Law & Order (1990) s13e16 Episode Script

Suicide Box

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.
Couple ofjabs.
Couple ofjabs.
Boom! A right cross and that's all he wrote.
You're gonna knock out Coop? Speed, my friend.
No, not speed.
Two rounds tops.
JIM: I'll tell you what.
You knock out Coop in two rounds, beers are on me for a month.
You in on this? Coop's a southpaw.
ROB: So? You ever fight a southpaw? Burger, rare.
Fries crispy, guys.
That man has the bladder of a fruit fly.
A beer says it's not his bladder that's aching.
No, no.
I said no, Adam.
Come on, no one cares.
I do! I got a husband, damn it.
Didn't bother you last week.
I made a mistake.
So what does that mean? You figure it out.
Hey! I got a gun.
I'll use it.
JIM: He's not gonna catch me.
ROB: Catch you? Yeah.
One punch and I'm down.
If Coop hits back? ROB: Bob and weave.
Bob and weave.
JIM: Black and blue.
Black and blue.
Rush the bus.
Give her room, damn it! Back up! Give her room! Hang on, Alice.
ADAM: Alice Cushman.
She works the 31.
You too, huh? Yeah.
I just talked to her.
What about? I went to take a leak.
It was a "hello" outside the men's room.
Nothing heavy.
Anybody else talk "heavy" to her in the past? Why? Just helps to get a fix on who the victim is, that's all.
I saw her in the house every morning before call.
" "You see the game?" Stuff about Rickie.
Stuff like that? Who's Rickie? Her son, 17 months.
Real cutie.
I seen pictures.
Paramedic says she's gonna make it.
Shoulder through-and-through.
She's just mostly in shock.
Adam Brennan.
Any fix on the shooter? Maybe I should be asking you that question.
You were the first one out of the diner, right? I was inside.
You know, Alice has got a husband.
Maybe I should call him.
Why don't you give us his number.
I can get it for you.
I think Officer Brennan knows a lot more than he's telling us.
What, a little birdie told you that? You and I've been partnered, what, four years? He knows the exact age of the victim's kid.
So? So, forget about how old my daughter is, you even know what state she lives in? Hey, the busboy saw a blue car speed around that corner after the shots.
The plates had three numbers followed by three letters, the last two were "U" and "V".
I don't think the first one was "L".
The Commissioner's talking about a task force.
What, over two cops, who each have a spouse on the side, sweating up the sheets? Lennie's been watching too much Dr.
I don't know who that is but if he's got a cure for marital infidelity on the job we ought to put him on retainer.
On the other hand, half of the 31 ends up at the Market Diner for coffee.
If someone was holding a grudge against Officer Cushman, they'd know to find her there.
Witness says the shooter was moving at a pretty good clip.
Could have been he wasn't picky, as long as you were wearing blue.
Well, let's hope to hell Lennie's right.
They'll be right there.
She's awake.
Don thinks I should have quit the job after we got married.
He thinks a woman's place is making dinner and babies.
Tell me I'm wrong now.
Well Tell him this was a freak thing.
ALICE: It's not like there's anyone out there gunning for me, Don.
Well, actually we can't confirm or deny.
Oh, yeah, all those parking tickets, I knew I should have worn a Kevlar bra.
You wear a uniform.
There could be some nut out there gunning for all cops! I'm just saying we got a new baby.
By the way, your pal, Adam Brennan, sends his best.
Who? Just one of the cops.
My wife! Just one of the boys! She's out partying and I'm stuck home changing diapers.
What, it's my fault no one's hiring? Look, I really didn't see the guy or the car.
(CLEARS THROAT) Look, Doc says I should get some sleep if you don't mind? You know where to find us.
You were right.
ADAM: Okay.
We rented a room twice.
It's not like it was this hot-and-heavy kind of thing.
I'm happily married.
How happy is your wife? Very.
And if it's okay with you, I'd like to keep her that way.
That's why I didn't say anything last night.
You're a real ace with secrets, huh, Brennan.
