At Jenna Howard's Sweet 16 party, a man walks through a huge crowd of partygoers while filming a video. The guests are in good spirits and are dancing and enjoying alcohol.
"Yo, man, you see that buffet inside? There's like fifty feet of food!"
Someone runs over and announces that Jenna is arriving. The guests run to the curb to see a limo pull up. The first person out is Gary Howard, Jenna's father. Someone extends a gun into the view of the camera and shoots Mr. Howard several times; the guests begin screaming and the camera falls.
Green watches the video from the camera as another officer says that Gary died. Green notes that the suspect's face isn't on the camera, and the officer adds that the hotel security cameras didn't see it either. Green gives some orders and then goes to talk to Cassidy. She's talking to a security guard, who says that he got a good look at the shooter. He gives a description, then says that he was surprised since the job is usually boring. Cassidy remarks that someone actually needed him this night, but he says that he wasn't guarding Howard — the DJ, named DJ Spin Art, hired him. Green is surprised that Spin Art is doing kid's parties. The guard leaves, and Cassidy remarks that she didn't even get to borrow her family's car when she turned 16.
"He obviously didn't love you."
"I told him as much at the time."
—Ed Green and Nina Cassidy
An officer tells them that he found a newspaper and several cigarette butts behind a tree; the newspaper has Gary on the front page. Cassidy notes that the shooter was staked out and waiting for Gary, who according to the paper was the CEO of Presidio Armor. This company that makes bulletproof vests.
Sobbing, Jenna tells Cassidy that she didn't see the shooter. Cassidy decides to finish the interview later. She goes into the main room of Howard's place, where Green is talking to Mimi Howard, Gary's wife. She's also sobbing. Green asks if anyone would have wanted to hurt Gary, and Mimi recalls that Gary changed limo drivers, and his new one is armed. She doesn't know why he needed the security, but she refers them to Bill Whitney, who runs the day-to-day operations at Presidio.
At Presidio Headquarters, Whitney tells the cops that a protestor threw a rock and smashed one of Gary's windows. This happened right after a Times article on the company. He says that their company is providing armor for troops in Iraq, but protestors think they're kicking back money to the White House in return for the government invading Iraq. Whitney then shows the cops their testing range, where a tester is shooting a vest with an assault rifle. Whitney talks up his company's products. He says that it was Gary's mission to keep the soldiers safe.
Cassidy asks how well Whitney knew Gary, and Whitney says that they were friends. She then asks about enemies, but Whitney says that everyone respected him. Green asks about the driver; Whitney explains that he was from an in-house security firm.
The driver says that he drove Gary for the week, but besides the protestor there were no other incidents. He wasn't at the party, and says that Gary told him that he (Gary) didn't need an escort there.
"Most anti-war activists, it's just grandstanding."
The driver guesses that it was a politically-motivated killing. He gives them a file on a man named Lloyd Savitsky, who fits the description the security guard gave. Savitsky worked for Presidio as a chemical engineer until he destroyed a batch of armor. The driver guesses that Savitsky wanted to turn public opinion against the war.
The detectives locate Harold Dolan, Savitsky's lawyer. Dolan claims not to know where Savitsky is. He recommends the cops try Savitsky's apartment, but Savitsky was evicted a few months ago. Dolan thinks that Savitsky was evicted because Presidio maligned his reputation; all Savitsky did, claims Dolan, was express an opinion. Green sighs, and Cassidy asks if Savitsky's current livelihood is suing Presidio. Dolan says the suit is legitimate. Green tells Dolan to call the cops if Savitsky ever shows up, and Dolan assents. Cassidy notes rolls of quarters on a file cabinet as she leaves. Outside, the two cops see a pay phone and guess that Dolan was using the quarters to call Savitsky there, so that a trace on his phone wouldn't reveal the calls. They ask a donut vendor if he ever saw Dolan on the phone, and he says yes.
"You mean the nutjob who says his phones are tapped?"
