Law & Order (1990) Episode Scripts

N/A - Genius

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.
Other side.
MAN 1: Come on.
Deep.
Deep.
Deep.
Set.
Hike! MAN 2: Watch your pass.
Watch your pass.
One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi MAN 2: Come on.
Come on.
Come on.
Oh! Holy All I can tell you now is it was a single knife wound to the chest.
So, what? He crawled under the cab to keep warm? This guy didn't crawl anywhere.
Knife hit the aorta.
Our friend here, was dead before he hit the ground.
You got a time? Temp tells me no more than five hours.
Puts it around 3:00 a.
m.
From the blood spatter, he hit the bricks right about here, then some good samaritan shoved him under the cab.
A clean New York is a happy New York.
And this was under the cab, too.
A Season in Hell.
Arthur Rimbaud.
French poet.
Thought he was a Knicks fan.
This stogie was down there, too.
Well, that could have been there since the 60s.
I doubt it.
Cuban.
Monty 2.
That's a $40 smoke.
My ex was right.
These things will kill you.
Alright, have forensics run a preliminary DNA.
Hey, and while you're at it, could you run the vic's prints through all the right places? Busy.
Busy.
Busy.
Guy had a wallet, not a stitch of ID.
Well, luckily, I don't think they require ID to hop in a cab.
What makes you think the DOA hopped a cab? I don't.
I think he drove it.
How many cabbies you know don't lock up for the night? Oh, so you're thinking this is a robbery? Well, that's a possibility.
But the hack license was issued to a Ji-Hoon Pak.
Maybe he was adopted.
Detectives! I just called the TLC.
Ji-Hoon Pak lives over on West 46th Street.
Thanks.
Okay.
That's like three miles away.
But parking's a bitch.
I got the sniffles.
That against the law? We found a body under your cab, Mr.
Pak.
Body? What kind of body? The dead kind.
It's New York.
They find bodies in all kinds of weird places.
Don't you read the papers? Unfortunately, we don't have to.
We just wanted to give you a heads-up.
Yeah, thanks.
What for? We impounded your vehicle.
Oh, come on.
You can't do that! I gotta earn a living here! Look, we'll get it back to you, maybe tomorrow at the latest and with your little bout of the sniffles, it shouldn't be a problem, right? Man, this sucks.
Just for kicks, you recognize this guy? No.
ED: I spent my college years driving somebody else's cab, Mr.
Pak.
You know, lending out your hack license to somebody else could have you looking for work real quick but that'll be the least of your problems if you do know this guy and you lie about it.
It's John Chertoff.
He's a nice guy.
I met him in A.
A.
A couple years back.
Sorry, pal.
Another gig down the toilet.
Well, how often did Chertoff moonlight in the cab? Every Wednesday while Mr.
Pak was in an A.
A.
Meeting.
We're canvassing the neighborhood to see if there's any local spending more cash than usual.
But you know the odds on a random isolated killing.
Only it might not be that random.
Forensics ran Chertoff's prints through AFIS.
Let me guess.
They showed up on the grassy knoll in Dallas.
No, in a black church in Beloit, Mississippi.
One that mysteriously burned down five years ago.
Only, those prints belonged to somebody named Bobby Lee Redburn, card-carrying member of the KKK.
Preacher's two kids died in that fire.
Stop.
So what, Redburn jumped bail? Nope.
Hung jury and he lived a happy life till the Feds noticed he was downloading child porn from the Internet.
That's when he split.
Maybe I'm not so upset he's dead.
Well, how close are the prints? ED: Four-point match.
That's hardly conclusive.
I'll call down to Mississippi and you two see if there's anything else to prove that Chertoff and Redburn are one and the same.
If this guy was Redburn, he must have left his white hood back in the land of cotton.
You know, there's something to be said for the simple life.
No phone, no TV.
If I were hiding from the Feds, I'd be in Rio.
You know, it's hard to figure a Klansman buddying up to Mr.
Pak.
Maybe he saw the light.
BRISCOE: Or maybe it's not him.
Oh, think we're getting warmer.
VAN BUREN: The sheriff from Beloit ID-ed the photo as Redburn.
He also confirmed that the preacher was home the night that Redburn was killed.
