car! There's your accelerant.
Paint thinner.
Found it in the back hall.
Better stick close to Mr.
Zweck, there.
He's gonna be really upset when he finds out there are people in this world who'd deliberately cost him his lithographs.
HARRIS: Note the alligator char on the wall.
ED: Wait, what is that? Heavy char alternating with an untouched area.
You get that when the fire's really running.
Are you sure somebody used paint thinner? We're sending three stairs over to the lab.
I'm guessing we find accelerant on all of them.
Any idea which floor they were going for? (SCOFFING) That's your department.
How long has this Jacques Ricard been going out of business? ED: The neighbors say five years.
Well, maybe he decided it was time.
BRISCOE: You had an electric fire a year ago that you claimed a $275,000 loss from.
You had a flood the year before to the tune of four hundred grand.
No locusts? Cute.
You think I did it? Destroy your own merchandise to collect on the insurance? No, you'd have to be pretty desperate to do that.
Yeah.
You'd have to have, like, the state sales tax authority padlock your front door for non-payment.
That got straightened out.
Because you came into enough money to pay off the arrears.
I came into the money? My partner went into hock to the shys.
And don't ask me for any names, 'cause I ain't moving to Montana in the Witness Protection Program.
Who's your partner? Jack Anta.
Jacques Ricard.
Jack and Richard.
(SIGHING) Why not? He had a bypass.
He had to move to Florida.
I keep the name out of regard.
When did you get out? What do you mean, "When did I get out"? You didn't get those tattoos at a kid's birthday party.
When did you get out? A year ago.
What were you in for? Possession with intent.
Your boss ever ask you to do something that might get you sent back? No.
You know we're gonna be looking pretty hard for somebody who starts a fire that a kid dies in.
I don't know anything about that, man.
You know somebody who does? That old woman sits in front of the building all day.
She saw anybody around here last night, it wasn't me.
I gotta get back.
I don't like telling tales but, you know, you got all kinds of characters on this block.
All kinds of sex business, drugs, people coming and going all hours.
BRISCOE: You see anybody around last night who might know something about the fire? I got my theories.
Oh, yeah? Yeah, like this one with the store.
You saw somebody from the store around here? Last night was my program, so I was watching the television.
But this is what these people do.
They wait for some unsuspecting person to come in from out of town, so they could cheat 'em.
They're not nice.
And if they can't make a dollar any other way, they burn the place down.
All this poor woman's been through until now, and now this.
Well, what has she been through up until now? Oh, the handicapped son, the husband, all of it.
What is it about the husband? Well, I don't like to tell tales, but there was a lot of problems.
When's the last time you saw the husband? Yesterday.
Come on, Katie, let's go get some ice cream.
Let me know if you need anything.
What would I do if I didn't have her as a friend? Mrs.
Parnell, what can you tell us about your ex-husband? What do you want to know? Well, when was the last time you saw him? I don't know.
A few weeks ago, maybe.
What about last night? Why do you ask that? We were told the two of you used to quarrel quite a bit.
That's true.
That's probably why we got divorced.
He wouldn't start a fire, though.
That fire probably started by something electrical.
That building had fuses blowing all the time.
What can you tell us about your son? What do you mean? What kind of condition did he have, exactly? What difference does that make now? Probably none.
It would just help us to understand the situation.
He had developmental problems.
I had a difficult pregnancy, and he had respiratory problems and some learning disability.
But nothing that matters now.
Where can we find your ex-husband, Mrs.
Parnell? Colin's off today.
Did he call in sick? That's what they tell me.
In other words, you haven't spoken to him yourself? Me personally? No.
Well, who has heard from him? Has anybody talked to Colin? I talked to him.
Did he say where he'd be today? No.
He just called in to say he wouldn't be in? He told me what happened to his son and said he wouldn't be in all week.
All week? He left a phone number if I need to reach him.
Thank you.
(KNOCK ON DOOR) LORI: Yeah? Police Department.
We're looking for Colin Parnell.