At a motel in Queens, the officers locate Savitsky's room.He doesn't answer Green's hails, and the door is unlocked. Green begins to enter, suspecting that Savitsky was injured or killed, but then Savitsky approaches from outside — he'd been getting ice. He sees Cassidy, but when she asks who he is, he throws his bucket of ice at her and runs. She chases him down and they fight. He elbows her in the mouth, but she lands several blows on him and knocks him to the ground. Green approaches as Cassidy handcuffs Savitsky.
"Damn, Savitsky, you got your ass kicked by a girl."
The security guard from the party looks at a lineup that includes Savitsky. Dolan protests that there was no probable cause to arrest his client, but Van Buren notes that Cassidy's face has an ugly bruise.
"Her face tells me otherwise."
—Anita Van Buren
The guard says that none of the people in the lineup were the one that shot Howard. Cassidy tells him to take his time, but the guard is sure. Dolan says that they're done — the witness denied seeing Savitsky at the crime scene. Cassidy slips and says that it's Number 6, but Van Buren cuts her off. She says that they're holding Savitsky for assaulting Cassidy. Dolan says that's fine, but he'll need to be present for all conversations.
Outside the lineup room, Van Buren is furious with Cassidy.
"Don't you ever talk out of turn in front of a suspect's lawyer again."
"It just came out of my mouth—"
"Then get a muzzle!"
—Anita Van Buren and Nina Cassidy
Van Buren tells Cassidy that she looks awful, and is also upset that Cassidy got hurt so badly. Cassidy tries to defend herself, but Van Buren just tells her to write it up in her report. Green then calls for Van Buren's attention — someone delivered an unmarked package to Mimi Howard's apartment.
At the apartment, a bomb squad expert says that there's no explosive residue on the packaging but that doesn't mean anything for sure. Green asks where the package came from, and the expert says that the doorman was on break when someone slipped it inside. Then the maid found it on the front desk and brought it further inside. The package is opened without incident. Inside is a Purple Heart medal.
Green tells Van Buren that they couldn't raise any prints off of the box. The name on the back of the medal is Matt Garcia, an Army Reserve soldier who was killed eight months previously in Iraq. Mimi didn't know Garcia, and Green doesn't think that there's a personal motive. Cassidy guesses that the killer somehow blames Howard for Garcia dying. Van Buren asks if they're sure the medal is real, and Cassidy says that it was made by the army, but it might not be the one that Garcia's family got. There are replacement services selling Purple Hearts with engravings. Van Buren expresses concern about Cassidy's bruise, but Cassidy brushes it off. Van Buren sends them to see if Garcia's widow has his original medal.
Andrea Garcia tells the detectives that she keeps Matt's Purple Heart in a mantle next to his picture.
"Christopher's got to know who his father was, you know?"
A few people from Matt's unit came by recently to offer condolences, and all were upset about Matt dying — he was very well liked — but no one was especially angry. She adds that she doubts Matt was armored when he died, since Matt wrote and asked her to send him some. Unfortunately, it was so expensive that by the time she saved up he'd died. Green asks how Garcia died, but Garcia only knows that Matt was shot in Iraq. She says that one of Matt's buddies, Alan Crockett, said he knew more about how Matt was killed.
In a dark bar, Crockett says that he wasn't with Garcia when Garcia died, but he heard that an AK round went through his armor and into his chest. Cassidy says that Garcia supposedly had no armor, but Crockett says it's more complicated. It took eight weeks to get the bulletproof vests, and then it turned out that the vests were useless and didn't offer any protection. Green asks if anyone in particular wanted to get revenge on Presidio for the bad armor, but Crockett says that no one talked about it. He flirts with Cassidy, who looks annoyed. Green says that they want answers, but Crockett points out that Spin Art's guard identified the suspect as white, and Crockett is black, so he's clearly not the shooter. Green asks who mailed the Purple Heart, but Crockett says it wasn't anyone in the unit. He also confirms that the army knew that Garcia's vest failed, which was why the vests were eventually replaced. He does say that a group tried to protest Garcia's death, to no effect. He names the group as American Shield.
A member of American Shield says that they try to get the troops what they need, be that armor upgrades or the replacement of bad equipment. They wrote letters on behalf of Garcia, but nothing came of it. Garcia's vest was missing, so there was no proof. The member says she did get a phone call a week ago from someone claiming to be an Army investigator. She gave the man Howard's name, but didn't leave his own. She feels responsible, in case the call led to Howard's murder. She also gives the detectives a letter they got a couple of months ago. It's a rant about the defective armor.