I wouldn't be shocked if one or two more of the congregation wasn't out to get him.
Yeah, but if the Feds couldn't find Redburn, how did a bunch of yokels? Hey, sometimes even a random killer hits the lotto.
Oh, is the one about the young man from Nantucket in there? Hey, man, let me ask you something.
Do you remember seeing any books in Redburn's room? Me either.
I can't imagine he'd start his collection with a dead French poet.
Not when Mein Kampf is available.
You think the book belonged to the killer? Well, it's new.
The spine isn't even cracked yet.
There's a sticker from Barnes and Noble.
It's worth a look.
Have fun.
Verlaine was the real talent, you know.
Rimbaud just latched on to his coattails and wouldn't let go.
We were just saying that on the way over here.
He shot him.
Who shot who? Verlaine popped Rimbaud.
Paul loved Arthur.
Paul also loved Mathilde.
It was a whole mess.
The French.
What do you expect? So, can you tell us if you sold any copies recently? If you really want decadent, I'd stick with Baudelaire.
Oh, wouldn't you know it? A couple of days ago our downtown store sold a copy to Nelson Lambert.
The writer? Put it on plastic.
Damn, I read all his books when I was a freshman in college.
I read his police report when he stabbed his wife.
I smoke, I drink.
Whatever my ex-wives don't know makes me stronger.
(CHUCKLES) Cohiba Millenniums.
They make one batch of these every thousand years.
Fidel gave them to me.
No, thanks.
I'll pass.
You know, what I used to love, though, was the Monty 2s.
Son of a bitch, that's what I smoked last night.
(LAUGHS) You knew that, didn't you? Okay, well, whatever I did, wasn't enough.
Whoever was on the receiving end more than deserved it.
In other words, you don't remember? I met the muse last night, Detective and she looked an awful lot like a bottle of tequila.
ED: Oh, yeah? And where was she hanging out? Mmm, Helen's Tavern.
It's an eatery catering to ED: The drunk and obnoxious.
Yeah.
I read Page Six.
Do I sense some animosity here? It's just that dead bodies make my partner a little testy.
And I can ease the pain, how? Listen, a cabbie was stabbed.
A new copy of A Season in Hell was found beside the body.
Hmm.
Some bad memories coming back, Mr.
Lambert? I always mourn when someone who actually reads leaves the earth.
Let's cut the crap.
You bought the book.
And a Monty 2 was also at the scene of the crime? Go figure.
Tack on your affinity for knives and all the fingers seem to point in the same direction.
Well, I gather this is gonna take some time.
Vodka, gin, Scotch.
I'm drinking bourbon.
What can I get you? Oh, nothing for me, thanks.
My muse dumped me in the gutter about six years ago.
Scotch is good.
Hey! What? It's the end of a tough day.
How often do I get to sit around shoot the breeze over a couple of drinks with the voice of his generation? You don't know him very well, do you? The man has spent his life trying to become the myth he created in his books.
Well, how much macho does it take to stab a woman? With Nelson, fiction has a funny way of becoming fact.
The three of us were sitting over there.
He and Natalie were arguing about Finnegans Wake or some such nonsense.
Nelson tossed his soup spoon, it hit the wall over there.
Natalie was hit with a glob of minestrone.
That's not what it said in the police report.
He tells the story 10 times, the soup spoon becomes a steak knife.
He tells it 20 times, the wall becomes Natalie's shoulder.
In ten years, it'll be a decapitation with a samurai sword.
Writers, they lie for a living, Detective.
So, he was here last night? Until the wee hours.
Have you ever killed a man, Detective? Have you? Quid pro quo.
You answer my question, I'll repay the favor.
I've had occasion to use my weapon.
Yes, unfortunately.
Why unfortunately? Was it a clean shooting? Not the point.
(SCOFFS) Remorse, that's for naughty children and priests.
Let me see it, your piece.
Regulations.
(SCOFFS) Would have you benched for sharing liquid refreshment with a suspect.
Alright.
I could use a good benching.
Knock yourself out.
Lighter than a.
45, government issue in Nam.
You served? Marched through so much muck, we had to shove our sidearms down our pants to keep the barrels out of the mud.
They say that the first one is the toughest.
First kill is hard only by consequence of it being first.