Can you tell me what this is about? We just need to ask him a few questions.
He's in the other room.
BRISCOE: You're Colin Parnell? Yeah.
I'm Detective Briscoe, this is Detective Green.
We'd like to speak to you.
About the fire? Yeah.
We'd like to fill in a couple of the blanks.
(SIGHS) Not a lot I can help you with there.
Tough break about your son.
What are the blanks you'd like me to fill in? Probably be better if you came down off the ladder.
Okay? When was the last time you spoke to your ex-wife? I don't know.
I don't keep track of things like that.
When was the last time you were over to her apartment? A month, six weeks.
I don't know.
ED: Not more recently than that? No.
Why? Did somebody see me? Will that determine whether or not you're gonna tell us the truth? I've gone to see my kids when they weren't there.
I wasn't counting those times.
Was yesterday one of those times? Yeah.
Yesterday was one of 'em.
Does that make me a suspect? Is this oil base or latex? Oil.
Clean up with paint thinner? Yeah.
So what? So wipe your hands.
You're going for a ride.
Let me explain something to you, Colin.
Somebody set the fire that killed your son.
That makes it a homicide.
And that makes your life and everybody else's life in that building our business.
You think I'd kill my son? I don't know yet.
ED: So what'd you two used to fight about? Everything.
From the wrong brand of beer to a towel left on the floor to whether or not we'd be better off with Ian living someplace else.
Because of a learning disability? Is that what Megan called it? He had a learning disability with some respiratory problems.
Ian was borderline retarded, epileptic.
His digestive system didn't work right, meaning he had to be fed and cleaned up after, and just for laughs, he had bad enough asthma that he had to have a respirator kept by his bed.
That'd be Megan calling it a learning disability.
Was it your son's condition that led to the break-up? Megan saw him as God's gift.
I'd look at him and see God's curse and on my best days, God's joke.
I hated her for how she threw herself into it.
How she never asked anything of me, never complained.
She made me feel like I didn't deserve to breathe the same air as her.
I stood it for as long as I could stand it.
And now you're feeling good enough to paint another woman's apartment, huh? I took off from work because my son died.
I don't know you all that long, Colin, but I'm guessing that you're a guy who has a lot of guilt.
The Irish have a long, proud tradition of that.
ED: Got too much to take? BRISCOE: Hey, you didn't have to be thinking about the consequences.
You were walking by the building where you used to live, the family that you walked out on, you had the paint thinner to take to your girlfriend's apartment and that Irish guilt kicked in, huh? I bought the paint thinner this morning.
I have the receipt to prove it.
Well, where were you last night? With Lori and her friends, first having dinner at Leshko's and then back at her apartment.
Can you provide us with proof of that? Yeah.
Good.
You'll need to.
He was with me the entire night.
With you where? We had dinner at Leshko's, we took a walk through Tompkins Square Park, we went back to my apartment, watched BRISCOE: What time was it when you went to sleep? Had you had anything to drink, anything to smoke before that? You guys are a joke, you know that? Yeah, well, we're just trying to figure out if you might be off about the time.
Nobody told you about this kid and fire? We're cops.
Nobody tells us anything.
The kid was obsessed with fire.
You couldn't put lit candles on his birthday cake 'cause he wouldn't stop staring at them.
He started fires a dozen times in the past.
Why wouldn't either his mother or father have mentioned that? They'd rather not think about the possibility that he did this to himself.
You talk to Colin? Yeah.
According to him, your son was severely handicapped.
Sure.
According to him.
He found the least little thing we had to do for Ian utterly overwhelming.
We were told that Ian was prone to starting fires.
I stopped smoking so there wouldn't be matches around.
I replaced the gas stove in the apartment with an electric.
Was he out of your sight long enough to have set that fire? Yeah.
BRISCOE: Since you stopped smoking, where'd he get the matches? I don't know.
I must've had a pack hidden away somewhere.
Mommy! Mommy, watch me! Excuse me.
