Bluff City Law (2019) s01e03 Episode Script

25 Years to Life

1 My name is George Henry Bell, and on the night of October 15th I killed Tess Androde.
I was her teacher, but we were also friends.
We'd argued earlier that day, but that night when I ran into her at the diner, things seemed better.
She said she needed a ride home, so I told her I'd take her.
And once we were in the car, we started fighting again, and before I knew it, my hands were around her neck, and I was just squeezing and squeezing and squeezing.
And when I finally let go, she was dead in my hands.
Coming! Oh, good morning.
We haven't seen you around much, and, well, I know you're busy, so I thought neighbors help neighbors.
It's just a little something I whipped up.
Mac and cheese with brisket and Béchamel sauce, and andouille sausage.
Very kind of you.
You know, I would invite you in, but I gotta get to the office.
Oh, yeah.
All work and no play.
Don't be a stranger.
And and if there's anything I can do Thank you, Linda.
No, don't give up Ellie Tomkins.
- Linda Holland.
- Linda Holland? Whoo! Memphis wolves are on the prowl.
Oh, Della, come on.
It's a It's a casserole.
Sometimes a casserole is just a casserole.
Sometimes it's a whole other kind of dish.
Hey, thanks for this.
You don't have to thank me, but if you want to pay me back, I can take Connie Becker's shrimp and grits off your hands.
Not a chance.
See you later.
- See you later.
Pimento cheese and honey? I'm telling you, this is a Memphis - Memphis tr - I don't believe it.
- tradition.
- I don't believe it.
Sydney, can I borrow you for a minute? [BOTH SPEAKING INDISTINCTLY.]
- Ugh! - [LAUGHS.]
When I finally let go, she was dead in my hands.
I know that he's innocent, and I would still vote to convict him.
Why did he confess, anyway? Well, he'd been in prison for a number of years.
All his appeals had failed, his wife's life was falling apart.
So he lied so that she could move on.
Well, unfortunately, he did a really good job of it.
Yes, he he did.
Jake, you have to get him released based on the DNA because if you try for a retrial I'll lose, and George will spend another 25 years in prison.
Hey, I made that list of cases where confessions given post-conviction were thrown out.
Emerson, this is amazing.
You are amazing.
Isn't he amazing? Yes.
I have a client, so I'm just gonna go and talk to him.
- Oh, jeez.
- Sorry.
Nope, that's okay.
Go ahead.
- What? - Nothing.
That was a beautiful moment you just shared.
Could you just cut me some slack, please? Could you just do that, maybe? I think you should cut him some slack.
I mean, he is your brother.
He's not my brother.
Okay, I'm sorry.
He's your half-brother, but all I'm saying is, he is new, and you're you, so why don't you just you know, do something nice and prove everyone wrong.
Wow what did What does that mean? That's that's You know, if you just think that Ah, the silver tongue of Sydney Strait.
Still as eloquent as ever.
Professor Marshall.
You are 10 minutes early.
10 minutes early is on time, of course, assuming you remember anything from my legal theory seminar.
- Yes, sir.
- I see your classmate does.
Tell me, does that rivalry still exist between the two of you? - What? No, no, we - Good.
I'm counting on it to bring out your best.
- Mm-hmm.
- Shall we? Yes, you go right in, and I will be in in just one second.
- Sure.
- Tomorrow? - Great.
- Great.
So, Professor, how's your son? He should be out of college by now.
You think I'm here to socialize.
"Varnum v.
", "Loving v.
" It's possible this case may one day join those in the pantheon of civil rights history.
Well, we are honored that you thought of us.
Honored and humbled.
Oh, please.
False modesty is beneath you.
You're the best.
I know that because I taught you.
Separated in the end by, what 3/10 of a grade point? - 4/10.
- 2/10.
There has been an injustice, a grievous injustice that must be addressed, lest the fabric of our nation tear under the weight of it.
Are you two aware of online dating? - Mm-hmm.
- Yeah, of course.
I spent $5,000 on a premiere site offering the very best of matching.
I'd like to sue them, because they insist on listing my age as 62 instead of 42.
But you are 62.
Think for a moment.