How happy is Alice's marriage? ADAM: You think Don? No way.
BRISCOE: What, he's not the possessive type? She says he didn't have a clue.
And if he did, he'd be taking shots at me, not her.
Did Alice get "personal" with anybody besides you? No way.
She's a good girl.
Could we Yeah, yeah.
New York's finest.
Hey, he cheats on his wife.
You built a new wing on some casino in Atlantic City.
I liked the liquid refreshment a little too much.
We're dogs, every one of us.
No wonder the public thinks so highly of us.
Oh, no, they love us.
They have to.
(CELL PHONE RINGING) When they run away from something, we run toward it.
Yeah, Green.
Could you do me a favor? Get that over to Forensics.
All right.
Thanks, man.
A BMW was clipped last night around the corner from the scene by a blue car.
Could be our shooter.
I parked it in front of my house two nights ago when I got home.
I overslept.
The next morning it was gone.
Why didn't you report it stolen? Because I thought you guys towed it.
And you didn't call Parking Enforcement to check? I didn't have the money to claim it back until next week's pay check.
Took me an hour-and-a-half on the bus to get here.
Does anybody else have access to the car, Ms.
Thomas? Like who? A kid, for instance.
My son is dead.
So, you did your good deed telling me it was stolen.
You can go now.
I got work to do.
You don't understand, Ms.
Whoever took your car may have tried to shoot a police officer.
Oh, that sure explains it.
ED: Explains what? How hard would you have looked if it was me reported it stolen? So much for your theory about the public loving us.
Well, there's an exception to every rule.
Well, hopefully she don't work every night.
Hey! ED: How you doing? Can we talk to you about Janet Thomas? Who'd she kill? Now why would you say that? She's got a temper, that one.
Thinks the world owes her.
Last night she screamed at me because I took the last milk in the Nurses' Lounge.
So she was here all night? Until midnight.
You don't know the problems that caused.
ED: What you mean, she don't care for the graveyard shift? Well, just the opposite.
Well, they wanted to put her on days, but she raised all kinds of hell.
Says she's got to be home when her son gets home from high school.
Her son? She told us her kid died.
Looks like she's lying to someone.
Well, why do you suppose she wouldn't tell us she had another kid? I don't know.
Let's ask him.
Thank you.
(SCHOOL BELL RINGS) BRISCOE: Back when I was using Clearasil, we didn't have to walk through metal detectors.
When you were 18, I doubt if you could buy a semi-automatic weapon on every street corner.
Are you saying Stevie No.
He smokes some weed.
Cuts some classes.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
Unfortunately, that's a truth the times have made me live with.
If you wait here, I'll bring him out.
All I can say is I'm glad my kid is grown.
I'm glad I'm grown.
Look, I don't know what you think I've done.
It's not me, Stevie.
It's the detectives want a word.
Man, I ain't do nothing! I ain't do Yeah.
You can tell me all about it down at the squad.
Come on.
Alice Cashman.
Don't know her.
BRISCOE: Cushman.
And she's a cop.
Well, maybe she was getting a payoff under the table or something.
I don't know.
Where did you come up with that? That's what they do, ain't it? How old are you? What's it matter? There's something you ought to know, Stevie.
My partner here, he's famous all over the city for his temper.
You can tell your partner to kiss my ass.
I ain't done nothing.
Not like it makes no difference though.
You haven't been reading the papers, have you, kid? Cops are heroes now.
Not to me, they ain't.
You know what, Lennie? I think you could use a cup of coffee.
(DOOR CLOSES) Let me tell you something, Stevie.
That little attitude of yours, that might play on the street, but from this moment on, all it's gonna do is dig you in a hole you can't get out of.
Man, I can handle it! Hey, man, you shot a cop.
People around here, including me, don't appreciate that.
So, what! "Officer Tom's" gonna rescue me now? Oh, hell, no.
I'm just telling you what's what.
After that, it's up to you.
So what? You get some kind of raise to take a brother off the street? That's right, man.
For every 10 I bring in I get an extra day's pay.