Wherever she hid 'em, he must have found 'em.
And the paint thinner? I kept the supply room locked.
Always.
Where was the key? Above the door.
How high is that? Did Ian know it was up there? Maybe he did.
As long as I wasn't using anything that made noise, he liked to hang around me.
When I mopped or changed the light bulbs, I made it like he was helping me.
He could've known the key was up there.
Sure.
He had a history of starting fires.
He could've set this one and then forgotten about it.
Gone to sleep and died of smoke inhalation.
I'm just not sure this kid was capable of setting this fire.
But you said he set them in the past.
Hey, setting a match to a newspaper is one thing.
Here he's dragging something to stand on over to the closet door, reaching up for the key, unlocking the door, pulling out the can of paint thinner, opening it, pouring it Yeah, but did he know the paint thinner would work? I mean, what is this kid's IQ? His father and his mother have completely different stories.
Maybe you should talk to someone else.
SWANSON: Ian had a condition known as childhood disintegrative disorder.
In some ways, it resembled severe autism, but then it comes accompanied with a whole host of other problems as well.
How long was he a student here? Five years.
At a certain point, his condition worsened.
It became impossible for us to care for him here.
In what way did it worsen? He'd become increasingly aggressive, violent, his motor skills deteriorated, he required constant monitoring of his respiratory and digestive functions.
When you say his motor skills deteriorated, what does that mean? Loss of hand-eye coordination, balance, equilibrium.
Could he use a key to unlock a door? Possibly, if he was familiar with the key and the door and there were no additional obstacles in his way.
How about finding something to stand on, reaching over the door jamb and taking the key down? Not this kid.
BRISCOE: Thanks for your time, Doctor.
Ian used to be a sweet, happy boy.
His mother worked so hard at believing that Ian could improve, that he could be mainstreamed.
What she found out was that Ian would only get worse.
I watched it sink in and I thought it would kill her.
It nearly did.
I'm sorry, Megan's not here.
BRISCOE: Do you know where she is? I think Katie had a play date with a friend.
(COUGHING) Excuse me.
Could I possibly trouble you for a glass of water? Oh, it's no trouble at all.
Would you like some, too? Great.
Yeah.
BRISCOE: Well, how's Megan holding up? ELEANOR: She's hanging in there.
I think spending time with Katie really helps her.
BRISCOE: Yeah.
I guess if anything would help, that would.
Thanks.
Megan and her daughter sleep out here? It's not the Carlyle, but we're making do.
Well, you're a good friend.
That's what counts at a time like this.
Is this Megan's nightgown? Uh-huh.
Lennie, didn't they want to run those tests on an article of clothing? Oh, yeah.
The guy kept calling me, leaving me messages.
I keep forgetting to do anything about it.
Thank you.
You think she'd mind if we took this? What's it for? The fire department, whenever there's a loss of life, they run these trans-iridium tests.
I can't imagine she'd mind if you took it.
Well, thanks.
We'll get it back to her as soon as they're done with it.
We're not seeing drugs and alcohol involved.
From all reports, she's a solid citizen.
The ex-husband's alibi checks out? Yup.
And the mother hasn't taken up with some skel we should be looking at? No.
Her whole life's about caring for her son.
She hasn't taken up with anybody.
It's hard for me to imagine this fits the profile of mothers who kill their own kids.
Lieutenant? Yeah.
Thanks.
And you were your usual painstaking selves in obtaining the nightgown? Absolutely.
Good.
There's paint thinner on it.
I went to bed at 10:30, woke up, smelled smoke and ran out of my room.
ED: Where did you go? I told you where I went.
I went to try and save my son.
But you couldn't? No.
I couldn't.
I went to try to open his door and the doorknob was too hot to touch.
Plus, there was flames and smoke and I couldn't get in.
The problem is, Mrs.
Parnell, is that your son's door wasn't closed.
It wasn't closed? No.
These marks on the ceiling show that it was open.
I remember it being closed.
If I'm wrong, maybe I was in a state of panic or You also never went to bed.
