In a high school, a bell rings, singling the end of a class period. Jason Wade rushes to catch his teacher, Julia Ketchum, and asks to speak with her in private. They go into the music room, and Wade asks the teacher to go on a date with him — he has two tickets to Spamalot. Ketchum rebuffs him, but as she turns to leave, she sees a dead student lying on an overturned chair.
A school security guard tells the arriving detectives that the dead student is named Alex Garcia. Alex was strangled, and no one heard anything because the room was soundproofed. A CSU technician says that the student was strangled with a cello bow (rasin and coarse hair was found on his neck), and there are defensive wounds. The time of death was at about 1:30 — they know because the dead student's watch stopped when he fell. Fontana notes that the watch is pricy, and another officer reports that Alex had $300 on him.
The principal tells Van Buren that the students have been assembled and grief counselors are helping some of them. Van Buren wants a list of Alex's classmates, and asks about Garcia's parents — the principal says that Alex's father is coming to school now. Van Buren asks about the money and wonders if he was selling drugs, but the principal says no — Alex was a cellist and a brilliant student. She reveals that Alex tested into the school (Foster Academy), which has a magnet program. Local students get in automatically, but students from elsewhere can test in. Alex transfered from a high school in Spanish Harlem.
Green and Fontana search Alex's locker and find a fancy cell phone. There are three incoming calls from Freddie Colon (pronounced Cologne) that morning. At that moment, Mr. Garcia arrives. Talking to him, Fontana and Green learns that Mr. Garcia's wife is dead. Fontana and Green ask about possible gang or drug problems, but Garcia asks if they're asking that because the Garcias are Dominican. Fontana asks about the money, and Garcia says that Alex tutored other students at $85 an hour. He identifies Freddie Colon as an old friend. Alex and Freddie split apart once they both went to the magnet school; Alex said that Freddie wanted to hang out with just the white students.
In the gym, Freddie says that he and Alex just drifted apart. The calls were him wanting to apologize for not defending Alex from his (Freddie's) bullying friends the previous day. The bullies mocked Alex for playing the cello. After some more bickering, an officer comes to get the detectives. The cello bow used to strange Alex was found in the trash, wrapped up in a small sweater. From the sweater, Van Buren theorizes that the strangler was female. Fontana is disbelieving.
"You can call me a sexist, but doesn't it take an awful lot of upper-body strength to strangle someone?"
After rebuffing Fontana, Van Buren tells them to check on all the students with access to the music room. The detectives find Jenny Wang, who says she must have left her sweater in the music room. She left the room at 1 PM just as Alex entered. She didn't see anyone else there, and she was in science lab at the time of the murder. Fontana asks about students that Alex didn't get along with, and Wang says that Alex was having trouble with his girlfriend's ex — apparently, he was racist.
The detectives talk to the girlfriend, Tara Zegler, who says that she loved Alex. The cops bring up the ex-boyfriend, Keith Voytek, and Zegler says that Keith was just ranting. Keith heard that Alex got a full-ride to Princeton and said that Alex was getting in based on affirmative action. She won't answer when she's asked if Keith ever got violent or threatened others.
In interrogation, Keith is dismissive, and again complains about affirmative action.
"Hey, I got nothing against minorities, I'm just not in to reverse discrimination."
Keith's lawyer says that Keith was with his girlfriend in the school darkroom at the time of the murder. The lawyer then says that Keith can't talk more unless he's given immunity from statutory rape charges. The detectives ask for her name, and Keith identifies his girlfriend as Sonia Marek. Van Buren gets the detective — a technician named Colby found some test answers on Alex's cell phone. He'd used his cell phone to either take photos of his tests to email to other students, or to just text them. Sixteen names were on his buddy list.
The detectives yell at Zegler about not mentioning the cheating that Alex was doing. They give her the list of people they think were involved, and tell her to pick names that jump out. She cites a Greg Loomis, who wanted to get answers to a test but had no money on him. Loomis tried trading an iPod for the test answers, but the iPod didn't work and Alex said he wouldn't sell tests to him anymore. Loomis got angry, but Alex didn't back down.
The principal says that Loomis didn't show up for class — his parents called him in sick. The principal says that Loomis has no behavioral problems, but acts entitled. He has a history of various private schools, but was kicked out of all of them.