First step.
First word.
First woman.
First murder.
Do you know the difference between killing and murder, Detective? Mmm-hmm.
Intimacy.
If you use a bayonet it becomes personal.
A man's blood flows between your fingers warm, wet.
Even more so with a knife.
Sometimes they scream.
Not as often as you'd think.
So, Nelson hang around to help you clean up? That'll be the day.
No, he was drinking from his own private stock.
Mezcal Especial.
He claimed Saul Bellow gave it to him.
Son of a gun drained the bottle.
Yeah.
I've been there.
So, anybody else at this party besides you and Nelson? His friend Clay was here for a while.
Clay? Warner.
One book, he thinks he's Leo Tolstoy.
Teaches a creative writing class at Hudson.
This tequila they were drinking Mezcal Especial.
Two hundred a bottle, if you can get it.
Is that the kind with the dead worm in the bottom? Yup.
And Nelson sucked it straight from the bottle.
That's when I put him in a cab.
Around 3:00 a.
M? That's right.
You know, I've never seen a $200 bottle of booze before.
It should be in the trash out back.
Help yourself.
Yeah, I can get DNA off a bottle neck.
Sure I can.
Maybe.
Unless the alcohol denatured the mitochondrial material or You say it was in the trash? Yeah.
Give it a whiff.
That's not my aftershave.
Cross-contamination.
Any number of elements could corrupt the DNA, making it unrecognizable.
Assuming it's even there.
God! I'm glad I stayed late.
(CHUCKLES) Who needs Disneyland, huh? Who would you say was the most despised man at the front? The C.
O.
Negative that.
Sniper.
Sitting all alone, up in a tree.
No artistry in that kind of a kill.
Just technology.
Now it takes a certain kind of a man to do the deed, up close, personal.
And you're that kind of man? Just doing my job.
Cleaning up the nation's mess.
Soldier-to-soldier? Man-to-man.
Did the best man win? I'm sitting here and sharing my Scotch and my soul, am I not? What about you, Detective? Do you have what it takes? Can you perform with grace under pressure? Play poker for the ultimate stakes? Mmm.
I don't think of it as a game.
Of course it is! Winners live.
Losers die.
It's all a damn game.
A Season in Hell.
That sounds like something you'd like.
Minor work by minor poet.
Can I borrow your copy? I gave it to a friend.
This cabbie fellow of yours, where'd he take it? In the chest.
Good.
Good.
A chest kill is the best kill.
If the point of insertion is selected correctly, the blade slips in easily bypassing bone and ligament.
They could deflect the blade making a quick kill less likely.
The prey feels what he thinks is a hard blow.
Not until the blood flows does the man realize he's dead.
You son of a bitch.
You did it.
You killed him.
Did I? Five hours? I hope to hell he called you in the morning.
Hey, the best way to get a drunk to open up is to let him drink.
Isn't that right, Lennie? Hear, hear.
Did you at least read him his rights? It was just two guys talking.
Yeah, until a lawyer gets involved.
We just wanted to make sure we were lookin' in the right direction.
And? Well, he described the wound like somebody who'd seen it up close and personal.
I've got Beck working on lifting DNA samples from Lambert's bottle.
If they match the DNA on that cigar, it definitely puts him at the scene.
That's great, why don't we all go out for a drink until we hear from Beck.
He's had enough.
But the owner of the bar said Nelson was drinking with somebody named Warner.
Well, maybe he'd like to join us.
Nelson's 50% imagination, 50% mouth.
I think there's some ego in there somewhere.
That's just a shield.
Nelson was the smallest kid in the schoolyard with the thickest glasses.
The kids picked on him so he learned to fight back with words.
Believe me, Nelson wouldn't kill anyone.
Although, some might claim he bored them to death.
What about his wartime escapades? Yeah, it was kill or be killed in Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Sounds like Mr.
Lambert has trouble distinguishing fact from fiction.
The whole macho thing, it's all about self-preservation.
A hard exterior shields a sensitive soul.
Nelson's not the first.
Hemingway and his man's man image.
He wrote about running the bulls, but the closest he ever got was watching from a second-story balcony.
Sounds like you know Mr.
Lambert pretty well.
He helped get my first book published.
Would I lie to protect him? I suppose I would.