What are you talking about? Your bedroom door was closed.
It slowed down the fire.
Your bed was completely intact.
See? Blanket's pulled all the way up to the top of the bed.
BRISCOE: That bed was never slept in.
MEGAN: It was a warm night.
I slept on top of the blankets.
BRISCOE: You're not helping yourself, Megan.
Are you saying I killed my own son? What we're saying is you were in a desperate situation and maybe without meaning to, you looked to get out of it.
I never looked to get out of anything.
The fire was set, Megan.
So what? So why is it you think I'm the only one who could've set it? We found paint thinner on your nightgown.
I think maybe I should talk to a lawyer.
I think maybe she's right.
Jack? Jack! Good morning.
Mayor Giuliani.
CARMICHAEL: Good morning, Mr.
Mayor.
I'm here to accompany Nora on her first day of school.
Jack and I know each other, but Miss Carmichael, I don't believe we've ever met.
No, we haven't.
How do you do? Well, to tell you the truth, I'm a little nervous.
Nora and I worked together on many organized crime cases.
She was always nervous, but always brilliant.
Well, it is a little daunting coming in behind Adam Schiff.
He called me last night.
He said you were a great interim appointment.
And he was very impressed.
Gee, I don't think I've ever known Adam to be impressed.
Well, he asked me not to repeat that part.
Ah! I gotta get back to City Hall.
You're going to be absolutely terrific.
You've been doing a great job, Jack.
Keep up the good work.
Thank you, Mr.
Mayor.
Thank you very much.
Did Adam say where he was calling from? Vienna.
He's been meeting with Wiesenthal on the Holocaust reparations.
He seems to be getting a lot of satisfaction from his work.
That's great.
That's good.
Murder in the second degree.
How does the defendant plead? Barry Peck for the Defense, Your Honor.
I know who you are, Counselor.
My client pleads not guilty.
People request bail in the amount of $500,000.
What an unconscionable abuse of the judicial process.
Mr.
Peck! Your Honor, forgive me.
This woman has had to endure the untimely death of one child.
She asks that the imposition of bail, in any amount, not serve to separate her from her remaining child pending resolution of this matter.
This woman is charged with bringing about the untimely death of her child.
The heinous nature of the crime requires the imposition of high bail.
Why is she compounding this woman's tragedy? Your Honor, I hope the court recognizes that this prosecution would not have been undertaken had there not been substantial evidence of the defendant's guilt.
That is a blatant falsehood.
You know it to be a blatant falsehood, and I'm offended at having to address you as an officer of the court.
Can it, Counselor.
Bail is set in the amount of $100,000.
(GAVEL POUNDS) Call the next case.
PECK: Abbie.
Sorry about the rhetorical excesses in there.
I'm kind of a take no prisoners type litigator.
Is that right? Well, when you get to know me you'll see I don't take it outside the courtroom.
I don't plan to get to know you.
The heart's an unruly little Chihuahua.
You might get to know me very well.
You want to talk about a deal, talk.
I have that rarest of all birds, my sweet, an innocent client.
The only deal I'm looking for is one in which she walks away.
Well, then I'll see you in court.
Do me a favor.
Wear those heels.
What's her lawyer hoping for? He's hoping a jury will find her too sympathetic to convict.
Is she? Not as far as I'm concerned.
She kills her son, she sets fire to a building, endangers who knows how many other people's lives.
Once you get past her being pretty, I don't think she's got a lot else going for her.
She did spend the last 12 years taking care of this kid.
Well, that's what she's supposed to do.
I understand.
We still have to expect them to use her son's condition to cultivate sympathy for the defendant.
Then you use it to cultivate sympathy for her son.
Is taking the life of a person with disabilities any less of a crime than taking the life of a person without them? Absolutely not.
Since the underlying crime is arson, why aren't we trying her for felony murder? There's not a jury in the world that would convict her of it.
Are we vulnerable to a defense of extreme emotional disturbance, bringing it down to manslaughter? I don't think it's proximate enough in time.