If I'm forced to use my biological age, I will be matched with candidates who do not suit me.
So you want to sue so you can say you're younger to meet younger women? I run 30 miles a week.
I consume all organic foods.
I treat my body like a temple.
Ask my doctor.
He'll tell you I'm as fit as a 40-year-old.
Professor, this lawsuit feels like a bit of - A reach.
- Is this a reach? I identify as 42, because that way of labeling has gone the way of the dodo, exposed as limiting and biased.
Well, socially, maybe, but in terms of the law, we still have In fact, it's still very difficult to legally change gender.
A lawsuit claiming a different age is gonna be If I knew it was gonna be easy, I would've gone to my third and fourth best students.
Now do you want to see these, or shall I go to them? Your Honor, the DA's office has reviewed Mr.
Reilly's request, and after careful consideration, we reject it entirely.
- What? - May not be Mr.
Bell's DNA, but we still have the unimpeached testimony of multiple witnesses, we have Mr.
Bell's discredited attempt at an alibi, and we have the videotape confession made at Mr.
Bell's request.
Therefore, his conviction should stand.
If I may? When George Bell was convicted, their whole case was DNA.
There was no confession then.
He hadn't rotted in prison.
Hadn't lost his family.
Hadn't lost his hope.
And now we know that that DNA, that DNA was flawed.
So everything, including his confession, that can be explained by circumstance.
But the DNA, it tells all, and it is not George Bell's.
We've taken 25 years of his life, Your Honor.
25 years.
Let's not take another day from him.
I believe Mr.
Reilly has established that the most important piece of the State's original case, the DNA, is not that of his client.
I don't think that this piece alone exonerates Mr.
Bell, but I do believe it merits a new trial.
So Ms.
Cain you think he did, you're gonna have to prove it.
- All right.
Wait, what? A new trial? We got a new trial.
I'll be right there, George.
- You're really gonna fight this.
- Why? Your client murdered a 16-year-old girl.
I'm not gonna have some hotshot waltz in here and get him off on a technicality.
You may have some blood work, but I have that confession.
I have the really George Bell, and the jury's gonna see him.
You should've known that you were never gonna get that conviction tossed, Jake.
You're probably right.
No, I'm definitely right.
Well, in any case, now I go to trial, criminal trial, of which I've done exactly zero of in the last six years, and one in which my client has confessed very convincingly.
Give me the pillars of the state's case, without the DNA evidence.
Uh Eyewitness testimony of victim's best friend.
Said that George and the victim were close, that they fought, and that she was afraid of him.
And then you have the victim's mother.
Testified that George never dropped her off at home that night, even though he swears that he did.
Without the DNA, the next piece is the confession.
Okay, so our job is to punch holes in these.
Our job? I thought you'd let me at least second chair.
You're the boss.
You can't second chair.
I got Sydney doing the Terennial settlement.
Anthony and Della, they got their plates full.
Me? I got divorcees bringing me casseroles.
- Come on.
Do me a favor.
You're gonna save this man's life, Jake.
I want to be there when you do.
Finally getting back out there? Ugh, please.
This is just research.
I want to see how Marshall's dating site works.
Didn't you say that costs $5,000? This is the $50 version run by the same people.
I will say this, though.
They sort by race, age, gender, sexual orientation.
It's a veritable who's who of protected classes, but it's not illegal.
So if this is research, why'd you post a picture? Huh! Whoa.
Look at the time.
I have a lunch to get to so You enjoy that lunch.
Have fun.
- Thank you.
- Yes.
Have fun, y'all.
How you think that's gonna go? I have no idea.
See ya.
Hey, are you doing anything right now? What's up? I gotta go see George Bell's original attorney, Connor Markes, and I could use another pair of eyes.
Oh, you know him? Everybody knows Connor Markes.
How you doing? Oh, hey.
Good to see you.
How are you? - How's your dad? - Dad's fine.
Back to playing full-time.
I'll be better when you pay me what you owe me for the Webber investigation.
She's the best.
You know that, right? - Connor Markes.
- Jake Reilly.
Listen guys, I put the case files on the table in the back.
You can read them here.
You can take them with you.
To be honest, I don't care.