But the fact is, in this particular instance, I don't have to.
Okay, so, just for our records what time did you say you left Helen's? Nelson passed out, head on the table, around 1:00.
Right around then, I guess.
There you go.
That's all we needed.
I mean, as far as we can tell, the murder took place around 3:00, so the worst cabbie in the city would have got him home within two hours.
Well, he could have gone home and then come back out again.
Thanks, man.
Hey, how was that book that Nelson gave you? You know what, I must have left it at Helen's.
I do stupid things like that when I drink.
I got a class.
BRISCOE: Thanks.
Gotta give him credit for a quick recovery.
(CELL PHONE BEEPS) Yeah, twice.
Once about the book and the other about their time of departure.
Briscoe.
Yeah.
We'll be right there.
You gotta love this kid, Beck.
I wouldn't have believed it if i hadn't seen it myself.
But are you ready for this? You can get DNA off the lip of a bottle.
So, does it match the prelim from the cigar? Oh, not even close.
Beck, you just eliminated our prime suspect.
But you gotta love the pure science of it, guys.
Accomplishment, purely for accomplishment's sake.
I hate to criticize your methods, Beck, but you could've told us this over the phone.
But then you wouldn't have gotten the cherry.
Now, please tell me you know what he's talking about? The cherry.
Better known as the fingerprint match on that book you found at the scene.
Nelson Lambert? That's the bad news.
Beck, for your sake, I hope there's some good news.
Gee, now, I realize that a four-point match is nothing to pop the champagne cork over but considering it belongs to somebody who spent the past six years in Sing Sing, I thought it might pique your interest.
Someone named Warner.
Clay Warner.
I was 24 years old.
I paid my rent by selling weed to grad students at NYU.
And one of them turned out to be a narc? No, a PhD candidate in Physics got picked up for soliciting a prostitute and traded my name for his own clean slate.
They found an ounce and a half in my apartment and sentenced me to 10 years.
Ten years? For an ounce and a half? Must be more to it.
You'd think so, wouldn't you? But like they say, every cloud Prison gave me time to write.
Is this it? I lined my cell with publishers' rejection letters.
Oh, it only takes one.
Which I wouldn't have without Nelson Lambert.
I sent him that manuscript in a shoebox.
I'm sure he only opened it because the return address was Sing Sing.
Prison's a metaphor that no writer can ignore.
Yeah, no murderer either.
Okay.
I lied about the book.
I wanted to protect Nelson.
So, he didn't give you the poetry book.
Nelson gets drunk and reads poems to the crowd whether they're listening or not.
Wednesday night it was Rimbaud's turn.
Only, your prints were on the cover.
All right.
Maybe I enjoy a live audience, too.
First, Nelson Lambert.
Now, Clay Warner.
What do you want to do? Wipe out the entire New York Times best-seller list? Warner only sold 2,000 copies.
Read between the lines, Detective.
Well, you saw that book of poetry.
It looked unopened.
It was brand new.
Yeah, but that's hardly scientific.
Hey, you get two drunks passing a paperback back and forth they're bound to bend some pages.
Book report's due at three.
The dog ate mine.
Listen to this.
"The thoracic cavity "sits just behind the third button from the top.
"If the point of the knife enters there, you're assured a kill.
" Who says you can't learn a trade behind bars.
Well, you can make it to Sing Sing in about an hour.
Find out if Warner writes about what he knows.
WARDEN: I'll tell you what.
I was glad to get rid of him.
What, with Nelson Lambert writing letters to the editor taking out ads in The New York Review of Books.
You'd think we had The Count of Monte Cristo locked up here.
BRISCOE: The power of the pen.
Well, the power of a $600 an hour mouthpiece.
Lambert hired an attorney who made 10 appeals if he made one.
I think those judges just got sick of listening to him.
Did they reduce Warner's sentence? He served six of 10.
So, he was a good prisoner? (CHUCKLES) "Good prisoner.
" That's kind of like "jumbo shrimp.
" He mostly kept to himself.
Especially after the thing.
What thing is that? Three guys went into the laundry.
Two came out.
The third one was stabbed? Shanked in the chest.
Blood everywhere.
And Warner? Oh, he was there, all right.
Some of that blood was his.