At his home, Loomis says that he wouldn't cheat because his GPA is a 3.7. The detectives bring up the cheating, and when Sherman Loomis, Greg's dad, asks them to be more specific, Green cites all the things Alex did for Greg. Greg denies even knowing Alex. After some more posturing, they ask for an alibi. Greg says he was in PE, and Green then asks about scratches on Greg's face. Sherman cuts off the interview and has Greg lawyer up.
The detectives talk to Englander, a teacher at one of Greg's previous schools. He won't release any records.
"You'll have to get a subpoena. I could get fired or sued if you don't. But I'll tell you this: what's in Greg Loomis's records are the kinds of offenses that money couldn't buy your way out of."
Green tells Van Buren that Loomis played hookey in gym on the day of the murder. Loomis has no alibi, a history with Alex, and a history of poor academic performance in private schools. Fontana reports that the lab matched Loomis's fingerprint to one on the bow; when Van Buren says that she thought Loomis wasn't in the system, Green says they got a print out of his locker possessions. Van Buren orders them to arrest Loomis.
The doorman to the Loomis's home says that the Loomis's left an hour ago and he doesn't know where. Eventually, Fontana bribes the doorman to tell them what kind of car the Loomis's have. The model has a GPS, so the detectives go to track it.
At a vacation home, the detectives find the Loomis family. Sherman says he'll get his attorney.
"While you're on the phone, have him explain the aiding and abetting laws to you."
Everyone goes to get Greg, to find him bleeding in the bathroom — he slashed his wrists. He's still alive, and an ambulance is called.
In court, Greg's lawyer, Rebecca Shane, pleads him not guilty. Borgia wants remand and brings up the vacation home journey. Judge Lawrence McNeil seems inclined to agree, but Shane brings up the suicide attempt. Shane asks if he can stay at a facility called Green Haven, which has counseling options. Borgia protests that it's essentially a country club, but when Shane offers a five million dollar bail, McNeil accepts. Mr. Garcia, in the audience, catches Borgia on the way out. He says that they can't beat the rich Loomis family, or Shane, who is a celebrity lawyer on Court TV. Shane gives Borgia a notification of their defense.
McCoy reads the notification. Shane is arguing that Greg's ADD medication, Centinol, caused him to snap and kill Alex.
"A designer defense for a designer attorney."
Branch warns McCoy not to be so dismissive; Shane is an excellent lawyer. Branch points out that it will come down to experts arguing about the medication, and the defense often wins in battles of expert witnesses. Borgia says that Loomis has no criminal record, but was thrown out of several schools. McCoy blasts Greg Loomis, and Branch asks if the chance to go against a TV lawyer is spurring Jack on.
"It's the abdication of personal responsibility to a medication that's got me Hell-bent. What's next? My inhaler made me do it?"
Borgia gets a message; Shane wants to deal. McCoy says he won't accept less than a Murder 2 charge.
Shane tries to convince McCoy that Centinol is dangerous. She cites a couple of cases in which two kids killed others in a brutal manner, both were on Centinol. McCoy says this isn't enough evidence. Shane offers Manslaughter 2, ten years probation, and McCoy wants to press for Murder 2. He also says that Olivet wants to see Loomis.
Greg tells Olivet that he didn't want to be on the pills; he didn't think he was insane. He said that the pills sometimes made him feel paranoid or would cause insomnia and feelings of detachment from his body. He only told his dad, he says, and then insists to Olivet that if he'd known this was a risk, he'd have stopped taking them, but he took them because his parents told him too.
Olivet tells the lawyers that Loomis's words sounded like he'd memorized the warning label of the Centinol pills. He never reported any problems to his doctor. Borgia says that the suicide attempt indicates consciousness of guilt, but Olivet says Shane can make that seem like Loomis was insane at the moment. Furthermore, while Olivet believes that Loomis was sane, she can't say for sure.