If he's got a big mouth, I get two days! If I bring him in a little bloody, the man gives me a damn toaster oven! The best thing for you to do, Stevie, is for you to talk to me.
Gimme a reason why? I am your last chance, bra! You shot a white cop.
Nobody else in this building wants to listen to your little ass.
You want me to say I'm sorry? The only thing I'm sorry about is that cop is still alive.
You don't even have a record! Now I know you didn't wake up one day and say, "I'm going out and shoot me a cop today!" What do you know! Stevie.
Tell me why, please.
You think I don't know you? I know everything about you.
Whitey gets shot or gets a hangnail, they snap and Tom comes running.
But my brother gets shot.
(SOBBING) And no one No one does nothing.
No one gives a damn! No one but me! So what, you take down a cop, just to even things out? That's right.
You better believe it.
Your client didn't ask for an attorney until after he confessed.
Well, be that as it may, he's just a child.
It just so happens his 18th birthday was last week.
So he's not entitled to have a parent with him in the interrogation room.
Let me ask you, Lieutenant, when you were 18, would you have been capable of holding your own alone, in a closed room with two homicide detectives? I wouldn't have popped three rounds at a cop.
I would have thought the air in here would be more sympathetic.
Now why would you think that? Do I offend you, Lieutenant? You know, the truth is, Counselor, I've seen you in action.
I've seen you turn a simple assault into Brown v.
Board of Education.
When the sheet fits Your client shot an innocent cop, a wife, a mother.
Because his brother was murdered eight years ago and a whole bunch of other innocent cops shined him and his mother on.
Which is a fact you can take up with the District Attorney, Counselor.
Who, if they ever get around to it, will quickly see this is not the kind of case they want to put in front of a jury.
Have a nice day.
There he goes.
Johnnie Cochran without the rhyme.
He's just saying what we already know.
Let's not pretend Joe Cop moves with the same speed when the call's to 125th and Lennox than to 63rd and Park.
The 16 investigated the murder of an Eric Thomas.
ED: You call up the file? All the current database had was the name and "case closed.
" There you go.
That means we caught the guy who killed Eric Thomas and now his kid brother and his esteemed attorney are trying to pull a fast one.
You know, we should talk to the lead detective.
That'll be hard to do without a séance.
Lead detective was a guy named Nick Helms.
I went to his funeral about six years ago.
ED: Well, I hope you brought your antihistamine.
Why? You ever been to "Dead Files"? Whoa.
The computer said the case is closed.
Well, this one isn't.
And this kid's whole defense is that we screwed up on his brother's murder investigation.
So what? So I, for one, would like to know how bad.
Bottom line, Ed, no matter what we find, it doesn't justify that kid shooting at a cop.
It could affect sentencing.
And if God had wanted man to have fair trials he would have given the jury Pentium processors instead of prejudices.
Hey, all I'm saying is people bring a whole lot of baggage into everything they do and lawyers, like Halpert, know how to make the worst of it.
Here's all I got.
"All you got"? What does that mean? Most of the file looks lost.
Lost? This is file storage.
How do you lose a file? Eight years.
CLERK: I'll put out an APB, but based on past experience, odds aren't good.
I'm starting to think Halpert is right.
Complaint was called in by a neighbor who found the body on 128th Street.
Cops arrived at 1:48 a.
And found Eric Thomas dead.
You hear what I said? Weapon was a Ruger found four feet from the body.
Should be in the Property Clerk's unit.
But the death certificate and final autopsy report are missing.
Lennie Hey, Ed, what do you want from me? I sold my plantation over a century ago.
All I'm saying is, where do they store the homicide files for the rich, white kids? I think we can worry about that another time, because Stevie's brother Eric wasn't murdered.
He committed suicide.
Of course their report said Eric committed suicide.
That way the cops never had to investigate the crime, that way they can sweep the life of another innocent black child underneath their very white carpets.
Hey, he was just getting warmed up.
He can try his case in the press, but that doesn't mean I have to listen to it.
The kid shot at a cop for no reason other than that she was a cop.