Why would the appellate court let him go after that? Well, knowing and proving are two different things.
Especially with Lambert screaming about the immorality of locking up a genius.
You still have the blood analysis? Sure, I'll get it for you, too.
Warner's DNA was on the cigar.
His prints were on the book.
They were both found at the scene.
The guy in prison was killed the same way as the cabbie.
Which Warner describes in perfect detail in his book.
A reason would be nice.
Well, money's as good as any.
Redburn's cash was missing.
This guy's been feeding us volumes of lies from the get-go.
Pick him up.
WARNER: I have a question.
Did she We're discussing Anna Karenina.
Join us.
You ought to read Crime and Punishment.
Clay Warner, you're under arrest for the murder of Robert Lee Redburn.
Don't you love when art imitates life? You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney "Docket number "People of the State of New York v.
Clay Warner.
" Charges are, "Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree, "Manslaughter in the First Degree.
" All for one dead body? The murder was committed during the commission of a robbery, Your Honor.
That makes it a felony murder.
Clay Warner.
Are you the fellow that wrote that book? I am.
I started it.
Hmm.
How do you plead? Not guilty on all accounts.
JUDGE: People on bail? A half a million dollars.
The defendant is tied to the murder with both DNA and fingerprint evidence.
Both of which are irrelevant as far as risk of flight.
He's a repeat offender, Your Honor.
A minor drug charge and he didn't jump bail the first time.
But old dogs do learn new tricks.
Bail is set at $300,000.
Uh, Judge I'm sorry, professor but nothing says, "I'll be back" like cash.
Next! (GAVEL BANGS) (WHISPERING INDISTINCTLY) "Utter genius.
"It shocks the reader into redefining his life experience.
"One part Dostoyevsky, one part Dickens.
" I'm impressed, Mr.
Warner.
Perhaps this will increase sales.
Alright, Jack, I can play smart-ass with you.
If that's what you want.
This is your meeting, Ira What do you want? World peace.
The Mets should win a pennant.
But I'll settle for Clay being free to write a couple dozen more books.
I'll send him all the pencils and paper he needs.
See, you're starting up again with the whole smart-ass thing and Forensics puts him at the scene.
Yeah, I would have saved you the trouble, if you would've asked me.
Yes, he was there.
As Rimbaud would have said, c'est tout.
That's it.
Do you have a murder weapon? No.
Do you have an eyewitness to the murder? No, you don't.
He describes it in his book.
Yeah, and how shall we exclude that? Let me count the ways.
Like I said, Ira, this is your meeting.
Man two.
Time served.
He hasn't served any time.
Six years on a trumped-up drug charge.
You're not serious.
Weren't you in my first-year criminal law class? Back row, on the left.
A-, if I remember correctly.
A.
And you know, and I was always surprised I have to admit, that you never took my trial advocacy seminar, because we handled real cases and you might have benefitted a little from the work.
No offense, but I didn't care for your clients.
(SIGHS) Man two.
He does it all.
Oh, that's what I like about you, Jack.
You go for the jugular, but you never forget to smile.
Well, I'm sure I'm gonna make you smile even wider.
The police traipsed all across the First Amendment illegally when they manipulated the bookstore to disclose the names of their customers.
Whose First Amendment rights are you talking about? Rimbaud's? Among others.
And without that illegally obtained disclosure you people never would have looked at Nelson Lambert ergo, you never would have looked at Clay Warner.
Time to go.
A hundred and fifty-five pages.
Why not? He has the best researchers there are.
Students trying to get the grades for law review.
(SIGHS) It was a routine investigatory step.
The detectives were attempting to tie a suspect to a crime.
Clearly not analogous to buying a screwdriver from a hardware store.
And I'm sure you'll tell me why.
Allowing the state to enter a bookstore, to review a person's reading or buying patterns, would have incredibly chilling effect on what a person chooses to buy.
Surely, no one in this room would argue this is not a blatant violation of the First Amendment.
On the other hand, I doubt anyone in this room would raise First Amendment issues when the Feds search the Internet for purchasers of child pornography.
That's for another time.
What we're talking about right now is a man purchasing a literary masterpiece.
If you can't burn the books? Fine.
Stop the public from purchasing them.
It's exactly the same difference.