And you gotta excuse me.
- Stella! - Yes? - Judge Hollis? - He's on hold.
Don't be fooled by the bedside manner.
Connor's a good man.
Sydney, hey.
- Usual? - Yes, please.
You got it.
Uh, just the same, please.
Thank you.
- No worries.
Have it right out.
- Thanks.
So what about you? Where did you grow up? Um all over, actually.
My mom, she was in the army.
So I grew up all over.
You know, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, Belgium, Germany.
- I suddenly feel very unworldly.
- Tomorrow.
No, as in not today, not two days from now.
Thank you.
Sometimes I fear for humanity.
So what's up, Jake? I'm curious about the victim's diary.
You never entered it into evidence.
Ah, here we go.
No, no, I'm not second-guessing you.
- Yeah, you are.
- I just Yeah, you are.
- I'm not.
- Yeah, you are.
You're second-guessing me.
But that's fine.
There are passages in the diaries that I think could've been used to contradict witness testimony.
Yeah, but there were also 23 references to George.
Now 23 references to a friendship the jury already considered sketchy.
He was her tutor.
He was helping her - get into college - You weren't there, Jake.
You have no idea, man.
And nobody believed George.
I mean, I was the only one who You know what? You can do me a favor, Jake, and Why don't you just take the files and leave my office? Did I do something? I'm confused.
- You're confused? - Yeah.
Let me tell you what confused is.
I fought for George for five years, all right? I wrecked a marriage, I developed a ulcer, and I didn't care because he was innocent, and I was all he had.
Man, this whole city hated him.
But I held the line.
I refused to give up.
So you can just imagine just how confused I was standing there in Judge Powell's chambers, begging her to hear one more appeal, swearing on my reputation that he was innocent, when her clerk walks in and says "George confessed, on tape," after everything I did for five years.
I've got court.
You can show yourself out.
You still think he's innocent.
Of course, he's innocent.
You be careful, Jake.
'Cause there's something about this case.
I'd hate to see it break your heart too.
Wait, so that music that you're listening to in your headphones, that's your music? Not all the time, but yeah.
I mean, I started DJing when I was, like, 14.
And one thing everyone likes no matter where you are - Yeah.
- Music.
- You know? It's like - Yeah.
- universal language.
- Mm-hmm.
You haven't touched your ribs.
Um yeah.
Oh, shoot.
You're not vegan, are you? No, no, no, no, no.
I just I am I'm weirded out by ribs.
You're weirded out by ribs? Yeah, yeah.
Um I don't know.
It's like it's like with most food, people go out of their way to make it not look like what it came from.
- Mm-hmm.
- But ribs just look like ribs.
Like right in your face.
Once you see it, it's kinda hard to unsee it, I guess.
- Emerson, you just ruined ribs for me.
- Ribs! - I'm sorry.
- In Memphis.
What am I supposed to eat? - [LAUGHTER.]
Ribs! I'm sorry.
It's true.
I'm sorry.
- Everything okay? - Yeah.
I just I totally forgot I have this meeting with my professor that I have to get to.
No, no, no, you stay.
This was this was great.
Is it just me, or have the law students gotten younger? Apparently, they look just right to Professor Marshall.
Anthony, I am telling you.
Dating younger women is not what this case is really about.
Ah, the prodigal children return.
Meet my top teaching assistant, Portia.
We are co-authoring an amicus brief for the Supreme Court.
Portia, this is Anthony Anthony Little and Sydney Strait.
The elixir of youth.
Please, sit.
So you have good news? Well, we looked into suing the dating site, and we don't think there's a case.
They don't get it.
The site sorts information that members submit voluntarily.
The sorting itself is entirely legal.
- They just don't get it.
- Excuse me.
We're right here, and we're not done.
Since there's no case against the website, we think that our best shot is to legally petition to change your age.
I'm listening.
We'll go at it the way other lawyers are trying to tackle cases of non-binary gender identity.
Those cases aren't getting very far, as you both unnecessarily reminded me in your office.
That's true, however, we have one thing going for us that the other cases don't, a history of the court's ruling on age discrimination.
We'll fashion an argument based on opportunity bias against people over 50 - I was just saying that.