What does he want? Dead Files sent this over.
It was filed under "E".
"E" for Eric, that makes sense.
Says here that the weapon was melted down three years after the case was deemed a suicide.
Your boy Helms interviewed somebody named Jason Hendri three times.
What about the death certificate or autopsy report? Well, it must be filed with Hendri's statement.
Well, let's hope he remembers seeing Eric Thomas put one in his own head.
Jason, I'm Detective Green.
This is Detective Briscoe.
We want to talk to you about Eric Thomas.
What about him? We're looking into his death.
A little late, aren't you? Well, it's come up in connection Why'd I care about that? BRISCOE: We found your name in the file.
It seems you told Detective Helms that you saw the shooting.
(LAUGHS) (EXHALES FORCEFULLY) We want to laugh, too, man.
What's in it for me? That nice warm feeling you get from doing the right thing.
You're serving three consecutive life sentences, a few years off one of them ain't gonna do much.
Wanna know why I was laughing? I mean, what's it been, seven, eight years you all haven't figured it out yet? ED: Figured out what? Yeah, I saw the son-of-a-bitch who shot Eric Thomas.
Pretty hard not to see when you the son-of-a-bitch who pulled the trigger.
You? (WHISPERING) Pow! You know, it never ceases to amaze, the extent some people will go to prove their ignorance, fear and hatred.
No cameras here, Carl.
No need to waste the sound bite.
Hey, let's discuss the mother of all sound bites, "To protect and serve.
" Actually, I prefer the unexpurgated version, "To protect and serve them that look like us.
" I'm glad to see you haven't lost a step.
I'm just getting started.
A suicide but no autopsy report? Give me a break.
A felony defense based on incompetent office personnel? Oh, Jack, you're giving them too much credit.
Let me spell this one out for you, "cover up.
" Nobody lost anything.
That's right.
I saw your press conference.
The cops didn't investigate it in the first place.
That's right.
Why bother to investigate when you can get one of your lackeys to check the little suicide box.
No fuss.
No muss.
Best of all everyone's home for dinner.
Even if that were true, vengeance isn't a defense for attempted murder.
I'm not sure this even rises to the level of vengeance.
Officer Cushman wasn't even on the force when Eric Thomas died.
The criminal acts against my client weren't committed by an individual but by the entire system.
Now, you call a murder a suicide and the victim's family is robbed ofjustice under the law.
This is nonsense.
It's obvious you just want to inflame the jury.
Big picture, Ms.
This case is not about a devastated kid, it's about Jim Crow, new and improved racism with a felt-tipped pen.
All I have to do is point the jury in the right direction and they'll do exactly what they should.
Let your people go? (CHUCKLES) Yeah.
But I'll settle for Stevie Thomas.
Carl, Carl.
I'm sure you had better things to do with this morning than spend it here with me.
Simple assault.
No time.
He shot a cop, you know I can't do that.
As always, my brother, time with you, is time well spent.
We can move to exclude all evidence of Eric Thomas' death as irrelevant.
Or we can cut it off at the pass.
If we can prove beyond a doubt that it was a suicide, we essentially prove that the police didn't do anything wrong.
Start with whoever it was that wielded that felt-tipped pen.
RODGERS: I put in a request to records after you called.
My luck was about the same as the cops.
Files don't just disappear.
Really? What city do you work for? The good news, we did come up with a name, Gail Berardi performed the autopsy on Eric Thomas.
If nobody's misplaced her, that is.
You might be better off.
Gail left the M.
's Office a few years ago to become a private consultant.
The parting wasn't what you would call sweet.
What are you telling me, this woman ransomed her autopsy reports? With Gail Berardi, nothing would surprise me.
I don't remember the case.
The M.
's Office seems to think you have the files.
It's possible.
I'll take a look and get back to you.
When? I don't know.
When I get around to it.
I'm being called as an expert tomorrow in Hartford.
Next week, LA.
I don't think I made myself clear.
This file is going to be evidence in an attempted murder case.