First of all, your client did not purchase the book.
The book was bought specifically for Mr.
Warner.
If Mr.
Warner at any moment had an expectation of privacy in this particular reading material, he would not have read whole passages out loud to strangers in a public Whoa! Let's back up.
You're saying it wasn't the defendant who bought the book? That's correct.
Nelson Lambert purchased the book in question.
Well, then, Professor, the next thing out of your mouth better be very convincing.
Who would write Who would buy books, who would read books, if the very nature of those books were not free from government interference? Good question.
Not good enough.
Your client didn't buy the book.
He doesn't have standing to argue his rights were violated.
You know, Nelson Lambert has already started his "save the genius" campaign.
Warner won't be the first genius to have spent a significant portion of his life behind bars.
Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet.
I'll stick with the tax code, thank you.
I briefed the admissibility of using Warner's book against him.
Simpkis hasn't even moved to exclude it yet.
He will.
The one thing he preached in class was that the only advantage that the defense counsel has is time.
Especially when he's paid by the hour.
He advocates stretching out pretrial motions as long as possible.
He thinks that once the prosecution has asked for its first extension, the advantage shifts to the defense.
How far can we push this? There's no case law directly on point.
It's a crapshoot.
Which tells me we should have something else in our back pockets.
His father died in a pool of his own vomit.
Should I have expected any better from him? It seems people who know about these things think Clay is quite talented.
That's sweet.
Are you opposed to his writing? Is there something specific, Miss? We think Clay may have killed a cabbie in order to rob him.
Do you know if he was having financial problems? How could I possibly know that? You're his mother.
Maybe he asked to borrow money.
It's been years, Miss.
Since you supported him? Since I've spoken with him.
He's a bad seed.
Always was.
Always will be.
Tell you what.
The man can write.
Teaching, on the other hand, well, let's just say it involves a whole other set of skills.
Let me guess.
Nelson Lambert's influence helped him land this job.
And my Irish luck put me in an office with him.
You don't get along with Warner? Clay and a meager talent like me? Come on.
Did you know him before he went to prison? You're not wired or anything Of course not.
He used to sell me dope.
He did okay, too.
He was the only grad student who didn't have to tutor freshmen to buy dinner.
What about now? I wouldn't know.
Now, I'm high on life.
What about money? What about it? Was he in financial trouble? I just figured he was up to something that I didn't want to know about.
Such as? What the hell, let the gods of literati strike me dead.
Okay, I'm working on a paper on Faulkner's use of Keats' poetry.
I'm here late one night doing some research.
Voila behind the two-volume biography of Faulkner that everybody has and nobody reads.
The cash had the cab driver's prints on it.
The blood traces on the knife are being tested.
Outrageous.
I'm hardly a wordsmith but I think that describes what's happening here as well as any word could.
It was perfectly legal.
Back when we were paying taxes to King George.
Legal? You're supposed to get a warrant before you run your fingers through someone's personal items in his personal office.
Not when one of the office occupants gives us permission to conduct the search.
Behind my client's books? His officemate had free access to the books.
First off, he has an expectation of privacy.
Second, anything that's found WARNER: Stop! I'll take a deal, Mr.
McCoy.
No you won't.
Shut up! I'll confess to whatever you want me to confess to.
I have only one condition.
I'm listening.
I want the death penalty.
I want you to have me killed.
I don't know who was more shocked, Simpkis or me.
Yup, what fun is it hitting someone who won't hit back? I never really thought of this as an exercise in fun, Arthur.
Brace yourself for professor Simpkis' motions.
A motion to quash the agreed upon sentence.
On the grounds that Warner isn't competent to negotiate on his own behalf.
He wants to die, so he's got to be crazy.
I've arranged for Skoda to examine him.
And you say this isn't fun.
Here's a new one for you.
I am not crazy.
Not everyone I talk to is crazy.
But I bet they all claim to be.
Not everyone is as forthcoming as you.
So show me where to sign and we can call this off.
The State takes this very seriously, Clay.
It won't execute someone with a mental defect.
They can't kill a crazy person.
And a person who wants to die must be crazy.
And around and around we go.
Tell me about prison.
Now that'll make you crazy.
How so? Very clever, Doctor.