The extreme emotional disturbance is one she was living with for 12 years.
We have her deliberately setting the fire? Yes.
And we have a witness we're hoping will give us her state of mind at the time.
Abbie needs to interview her.
Well, if we have her for the fire, then we have her for murder two.
I saw him at least once a month.
Fractured skull, broken wrist, broken ribs.
Was he being physically abused? Not at all.
The fractured skull came from autistic-type head banging, the broken wrist from an epileptic seizure, the broken ribs from a fall.
The hospital also treated his mother.
For what? He was having a seizure and she tried to hold him down to protect him and he threw her halfway across the room, chipped a bone in her elbow.
I told her he needed to be in a home.
And what did she say? He'd be better off dead.
Your Honor, it's our contention, and I think I'm on very solid legal ground making it, that this emergency room doctor's testimony falls squarely under the heading of privileged communication and should be excluded perforce.
JUDGE SCHEPPS: Who was the patient at the time she made the statement? Her son was.
Privilege doesn't come into play.
The testimony's in.
What else? Well, I think it's self-evident that the nightgown doesn't come in.
Assume it's not self-evident.
No warrant, no consent.
The defendant's friend gave consent.
She didn't have the right to give consent.
Case law says, and I can stack 'em as high as you like, that where there's a reasonable expectation of privacy, cops can't go in and start grabbing.
Where in the apartment was the nightgown found? The living room floor.
Has the defendant's friend affirmed that? She has, Your Honor.
We have a sworn affidavit.
Judge, even if you grant consent to search, they had no right to seize.
Consent to seize motion wasn't briefed, Your Honor.
Motion's denied.
Nightgown comes in.
Mr.
Gee, did you undertake tests on the back steps leading up to the defendant's apartment? Yes.
We used a methyl silicone gum capillary to extract volatile hydrocarbons.
What did you find? Several alkane peaks that indicated a class three accelerant.
Can you be specific as to which class three accelerant it was? In my opinion, it was paint thinner.
This is the chromatograph in question? Yes.
People's exhibit 1A.
And what does this represent? That's from the nightgown.
People's exhibit 1 B.
These look remarkably similar.
There was paint thinner on the nightgown, too.
Thank you.
Mr.
Gee, you maintain that these graphs indicate a class three accelerant, such as paint thinner.
Correct.
What other class three accelerants are there? Dry cleaning solvents, charcoal lighters So in other words, this graph might show paint thinner and this graph might show lighter fluid.
It's not possible.
It's not possible that Ms.
Parnell was trying to get a spot out of a dress or grilled up a hot dog, and that that's what put the accelerant on her nightgown? That's not possible? The number of peaks on the graph would be different in this case.
What's on the nightgown is paint thinner.
So you say.
I'm through with this witness.
HARRIS: Because her bedroom door was closed and the room itself was far away from the point of origin, the damage to the defendant's bed was relatively minor.
In what position did you find her blanket? As you can see in the photos, it was still tucked in.
Are you aware of the defendant's statement to the police that she was asleep in bed when the fire started? Yes, I am.
Have you ever heard of somebody waking up with flames all around them and tucking in their blanket before they run out the door? HARRIS: Not in my experience.
JACK: How about closing the door behind them after they run out? No, sir.
Thank you.
No more questions.
Your witness.
Is it possible to fall asleep on top of the blankets? It's possible.
On a hot night you could even say, could you not, that it was more than possible, it was common? The night of the fire was 54 degrees.
Well, if someone was reading a book or a magazine, they might fall asleep on top of the blankets regardless of temperature, mightn't they? They might.
No further questions.
But no books or magazines were found by the defendant's bed.
BALAKRISHNA: I saw Ms.
Parnell two days before the fire.
JACK: What did she say about her son at that time? She said that his seizures were getting more violent and more frequent, that the anti-convulsants weren't working.
She said that she was afraid for her son.
That she didn't know what to do.