I don't think I made myself clear, it's not my problem anymore.
Berardi's files are evidence in a felony trial.
Subpoena them.
That's the first thing I threatened.
But what's evidence to us is work product to her.
She'd fight it for sure.
This woman rents herself out as an expert witness, doesn't she? You want to hire her? No.
But no one else will either if we charge her with embezzlement of government property.
Berardi took files when she left the M.
's Office.
Her personal files, which she had every right to.
As an employee of the State those files were produced at behest of the State.
They were in effect "works for hire" and were and remain her employer's property.
What is it we're talking about here? Research? Time cards? Autopsy reports.
Shame on you.
SERENA: Thank you, Your Honor.
And shame on you for trying to swat flies with SCUD missiles.
This is a civil matter, Counselor.
If you want to argue about personal property you should take it up with people who actually give a damn about this sort of nonsense.
Your Honor You've got a colorable claim and I use that term very freely.
Although I'd love to, I can't in good conscience dismiss the charges.
So what do you say, Doc? Give the lady her files or you're looking at one major headache.
These notes are better organized and more detailed than most of what I see.
The cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the skull.
Consistent with suicide? No.
I said organized and detailed.
I didn't say complete.
Why aren't I surprised? There's nothing here regarding the position of either entrance or exit wounds.
Trace gunshot residue is referenced but taken alone, that's not enough to say for sure.
See, you really need to examine the beveling of the bone.
We typically keep photos and scale drawings.
Do you think Berardi held them back? Oh, you'd never be able to prove it if she did.
Documents from closed files are often used for research, teaching, statistical studies.
Her reports could be anywhere between here and Albany.
So you're telling me I won the battle and lost the war? Not necessarily.
You've still got a fighting chance if you get me the skull of Eric Thomas.
You people.
You tossed one of my boys off like he's garbage.
Now you want me to pull him from his grave? If Eric were my son, I'd want to know for sure what happened to him.
I always knew what happened.
Now I know how and who.
Of course.
I understand.
What do you understand? You don't care a damn about Eric.
You just want to save some cops' butts.
Those are some pretty harsh words, Mrs.
You earned them.
Eight years you people have kept me dangling on a string.
Well, I'm not dancing for you no more.
I don't care how many strings you try to pull.
Of course not.
How about you let me talk to Mrs.
Thomas, mother-to-mother? Thanks.
You know, it's a funny thing, Mrs.
Thomas, we have a laundry room in the basement of my building and a couple of weeks ago I went down to move a load from the washer to the dryer and I noticed that my box of detergent was missing and I knew who did it.
Ross, second floor, real scavenger, that one.
You got a point? Yeah, I got a point.
A week later, my son, my oldest, Stefan, gets into a fist fight with Andy Ross.
It seems he called his mother a thief.
Hatred isn't inherited, Mrs.
It's learned.
I didn't talk Stevie into doing this, if that's where you're headed.
I think I can understand how angry you must be, how hurt.
Now, I can see it in your eyes and we just met.
I can only imagine what Stevie felt like looking at those eyes for eight long years.
He had to feel small, powerless, unable to ease his mother's pain.
He just turned 18, right? Yeah.
So now how could he become a man if he couldn't stop his mama's suffering? Stevie traded his life to ease your hurt.
The least you can do is make it mean something.
Prove to the world that your oldest was really murdered and I swear to you I will personally go after whoever was responsible for covering it up.
Oh, God.
Oh, God! (SOBBING) Help! Help me! The funeral home was owned by Douglas Lexhall.
Was? He was convicted four years ago for selling corpses without permission to foreign medical schools.
The A.
Handling the case thought they'd ID'd all of the missing bodies.
That is a real comfort.
With the way this case has been handled to date, I wouldn't be surprised if Eric Thomas just got fed up and decided to walk off on his own! Missing files.
Missing bodies.
I for one would like to display at least a modicum of competency at my job.
And if my office can't convict a kid who confessed to shooting a cop, then I'm not gonna get many more opportunities.
Halpert's insisting that Stevie Thomas does no time.