If I consider a life in prison worse than no life at all, then my desire to avoid going back behind bars is actually an indication of my sanity.
I just asked a question.
Victor Hugo compared prison to church.
The deprivation, the regulations, the conformity.
And you agree? Prison is the anti-church.
A church lifts the human consciousness, elevating man beyond himself to a union with his God.
But prison forces him down, flesh against concrete.
It crushes him deeper into himself.
Writers like Hugo paint these grand metaphors without having the slightest reality check.
Sure, they heard about what goes on in prison but they never really know.
A life sentence.
Think about what that means, Doctor.
Every minute of every day.
Forever.
Imagining death's a lot easier, no? I've barely scratched the surface.
After eight hours? His intelligence makes it hard to know what's real and what's not.
So the blurbs on the back of his book are true.
I don't know.
I certainly hope there's a "yet" coming.
I'm meeting with him again tomorrow.
Let me ask you something, Jack, off the record.
Would you prefer that I found he was incompetent and therefore unable to be sentenced to execution? Why would you ask that? No reason.
Analyze him, Emil.
Not me.
You seem irritable today.
Tell me about the cab driver.
Make that testy.
If you don't want to do this What do you want to know about him? Did you talk to him? I told him I wouldn't put out my cigar.
The smoke bothered him? I didn't care.
Were you always like this? Defiant? Don't you really mean, did I pay attention to Daddy and Mother? If that's what you want to talk about.
Well, Daddy slept with every tramp on the Upper East Side.
Did your mother know? My mother.
What about her? I'm tired of this.
I murdered a man for no other reason other than I felt like it.
He pissed me off and he deserved to die.
Whatever she did to him, it doesn't excuse his actions.
He doesn't want to be excused, remember? He didn't hear voices? No.
There was no irresistible impulse to kill? Not that I'm aware of.
So he's legally sane.
Or he's lying.
Not that it matters, but does he feel any remorse at all? None whatsoever.
Clay Warner couldn't care less about anyone.
I can't think of a better candidate for execution.
Albert Einstein kills Jack the Ripper.
Now what do we do? Do we sentence him to death or do we name a college physics building after him? Your hypotheticals are better served in a classroom, Ira.
And why is that? Because students have the luxury of open minds, Jack? Because your example is misplaced.
He's a Klan member.
He's responsible for two deaths.
In his spare time he trades kiddie porn.
Is his life really as worth another life? Especially somebody with so much to offer society? The legal system does not ask that question.
Oh.
And so you don't either? Right.
All human life is equal, blah, blah, blah.
Blah, blah, blah.
Right? That's good for church on Sunday, Jack, but in the real world, the value of human life is relative.
You know what, Ira? It takes an over-inflated ego to even suggest such a thing.
Oh.
And this from a man who doles out innocence and guilt for a living.
This from a man who made his living defending a document that purports to treat all men equally.
(SIGHS) You like hypotheticals, how's this? Bobby Lee Redburn kills Clay Warner.
(LAUGHS) Would you still be fighting to keep him alive? Absolutely.
Just because the legislature says something is legal, does not make it moral.
So, this genius thing has nothing to do with this? No, I would do whatever it takes to stop even one state-sanctioned murder and then, Jack, no matter what happened, I'll be able to sleep at night.
Would you? You may not like what your client wants to do.
But it's his life.
And his right to end it.
Really? So you would ask for the death penalty if we went to trial.
That's irrelevant.
Come on, Jack.
He stole $300.
He killed a man! Right which if that were all he did, the death penalty wouldn't even be an issue.
Three hundred bucks.
Two tickets to a Knicks game.
I mean, that's really worth a human life? Especially one with such creative potential? You know what, Jack, you're right.
You know what, have another drink and just pretend that you're just an innocent bystander to the process.
Because somewhere down the road, when that icy needle juts into Clay Warner's vein, you won't be able to avoid it anymore and you will see as clear as day that you are the process.
I've been a part of the literary community for nearly three decades.
SIMPKIS: It's not a time for modesty, sir.
You've won three national book awards, two Pulitzer prizes.
I don't write to win awards.
No, of course not.
But they certainly serve as recognition of your standing in the community.
I suppose.
Have you formed an opinion as to Mr.