- As far back as the Age Discrimination and Employment Act of BOTH: 1967.
We're hoping since the court ruled that age discrimination is real, we can show that your right to legally change your age should be respected.
So if I were to follow this ingenious - [BOTH MOUTHING WORDS.]
- legal gambit of yours, I'd have to first petition the county clerk to change my age.
Yes, and then when they refuse, we take them to court.
Petitioning the county is as simple as filling out - a form - 17B5? I had Portia prepare one for you.
She is a whiz with forms.
So Portia is Annoying.
Among other things.
Are you sure this case is about more than a genius having a mid-life crisis? It better be.
So I'll file the form, and as soon as it's turned down, set a court date.
What's up? I I heard you had lunch with Emerson.
- How'd it go? - It was good.
He's a really interesting guy, so Did he tell you that I had to leave because I was 'Cause of Marshall.
Yeah, he did.
But still, I just wanted to say that it it meant a lot to me that you reached out to him like that.
Kind of thing your mother would do.
And, uh - I wanted to thank you.
- Okay.
That's really all I wanted to say.
Dad? Good luck on the George Bell case.
Okay, trial starts tomorrow.
Our goal is to make the state's case look so weak that by the time that confession plays, we've already got reasonable doubt.
Then it's gonna be up to George to explain to the jury why he confessed to something that he didn't do.
We're really good on these ancillary witnesses.
Let's hit these keys one more time.
Okay, so Olivia Scott: victim's best friend.
Now, the crux of her testimony is I spoke to Tess just a few hours before she died.
Did she any anything about the defendant? She said they'd had a fight, and that she was scared of what he might do.
You know how you want to go at her? Ms.
Scott this conversation, you said that, uh that took place in the locker room? That's right.
Would you be surprised to know that those lockers, they were closed that week due to an asbestos problem? Uh maybe it was somewhere else.
It was 25 years ago.
But you first told the story to the police less than a week after Tess was killed, didn't you? Um What about her classmate, Thomas Engle? ADA is relying on this guy for the motive.
And what did she say about the afterschool tutoring she was getting from Mr.
Bell? That she wanted to quit, but he wouldn't let her.
How do you counter that? Uh, we don't.
Tess does.
This is from Tess's diary.
And this was written just a week before she died.
"I don't know what's worse.
"Thomas wants me to quit "or he thinks that if I do, I'll use that free time to go out with him.
" With their two best witnesses on the ropes, that leaves Deborah Androde, victim's mother.
She's gonna hurt us.
The night of Tess's murder, did she work at the diner that night? Yes.
Did she say how she was getting home? She not only puts them together She said Mr.
Bell was giving her a ride.
She destroys George's alibi.
But she never came home.
Thank you, Ms.
Nothing further, Your Honor.
As painful as it is to just sit there, without anything to impeach her testimony, you'll gain nothing from crossing this woman the jury loves.
No questions, Your Honor.
The good news is, if you knock out the first two legs and survive the mom, that's all they got.
All rise! - Professor? - Yeah.
Having her here doesn't exactly help our chances.
So I shouldn't have my best student here to learn from my former best students because of why? Be seated.
Anthony, it just occurred to me this might just be about him getting laid.
Okay, well, just when you think you've seen it all.
I've read Mr.
Marshall's complaint and the city's reply.
Strait, why on Earth should I grant this change of age? In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act was passed for a reason.
That reason was that we sometimes discriminate without even knowing it.
We create categories like race, gender, sexual orientation, and we think we know what those words mean, because we think their definitions are fixed.
But those definitions evolve.
Sexual orientation started with the assumption that it couldn't be fluid.
Gender started as a biological classification, not an identity.
This is why so many young people are coming forward and saying, "Your definitions are out of date.
"I may have been labeled a man when I was born, "but I am a woman.
"Or maybe I was told to be attracted to one sex, but I'm actually attracted to them all.
" We all have the right to privacy.
And that includes the right to have our true identities recognized by the court.
Especially when people are already being discriminated against for having those identities.
We're not asking the court to erase age restrictions, we're saying that this man, who identifies himself by who he likes, the hobbies he has, and the health he maintains, identifies as 42.