(CHUCKLES) What the hell? At my age, I should be fishing anyway.
JACK: On February 4th, at approximately 10:15 p.
, Stevie Thomas was not at home working on his physics homework.
He was not watching the Knicks beat the Clippers on television.
He was not talking to his friends on the phone.
On February 4th, at approximately 10:15 p.
, Stevie Thomas was in his mother's car, without her knowledge, driving past the Market Diner over on 11th Avenue.
On February 4th, at approximately 10:15 p.
, police officer Alice Cushman exited the Market Diner after having a cup of coffee with several other officers from the 31st Precinct.
She was on her way home.
She was thinking about kissing her sleeping baby, Rickie, on the forehead.
On February 4th, at approximately 10:15 p.
, Stevie Thomas had a.
38 caliber revolver in his hand.
He fired three times from his mother's car.
One of those bullets struck Officer Cushman in the shoulder.
Defense counsel will present a bevy of possible explanations.
But in a court of law in the State of New York, they have nothing to do with the case.
Stevie Thomas shot a cop.
That's all that matters.
Your opening statement, Mr.
Halpert? I think I'll pass, Your Honor.
Actually, I didn't know what happened.
I remember a flash of light, wheels screeching, a shooting pain running down my side, and then I guess I passed out.
Could you identify the car? It was blue.
Kind of old.
A Pontiac, I think.
It happened fast.
JACK: The driver? ALICE: The most I could tell was that it was a male.
JACK: Had you ever had any dealings with the defendant prior to the shooting? I never saw him face-to-face until today.
JACK: Any members of his family? ALICE: Not that I'm aware of.
Thank you, officer.
So other than being male, you can't tell us anything about the driver? He was African American, if that's what you mean.
That's exactly what I mean.
Nothing more, Your Honor.
Forensics determined that the bullet taken out of Officer Cushman was from a.
38 that was found in the trunk of an abandoned car in Long Island City.
The car was registered to one Janet Thomas.
Did there ever come a time when you personally spoke to the defendant, Stevie Thomas? Yes.
My partner, Detective Briscoe and I brought him down to the squad for questioning.
And what happened? He confessed to shooting Officer Cushman.
What did Detective Briscoe say after Stevie confessed? He wasn't in the room.
Really? I could have sworn you just testified that the two of you questioned my client.
Detective Briscoe was in the room for part of the interrogation.
He left before the defendant confessed.
I see.
So from now on we'd best assume what you tell us is "kind of" the truth.
Tag-teaming a suspect is often the most efficient way of interrogating him.
It throws the suspect off.
Sometimes he forgets what he told one detective and he changes his story.
Either way, the other detective is monitoring the interrogation from the observation room.
Did you question Stevie about where he got the car? Yes.
About the shooting? Yes.
And there was something else, something about a new toaster oven.
That was a figure of speech.
HALPERT: I never heard it used in the context of a police interrogation before.
Why don't you explain it to me? Your client was being completely disrespectful.
And you thought toast would help? He was denigrating me as a cop.
And you got mad? No.
I was always in control.
Isn't it true you told Stevie that the department gives out toaster ovens for every African American child you beat the crap out of? I wasn't serious.
You were joking? Yes.
That's right.
What did your partner, who you've already testified was watching through the glass, what did he do when you "joked" with my client? He watched.
A white cop just watched while his partner threatened a black boy? Does this happen often? Objection.
JUDGE: Sustained.
Tell me, Detective.
Whose prints are on that.
38? It was wiped clean.
So you have no way of proving exactly who fired it? ED: Your client confessed.
After you threatened to beat him silly! I didn't threaten him.
When a jury is involved, the truth doesn't always matter.
Especially this jury.
What are you saying, "Especially this jury"? What's different about this jury, that they wouldn't recognize the truth? Halpert wants to show how irresponsible the force is when dealing with the black community.
He gave you the brush, Detective, and you painted the exact picture he was looking for.
So can't you paint a different picture? How? I don't have any more witnesses.
The People rest, your Honor.