Warner's talent? Clay Warner has the ability to create things that weren't there before.
And that's an ability that should be nurtured, developed, hell, even pampered.
Why? Because it's damn rare, that's why.
Even if he violates the law? LAMBERT: Art gives form to life.
Clay Warner killed someone.
He should be punished for that.
But taking his life is not punishing Clay Warner, it's punishing society.
But he wants to die.
Well, he's not rational.
Any true artist who willingly abandons his art cannot by definition be rational.
Thank you.
Along with your panoply of literary awards, have you received a medical degree? No.
A PhD in psychology? No.
Isn't it arrogant of you, then, to sit here and contradict a recognized expert? Genius, true genius, should be coddled and forgiven.
Dostoyevsky was a degenerate gambler.
Poe was a drug addict.
Wagner was a thief, an adulterer, a racist.
These are despicable men all, and yet their respective societies ignored their iniquities because of the sheer abundance of their contributions.
Now, for some sad reason we've devolved into a society that worships conformity over creativity.
It would be better for the world to let genius be, to never doubt it, never question it? That's right.
And Clay Warner is a genius? He is.
Then who are we, sir, to question his decision now? I left Helen's, hailed a cab and had him drive me across town.
But you live downtown, isn't that correct? There was another bar I felt like going to.
What happened in the cab? Nelson gave me a cigar, a Cuban.
I lit it up.
And the cab driver, Mr.
Redburn, didn't care for that? No, he didn't.
He told me to put it out.
I refused, so he pulled to the curb and told me to get out.
Did you? Yes.
But when I was outside, I opened his door and pulled him out with me, then I stabbed him.
And then? Then I turned off the engine, took his money and shoved him under the car.
I didn't really need the money but, what the hell, I already killed him.
Was this the first time you killed? No.
In prison I stabbed some junkie in the laundry because I didn't like him.
(SIMPKIS CLEARING THROAT) All right, I'm just trying to understand this, Mr.
Warner.
You're, uh Think of death as relief? Do you? Never thought about it.
You're asking to die, but you've never thought about being dead? You're not scared? Why would I be scared? Death is nothing more than the absence of life.
And believe me, life isn't as precious a commodity as people delude themselves into believing.
Life, death.
It doesn't matter to me either way.
So, you're sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, you what? You just kill yourself? Probably.
But this is a lot easier.
Oh, come on, Mr.
Warner, you lose this motion, you're sentenced to prison.
Before you get a chance to kill yourself, wouldn't you continue writing? I suppose.
Because as Mr.
Lambert said any artist willing to abandon his art, cannot be rational.
The thing is, Nelson thinks his own immortality lies between the covers of a book.
I know there ain't no such thing.
This is it, Nelson.
This is all there is.
It would have been easier if Warner had taken a chainsaw to a family of four.
Why? Because you're human, and humans can't help but judge other humans.
That'd be just as wrong as treating Warner differently because he can string together sentences better than the rest of us.
The quality of the victim should not matter anymore than the quality of his killer.
I said it'd be easier, not more just.
It's good, Arthur.
He can write.
You want the easy answer? Just words on a page.
And the more difficult one? So are these.
The death penalty is the most severe punishment the law allows.
I got to admit, it's disconcerting that Warner thinks it's less severe than going to prison.
You show the SOB, keep him alive.
If you do that, the best way for any future defendant to avoid the death penalty is gonna be to ask to die.
What gets your goat is that in the past, you've always had the backstop of mandatory appeals.
You were just a cog in the system.
You could always rationalize it to yourself by placing the ultimate responsibility on someone else's shoulders.
Now, if Clay Warner dies, it's because I wanted him dead.
It's not you, Jack.
It's the law.
Words on a page? (DOOR OPENING) I have listened carefully to the testimony of the psychiatrists for both sides, to the character witnesses and finally, to the defendant himself.
Which in the final analysis deserves the most weight.
First, I have determined that the plea bargain was reached in good faith and without coercion of any sort.
Second, I find that there was not a preponderance of evidence offered to establish that the defendant suffers from a mental disorder or defect.
My final holding, therefore, is that Mr.
Warner shall be executed pursuant to the laws of this state and in accordance with the plea agreement reached between the parties to this matter.
(GAVEL BANGS)