Shane has a Dr. Smith testify. He describes what Centinol does, and makes it sound like the drug is dangerous. He says that the drug can lead to psychotic behavior, and is classified in the same class as morphine. Furthermore, there are dozens of cases in which Centinol was associated with homicides. McCoy asks how many students take drugs like Centinol; Smith says it's about 8 million. McCoy points out that not all of them kill people, and gets Smith to indicate that he doesn't know how many of those who use drugs like Centinol, and has no evidence that Centinol has ever directly instigated a murder. He further gets the admission that psychological factors also have to be considered.
Shane next has Sherman testify. He says that Greg complained of side effects, but he (Sherman) forced him to stay on the medication. He adds that Greg became agitated when on the drugs. McCoy brings up emails of Sherman promising Loomis a Porsche and a $60,000 allowance if he got into an Ivy League college, and disownment if he didn't get into a college.
"You will have failed me as a son, and failed your whole family."
—Sherman Loomis, in an email
McCoy says that the pressure got to Greg, and he killed Alex over it. Shane objects, and Judge Lisa Pongrecic agrees. Sherman says that Greg would never kill anyone, but McCoy again brings up all the incentives for success. He says he always loved Greg.
Greg testifies. He claims that he only remembers the murder in flashes. He says he felt aggressive that day. He adds that he liked Alex and that Alex was helping him, so he had no reason to hurt him. McCoy tries to ask him if failing the test would have rendered him unable to compete for Ivy League schools, but Shane objects and is sustained. McCoy says that Greg is privileged. Greg again denies having any knowledge of what he was doing, and McCoy brings up his prior offenses. Greg burned a science project after getting a bad grade, and destroyed a bunch of basketballs after being cut from a sports team. Greg denies having any culpability for any of those things, and McCoy points out that Greg hasn't accepted responsibility for any of his crimes. Shane redirects and asks how Greg felt when he realized what would happen.
"Awful. Like I wanna cry all the time about it."
"If you could take back what happened that day, would you?"
"I'd do anything to take it back..."
—Greg Loomis and Rebecca Shane
Greg apologizes to Mr. Garcia, who is in the court room.
Outside, Garcia tells the lawyers that Greg Loomis wasn't taking pills, but was selling them instead. He just learned this from some old friend of Alex's.
In a conference, Freddie says that he bought all of Greg's Centinol in exchange for painkillers — Freddie had just had his teeth pulled.
Borgia talks to another kid in the school, Scott Fine, but Fine claims no knowledge. Borgia eventually gets tired of all the 'I don't knows' and demands to know what's going on. Fine says that some people came by earlier.
Borgia tells Branch and McCoy that Shane's private investigators warned the school that anything said to the attorneys would go on their records and could lead to prosecutions. Branch asks how Freddie was during witness preparation, and Borgia says that he's solid. Branch says they should have him testify.
In court, McCoy has Freddie testify that he traded painkillers for Centinol in Greg's room. Shane brings up that the apartment has closed-circuit surveillance, and in the three months bracketing the date of the alleged trade, Freddie wasn't in the tapes. Freddie was obviously lying. Out of court, Freddie tells McCoy that he just wanted to help Alex, and Mr. Garcia said this was a good way to do it.
McCoy goes to talk to Garcia. He yells at Garcia that this seriously hurts their case. Garcia yells at McCoy that Shane's wealth will cause the jury to acquit.
"This is no way to get justice for your son!"
"How? Because I have no way to buy it, like Loomis."
—Jack McCoy and Mr. Garcia
Outside, Shane talks to McCoy. She offers three years probation with counseling, McCoy says at a minimum he wants 10 years in a psych ward. Shane says that Loomis will be acquitted by a jury, and McCoy asks why she offered the deal.
"I just had a pragmatic moment. Doesn't happen very often."
Shane admits that it cost $15,000 to review the surveillance tapes. Borgia privately asks McCoy if they should consider the deal, McCoy looks away.
In closings, Shane again blames the pills, displaying a beaker of them to the jury. She blames the pharmaceutical industry. McCoy brings up Greg's privilege and his historic outbursts when he doesn't get his way. McCoy further blasts Greg for not taking responsibility for his actions.
"The law says that he must be held accountable for his actions. Uphold the law. There isn't an excuse for everything."
Greg is convicted of murder 2. Sherman and Ellen Loomis look horrified. Outside, Shane congratulates McCoy on the victory. She offers him a job in private practice in her firm, but he declines. She leaves in her limo.