At this time, Your Honor, the defense is prepared to proceed with its opening statement.
Chambers, Your Honor.
You can't open in the middle of a trial.
I don't see why not? The Court rules give me the right to give an opening statement to the jury.
They don't specify when I have to give it.
The plain language of the rule suggests that it was intended to be given at the opening of the trial.
Well, that's funny, I thought it meant at the "opening" of my case.
This is merely a way for counsel to divert the jury's focus from the People's case-in-chief.
It would provide a distinct advantage.
HALPERT: Well, let's talk about advantages.
Which side gets to sit spitting distance from the jury? Who gets to open first and close last? If you forgot, it's the State on both counts.
I'm just trying to offset the overwhelming advantage the State has the moment we open the doors to the courtroom.
I never thought of that.
Well, you've never been a defendant.
The rules don't prohibit it, so why should I? HALPERT: You know, before I got here today, I joined an acquaintance of mine on line at a coffee truck around the corner.
We reached the counter and we both ordered a cup of coffee and a Danish.
Unfortunately, there was only one Danish left and the man at the counter gave it to my friend.
He was white.
I was mad.
Now here I was, an established attorney who'd argued before this country's Supreme Court and yet this "slight" made my blood boil.
Not because I had my heart set on that Danish, no, but because for that moment in time I was invisible.
Now just imagine how mad I would have been if I wasn't an attorney, if I was an 18-year-old boy.
If it wasn't some ignoramus behind a coffee counter who made me disappear, but the police.
Imagine how mad I'd have been if I wasn't turned invisible for a moment, but for eight long years.
Stevie Thomas's big brother, Eric, was murdered eight years ago.
The police made the case disappear by calling it a suicide.
They kept it invisible by not only losing the records but his brother's body.
As you listen to my case, please keep two things in mind: Stevie's prints were not on the weapon.
And there are no witnesses to put him at the scene.
I knew Eric Thomas from around.
You were friends? I wouldn't go that far.
Tell us about the last time you saw him, if you could.
Maybe eight years ago, it was at night, maybe 9:00, 9:30.
We got into, like, a scuffle.
And what happened? HENDRl: Eric wasn't all that tough.
He tried to run, I put a round through the back of his head.
You shot him? That's right.
Were you ever questioned by the police regarding this shooting? Sure, but I gave them some song and dance.
You're currently incarcerated at Sing Sing State Penitentiary, are you not, Mr.
Hendri? That's right.
Three counts of murder.
When do you expect to get out? I don't.
So, you have no reason to lie, do you? You have no reason to tell the truth either, isn't that right? Huh? The State can't do anything more to you, so why not have a little fun, get your name in the paper, your face on the news.
All I know is, I shot him smack in the back of the head.
It was Detective Helms working the case.
He told me he was dead.
Did he ever once say your son committed suicide? Not at first.
So, initially, he told you Eric was murdered? It was more than once.
Every time he told me he was getting close to finding the killer.
Then one day he tells me to stop calling him.
Eric killed himself, he said.
He's off the case.
Did you believe him? I knew my son.
I knew there was no way he would take his own life.
So I went to his Lieutenant and then his Captain.
Both of them told me there was nothing they could do.
They said Eric committed suicide and I should stop bothering them and get on with my life.
Were Eric and Stevie close? Since my husband passed away, Eric was like both his brother and his father.
Eric would do anything for Stevie.
And Stevie loved him more than he loved himself.
To have him murdered, to have his memory treated like trash by the police As one of the Assistant Medical Examiners, it was my function to perform autopsies.
And you performed the autopsy on Eric Thomas, did you? That was eight years ago.
I don't remember, but if the records show that I did, I won't argue.
I show you what has been marked Defendant's Exhibit D.
Do you recognize it, Dr.
Berardi? Those are my initials, yes.
Please tell the court what it is.
We call it the M.
's Summary Report.
It contains the bottom line on a case? That's correct.
Typically, there are detailed reports found inside the folder.
But, alas, this one's empty.