What did you recommend? I recommended that she place him in a residential facility.
What was her response? She said that she had looked into it, but that every halfway decent group home that was equipped to handle her son's medical needs had at least a five year waiting list.
She said that if it came to putting him in an institution that he'd be better off dead.
Thank you, Doctor.
I have nothing further.
Dr.
Balakrishna, you're from Pakistan, aren't you? Objection.
Irrelevant.
JUDGE SCHEPPS: Sustained.
I'm sure that wherever you're from, people exaggerate sometimes, don't they? Yes.
Doesn't the phrase, "He'd be better off dead" sound to you like an exaggeration? I thought so at the time.
And what did you think at the time of Megan Parnell's feelings toward her son? I thought that she loved him, that she cared very deeply about him.
Did you think at the time that she wanted him dead? Objection.
Speculative.
JUDGE SCHEPPS: Sustained.
Did she say she wanted him dead? No.
As a matter of fact, Doctor, didn't she ask you about alternative treatments for her son? Yes, she did.
Did she ask you about a place she could take her son? Somewhere in the world, where she could take her son that something might be done for him? Yes, she did ask me that.
Does that sound to you like someone who was looking to end her son's life? No, it doesn't.
Thank you, Doctor.
I have nothing further.
I think we might have come in a little high at murder two.
What was her intent? Her intent was to set a fire.
That doesn't mean an emotional disturbance defense won't fly.
The fact is she went to this emergency room doctor that week, she was confronted with the hopelessness of her son's condition and she reacted.
Is that a legal opinion or an emotional response? It's a legal opinion.
Is it your legal opinion that justice is served by letting her enter a plea to manslaughter? Yes.
Abbie? I'll defer to Jack on this one.
Got to it.
Thank you.
Are you expecting us to fall to our knees in gratitude? I expect you to recognize this is the best deal you're going to get and advise your client accordingly.
I'd have to go to prison, though.
Any deal is going to entail prison time.
I don't think I can bear to be separated from my daughter.
JACK: If you're found guilty of murder, you'll be separated for a lot longer.
The long and short of it, guys, is we'll take our chances with the jury.
You mean, she'll take her chances with the jury.
I don't distance myself from my clients.
Okay.
We're due in court.
At this time, Your Honor, the Defense moves to dismiss all charges against Megan Parnell on the grounds that the Prosecution has failed to make out a prima facie case.
Denied.
Approach.
Is there a plea to be worked out here? We've offered man one, Your Honor, but defense counsel's not interested.
Can you explain your thinking on that one, Mr.
Peck? Your Honor, while I'm aware of the potential cumulative impact of the evidence, circumstantial though it may be, I don't believe the interests of justice are served by exposing my client to criminal penalties a manslaughter plea might entail.
Therefore at this time, after having consulted with my client, I'd like to change our plea to not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
What? This was always anticipated as a possibility.
Your Honor, this is nothing more than Mr.
Peck's conceit that he can pull a rabbit out of a hat and his never-ending love of opportunities to hear himself talk.
I'd stake my life that this doesn't represent an informed decision by the defendant herself.
I speak for the defendant herself.
You've got a week.
(GAVEL POUNDS) What's this jury gonna think when they hear you change your story from she didn't do it to she did do it, but she was insane at the time? Well, they're going to think that Megan Parnell is a young woman of tragic circumstances and I have beautiful eyes.
Short version? She's not insane.
Not now, not the night she set the fire.
And the long version? For a murderess, she's very appealing.
Well, when she's released from prison, you can ask her out.
I meant appealing from the standpoint that she suffered from significant mental problems.
Like what? Acute anxiety.
Depression.
Chronic sleep deprivation.
Her son never allowed her to sleep for more than two hours at a time.
CARMICHAEL: Well, I don't think the penal code has been amended to include fatigue as a defense for murder.
DR.
SKODA: I feel for her.
She was terrified by all kinds of images she thought her son would have to endure if he was taken away from her.
She was exhausted beyond all measure.