So who are we to say he's wrong? You want some? It's a little stronger than what the can might indicate.
- Okay.
- Mm-hmm.
I see we're both having good days.
Yeah, I just made a really impassioned civil rights argument to impress a professor who wants to sleep with women his son's age.
Well, tomorrow I get to play your favorite confession video to a jury who already wants to convict my client.
It hurts, you know? Letting George down hurts.
Emerson's not my brother.
Not biologically, at least.
My dad met my mom when I was a baby, and he adopted me when they got married.
I never thought that it mattered.
I mean he's always been my dad.
Just dad.
But now, I don't know.
You think like him.
You fight like him.
Care like him.
You're stubborn like him.
And don't get wrong, you're all kinds of a pain in the ass, but Oh, my God.
You're your father's daughter.
Hey, good morning, Connor.
How are you? I'm good, Anthony.
Is Briana in? This is the basis of the appeal I filed the night George confessed, and Judge Powell shot it down.
Wait, you think that wasn't the mother's original statement at the police department.
A neighbor said he saw Deborah Androde talking to police the night of the murder but, I could never corroborate that because that neighbor died a year after Tess, and I never found an officer who would admit that he talked to her the night before, nor was there any record of a conversation, but I [SIGHS.]
You know, ever since you came by, I've been thinking about that case over and over in my mind.
I just refuse to believe that all those years were for nothing.
Well, if only we knew someone who had connections at the police department.
Before I knew it, my hands were around her neck.
I was just squeezing and squeezing and squeezing.
When I finally let go, she was dead in my hands.
Why did you make that tape? If you didn't kill Tess Why'd you make the tape? You know, when I was first arrested it was surreal.
But I knew I'd be released.
Because I didn't do it.
And then I saw how they were making their case against me, but I wasn't worried because I didn't do it.
And even when I was first convicted, I woke up every day thinking this is gonna be the day that they find out they made a terrible mistake.
Because I didn't do it.
And things in prison aren't so great when you're convicted of what I was.
But the worst part was what was happening to my wife.
She tried to hide it from me, but I knew she'd been fired.
I knew that she couldn't go to the mall without being harassed.
I knew she had to drive to other towns just to buy food for our son.
And I'd been in prison almost three years when my last appeal failed, and I realized finally it didn't matter that I didn't do it.
I was never gonna get out of there.
So the next time my wife came to visit, I looked her in the eyes and I lied.
I told her I told her I did do it.
She never would've moved on otherwise.
She would've stayed just as locked up as me.
13 times I had to tell her before she believed me.
I remember the look on her face, just before she ran out.
So Yeah, telling the cops was easy after that.
No further questions.
Bell, if you're innocent, then why didn't you drop Tess off at home? I did.
I swear.
So the mother's lying, but you're telling the truth? Jake.
We need to talk.
Maybe if we knew what it was you were looking for.
If what Connor said is true, someone either made an innocent mistake or someone made a deliberate omission.
Now every time a car goes out, dispatch files a run report.
That way, the officers get in distress, we know where they are.
Now, I'm sure they'd have destroyed the mother's original statement, but if I can find the run sheet, we'll know she talked to someone.
Despite the absurd circumstances of this case, I find merit in what Ms.
Strait has said.
The world is changing, and there are people with legitimate claims who are finding that neither our courts nor our legislature seem to care when their rights are infringed upon.
Rather than debate issues of identity, the courts are choosing to turn a deaf ear.
That is not how our legal system is meant to behave.
- Oh, my God.
- Are we about to win? Ms.
Strait, Mr.
Little, I hope your argument will serve as a catalyst to help with real cases about sexual orientation and gender identity, for these are people who should have their day in court.
Off the record.
As for you, Mr.
Marshall I find your claim ridiculous.
You are 62 years old.
If you want to date younger women, lie like everyone else does.
Well, don't look so blue.
You heard that judge.
I lost.
But in trying to win my absurd theoretical case, you gave people with legitimate claims another argument to use to fight in court, as I knew you would.
In fact that argument will fit in nicely with that amicus brief I'm writing for the U.
Supreme Court.
The one on the subject of their needing to rule in favor of protecting gender identity under Title VII.