Could that mean that the detailed work you spoke of was not performed in this case? Absolutely not.
I couldn't have completed the summary if I hadn't done the work.
And you know it was a suicide because this little box is checked? That's correct.
While at the M.
's office, I performed thousands of autopsies and I followed the exact same procedure with each of them.
Okay, tell us what happens after you check the little suicide box.
The case is deemed closed.
And the detectives stop working? That's correct.
So, hypothetically, if a detective was stumped or if he just didn't feel like investigating the case, you could help him out by making a little check here.
That is absurd.
But it's possible.
Berardi, I show you what we'll call People's 17.
Do you recognize it? Yes, these are my notes from the autopsy of Eric Thomas.
Now, earlier, we heard Mr.
Jason Hendri testify that he shot Eric Thomas in the back of the head.
Is there anything in these notes that might confirm that statement? Actually, quite the opposite.
I can state as a fact that Mr.
Thomas was not shot in the back of the head.
Please explain.
There were two holes in the deceased's skull.
Here and here.
In the occipital and temporal bones.
The pattern of gunshot residue indicates that the entrance wound was here.
Then in your opinion Mr.
Hendri lied when he testified that he murdered Mr.
Thomas by shooting him in the back of the head.
That's correct.
This all happened eight years ago and I cannot say for sure what happened.
But because the suicide box was checked, I would have to assume that there were sufficient forensic markers to conclude that this was not a homicide.
JACK: Thank you, Dr.
(QUIETLY) I may have misunderstood Rodgers, but I think Berardi's taking liberties with the truth.
Find out.
I'm glad there are no hard feelings, Dr.
Certainly appreciate your coming down here.
After what I did for you in court today, I'd expect champagne.
Don't get me wrong.
I like winning as much as the next guy but I don't like winning with partially true testimony.
You think I lied? Dr.
Rodgers tells us that gunshot residue by itself is not enough to determine entrance and exit wounds.
She told us that you'd have to examine the beveling of the bones as well.
We'd like to know why you omitted that from your testimony.
Hey, you go to hell! You made it perfectly clear that I had to testify.
Do you know I busted my ass for this city, and they paid me back by not paying me.
But I came down here against my better judgment to serve the city one more time on a case I don't even remember.
Do you want to know what it was like for me at that time? I had 20 open cases on my desk at any given time! I was overworked and overtired.
SERENA: Are you saying you made a mistake? That you checked the suicide box by mistake? Haven't you ever made a mistake, Counselor? Haven't you ever forgotten a crucial question, forgotten a vital piece of testimony? (SCOFFS) You know what, the truth is I just don't know.
Thanks for meeting me here.
When I'm on trial I live on Frankie's chili.
Keeps the heart pumping.
You can trade it in for a steak.
I'm sorry, Jack, I can't take a deal, especially now.
I'm going to redirect Berardi first thing tomorrow.
She was tired.
She was overworked.
She might have made a mistake.
Or maybe it wasn't a mistake at all.
Look, Jack, if you were in my position, who would you believe? A white woman who's already lied once on the stand or a couple of centuries of history.
This isn't about history.
Now, Jack, that was a very self-serving rationalization and you know it.
To a large portion of this country, it is always about history.
So you're fine with the next kid who's unhappy with the cop on the corner and decides to get a gun? Of course not.
But maybe now that kid won't be condemned to live the life his father and grandfather were forced to accept.
It's not going to end, is it? (SIGHS) Jack, try the chili.
It's really good.
JUDGE: Jury Foreman, have you reached a verdict? We have.
On the first count of the indictment, attempted murder in the first degree, how do you find? We find the defendant, Steven Thomas, not guilty.
(EXCLAIMING HAPPILY) Hello! You're not in a rush to get home tonight? You know, I used to wake up in the morning, brush my teeth, comb my hair, look in the mirror and see a cop looking back at me.
Stevie Thomas shattered that mirror? Now I've got six eyes looking back.
A cop.
A black woman.
A mother.
That's lucky.
You know what Eric Thomas sees? Nothing.