For one short, horrible instant she thought the way to solve her problems was to burn them down.
But she wasn't insane.
No, she wasn't insane.
There's a chemical reaction in the brain when you're under stress.
We can see the abnormalities in a PET scan.
Can these abnormalities be serious? Absolutely.
Neurons stop transmitting, glucose stops metabolizing.
Brain function of a severely stressed individual is indistinguishable from that of a person who is mentally ill.
In your opinion, Doctor, was the defendant severely stressed at the time of the fire? Based on my interviews with Megan, there is no question but that her stress level rose to the clinical designation of ACSS.
And what is that, Doctor? Acute Caretaker Stress Syndrome.
ACSS is characterized by irrational behavior, radical emotional dissonance and cognitive malfunction.
Could she tell the difference between right and wrong? In my opinion, no.
Thank you, Doctor.
Where'd you go to medical school, Doctor? My doctorate is in applied kinesiology.
I did not go to medical school.
What's your background in psychology? I have both read and lectured extensively and I have a syndicated radio program now heard in most major markets.
In other words, you're not a psychologist, but you play one on the radio.
Objection.
Counsel is mocking the witness.
Yes, I am.
Sustained.
This disorder you speak of, this ACSS, I've been looking for it in these very large reference books and I couldn't find it.
It's a relatively new diagnosis.
Invented by whom? It was first identified by myself.
Recognized by the American Psychiatric Association? Not yet.
Any other professional organization? It will be.
I'm glad we're on the cutting edge.
Objection.
Mr.
McCoy continues to mock the witness.
Withdrawn.
I have nothing further.
I was Ian Parnell's caseworker at Children's Services for the past two years.
So you were intimately involved in his situation? Yes.
It was you who placed Ian in the Highcrest Home for disabled children.
That was the best option at the time.
Was it a viable option? No.
Why not? It wasn't equipped for someone with those kinds of problems.
Ian was ultrasensitive to noise.
A place like that got very noisy and because he would block it out by banging his head against the wall, he'd give himself concussions.
So why didn't you put him someplace else? I couldn't find a suitable place that had room.
And his mother was more understanding than I had any right to expect her to be.
Unfortunately, she only had two options.
Put her son in a large, state-run institution or take care of him herself.
Your witness.
Have you ever had any other children who had difficulty adjusting to their new residential situations? Yes.
Did any of their parents kill their children? Not to my knowledge.
Thank you.
MEGAN: First time I noticed something was wrong with Ian, he'd just turned four.
He was singing his favorite song, Old MacDonald.
And he forgot that pigs say oink.
Then he started complaining there was a bad mouse inside his head.
In three months he stopped talking or using the toilet.
Would you describe yourself as having a sustained feeling of desperation ever since? Objection.
Leading.
JUDGE SCHEPPS: Lay the foundation, Counselor.
Since your son's condition made itself known, have you been able to regain anything approaching normalcy? Objection.
Leading.
Is Mr.
McCoy categorically opposed to permitting this woman to testify? She has to testify according to the rules of evidence, Mr.
Peck.
So let's see if we can get her to do that.
Ms.
Parnell, when your son's health began deteriorating, what did you do? We tried Lovaas Intervention, auditory interpretation, steroids, several different diets, clonidine.
Every month there was a new treatment, a new miracle cure.
We'd have such high hopes.
Nothing helped.
JUDGE SCHEPPS: What about special ed? He hated special ed.
It was always too loud and disturbing.
When my marriage started falling apart, we tried sending Ian to respite care for the weekend, but they'd call us up, usually by Friday night, to take him back.
And then he started having seizures and I I was I was afraid that he'd kill himself.
Ian, he needed me but he was getting too big, and he'd stop letting me change his diaper or brush his teeth or give him medicine.
I couldn't take care of him anymore.
Why didn't you send him somewhere? Whether it was an institution or a group home.
Whatever it was, someplace would've taken him off your hands.
I couldn't.
To other people he was just some weird kid who threw his poop around the room.