It's funny.
Whenever you're so close to an issue, you can never see all the ways you can win an argument.
You need someone or someones to think outside the box.
For the record, my girlfriend is 59.
And my son who you both keep asking me about, she's 25 and brilliant.
And her father is very excited to tell her what you both did today.
I told you it wasn't about him getting laid.
- I knew it.
- Yeah, but then you freaked out when you thought you were wrong.
No, I didn't freak out.
Would you say I freaked out? You weren't the one looking at your face.
Your face.
- It's beautiful.
So beautiful.
- Stupid just now.
You don't even know what it looked like.
Back in a second, okay? Robbie? I didn't find the run report.
Found her original statement.
I'll tell Judge Jacobs that you are going to recall Deborah Androde.
I'll do my best to keep this quiet.
I won't.
Thank you.
Androde, you spoke to the police around noon the day after Tess was killed, and the state said that this was your initial statement.
But didn't you in fact speak to the police - the night Tess went missing? - Objection! - Foundation.
- Your Honor, I have here the copy of an interview conducted by the police at 11:45 p.
- the night before.
- Your Honor! We would like this marked in evidence.
Everyone, in my chambers now.
How do we even know it's real? It was given to us by the current Chief of Detectives, who is as appalled as we are.
Your Honor, if you want me to go out there and tear that woman apart, I'll do so.
I'll expose the fact that she was inebriated the night her daughter died.
I will expose the fact that even though she was slurring drunk, she told the police that her daughter had come home, which makes George innocent, just like the DNA proves.
Why punish her? Why punish her when it's clear that the next day, detectives came by and told her that she said otherwise? Why punish her when the police waited until she was sober and they gave her a man to blame? I don't want her to feel guilty for what the state have done to my client, Your Honor, and I don't want her to feel guilty for the fact that that means her daughter's killer is still out there.
Cain, do you need to talk to your boss? 'Cause if you do, I suggest you tell him to cover his ass.
This right here is a storm that could easily blow his way.
No, Your Honor.
Okay, we are back on record.
Androde, you may step down.
Jake, what's going on? In accordance with the agreement just reached with the District Attorney's office, I am vacating the conviction of Mr.
Bell, effectively immediately.
Remember when you asked me what it was like outside in the world? I'm entering a finding of factual innocence on his behalf, and order him to be released immediately.
Let's go find out.
You know Everything's so beautiful.
Darling, thank you so much.
Thank you all very much.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
Those clothes are gonna help a lot of women.
That's your mother, all right.
She's still giving back.
And you, again, thank you so much for doing all this.
Oh, stop it, already.
- I love you, kiddo.
- Love you.
- Bye.
- Bye.
You, uh, you got plans? Uh no.
Thinking maybe you might want to stick around for dinner.
I got a lot of food in there.
I didn't walk out of lunch with Emerson because of a case.
I, um I walked out because, he has your smile.
He has your smile, Dad.
And I was looking at him and and just thinking I don't have anything of yours, so what if some day you think that he's You know Happiest day of my life was when I married your mother, 'cause that's the same day I signed that paper that made you my daughter.
And I've just been living my whole life trying to prove myself worthy of you, Sydney.
So there would be There's nothing that would ever change that.
No one, nothing, ever, ever, ever.
Thanks, Dad.
- Ah.
- Okay.
What's that look? What's that look? I know that look.
What? I was just wondering, how much food we talking? Like, a lot? I'm gonna show you right now.
All right, I don't know what's in this, but it smells so Oh, this is the lobster loaf.
- Whoa, whoa.
- What? I thought I said you could each pick one casserole.
How are we supposed to choose one without, like, trying all of them? That's honestly a really good argument.
Hey, there's some ribs in the fridge if you're interested.
- Very funny.
- Is that funny? - That's very, very funny.
- You ruined them forever.
I will trade you for the mac and cheese.
Same time? - Want some of this? - Yeah.
BOTH: Ooh.
You two barbarians are gonna clean that up.
It's fine.
Will you just sit while it's hot? We went through all the trouble of heating up all of these dishes.
Where are the shrimp and grits? Oh, Della left with that hours ago.