To me, when he was listening to Old MacDonald, he was my baby.
I loved him so much.
Your witness, Mr.
McCoy.
Ms.
Parnell, your plea is not guilty by reason of insanity.
Yes.
That means that at the time you set the fire, you didn't know right from wrong.
I didn't know what I was doing.
You knew enough to lie to the police.
I didn't mean to lie to them.
You knew enough to go downstairs, unlock the janitor's closet, pour paint thinner on the steps and leave your son to die in a fire.
No, I did not.
Ms.
Parnell, is it or is it not true that you willfully and deliberately set the fire in which your son died? My son didn't die in the fire.
He died before the fire.
The coroner's report states that the cause of death was smoke inhalation.
He was having a seizure and he went into convulsions and I had the syringe to give him his injection to stop the convulsions, just like I've done all those times before.
But this time I I didn't do it.
I I watched his body contorting in pain.
That poor tortured little body that never stopped hurting.
And I didn't do it.
I let him go! And then I went into the bathroom and I took his pills.
All of them.
And I swallowed them.
I set the fire.
And I lay down next to him to die myself.
But you changed your mind.
The smoke made me cough.
And the pills didn't work.
And I started to think about my daughter.
And I got up and I ran outside and I grabbed the phone out of some guy's hand.
And I dialed 911.
And I never would have set the fire if I'd known that Ian was alive.
I never would have done that to him.
I never would have made him suffer like that.
(MEGAN SOBBING) He suffered so much in his life.
(KNOCK ON DOOR) Is she telling the truth? The M.
E.
said the kid could've been in a coma from the seizures.
She thought he was dead when in fact he was still breathing just enough to get some smoke into his lungs.
Why did she wait this long to tell us? It's possible she suppressed her memory of that night, it's possible she felt too guilty to fully participate in her own defense.
It's also possible that her lawyer isn't the idiot we take him for.
He held on to this until he thought it would do the most good.
No, he's an idiot.
What's the likelihood of getting a conviction on murder two? Nil.
Unless the jury thinks she's lying.
JACK: I don't think she's lying.
Assume she's not.
That's manslaughter.
Given her state of mind and the extenuating circumstances, I don't think what she did warrants a conviction for manslaughter.
Well, what do you think? Marshal of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? I don't think we should be sending her to prison.
CARMICHAEL: Her failure to act comes under depraved indifference.
It qualifies as manslaughter under People v.
Little.
If that's what the judge charges on, that's what the jury will convict her for.
We have the evidence to support that? Yes.
In this case, for this defendant, the penalties are too severe.
We can't let our sympathy for a defendant distort our primary responsibility.
What are you saying? You've got to do your job, Jack.
Do either of you intend to bring a motion for lesser included offenses to be charged to the jury? The Defense asks for a charge on murder two only.
That's what the Prosecution got an indictment for, that's the burden of proof they should be held to.
As usual, Mr.
Peck, you've completely misstated the law.
Mr.
McCoy, you're entitled to ask that my charge to the jury include allowing them to return guilty verdicts on manslaughter one and two as well as murder.
The Prosecution has no objection to a charge on murder two only.
Your Honor, may I have a moment to confer with my That's not necessary, Abbie We'll take our chances on murder two.
Madam Foreperson, has the jury reached a verdict? We have, Your Honor.
Will the defendant please rise? What is your verdict? We the jury, on the charge of murder in the second degree, find the defendant not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
Thank you for your verdict, ladies and gentlemen.
The defendant is hereby remanded to Kirby Forensics Center for evaluation.
(GAVEL POUNDS) Tough case, McCoy.
Little tip from the other side of the aisle.
Next time you have a shot at lesser included offenses, take it.
Thanks.
I heard about the verdict.
Yeah.
You win some, you lose some.
Which was this? I would have gone for a conviction.
Me, too.
Which is why I'm glad it was Jack trying the case.
Well, based on what this woman did, she deserves to be punished.
I think she is.
Have a good night.
You, too.