"You let them kill our friend. This crap armor is worse than nothing. They are getting men killed. They must stop sending Presidio vests now."
A CSU tech analyzes the paper and sees that Iraqi dust is embedded in the paper. There are prints on the letter — seven people, all from Garcia's unit. Crockett's name is on it.
In interrogation, Crockett says that he must have touched the letter when it went around the barracks. The detectives ask about another person whose prints were on the letter named Kenny Ellis, who Crockett called a lot, including one call an hour before the murder. Crockett says it was nothing important. Cassidy then says that Ellis was with Garcia when he got shot, that he drove the Humvee that brought Garcia's body back to base, and that Garcia saved Ellis early on in their deployment. Crockett says that Ellis took the loss hard, and that he did get a Purple Heart with Ellis's name on it and he wore it under his vest.
"He said that Garcia's spirit would protect him."
He denies knowing about the murder in advance. Green demands to know what the phone call before the murder was about, and threatens him with a conspiracy charge. He threatens to have Ellis hunted down like a dog unless Crockett can direct them to him. Later, the cops break into Ellis's apartment, where they find Ellis holding a gun to his own head. The detectives clear the other cops out, and Green asks Ellis to tell him what's wrong. He tries to commiserate with Ellis, saying that he knows Ellis went through terrible times in Iraq. He then says that Ellis is the only one who can tell the world what really happened to Garcia, and asks Ellis to lower the gun, surrender, and tell the world his story later. Ellis gives Green the gun, and the other cops come back in. Ellis is arrested, and Green, looking worn out, leaves.
Ellis is arranged by Judge Metzelder. His lawyer, Naomi Schatzberg, pleads him Not Guilty. Rubirosa wants remand, arguing that Ellis is a trained soldier who has used his training to kill a civilian, and thus that Ellis is a threat to the community if released. Schatzberg says that it's offensive that Ellis's service in the military is being used against him, but Metzelder says she only cares about evidence, not talking points. Rubirosa says that Ellis's gun matches the one used to kill Howard, and he's been identified in a photo array by several eyewitnesses. Ellis is remanded.
"Mr. Ellis. On behalf of the citizens of New York, thank you for your service. You're remanded."
Schatzberg tells the prosecutors that Ellis was acting under extreme emotional distress. McCoy and Rubirosa are adamant that it wasn't just a crime of passion; Ellis stalked Howard and was waiting for him at the party.
"Weigh that against the horror of war."
She says that experts will testify that Ellis has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). McCoy says that he cares more about the surviving Howards than Ellis, but Schatzberg says that Gary Howard was a war profiteer. McCoy says it's irrelevant, and offers a sentence of twenty years to life in exchange for a guilty plea. Ellis says that Garcia would be alive if his vest had worked.
"Doesn't that matter to you people?"
Rubirosa says that Ellis gunned down Howard in cold blood. Ellis argues that no one would have made Howard account for his crimes, but McCoy says that isn't relevant. He further points out that Ellis's comments give him a compelling motive for the murder. Ellis stares at McCoy, then asks if McCoy ever saw someone get shot to death. He ends the interview and leaves. Schatzberg says that the PTSD claim should reduce the charge to manslaughter one; Ellis can do ten years in a mental institution. McCoy says their case is strong, so Schatzberg says that Olivet can examine Ellis to see for herself if he really is sick.
Ellis tells Olivet that he has trouble sleeping. Olivet asks why he attempted suicide; Ellis says he doesn't know.
"Feel like I"m always in pain."
He admits to killing people in Iraq, and recalls a time when his captain ordered the unit to fire on an approaching Iraqi woman who refused to stop when ordered. He says he won't question the decision; she could have been a suicide bomber. He then says that he was with Garcia when he died, and was in fact the one to lift Garcia out of the truck. Olivet asks if he was afraid to die, but Ellis says no, since he, unlike Garcia, has no family.
In McCoy's office, Olivet says that Ellis likely has PTSD. His suicide attempt indicates that he feels guilty for living when Ellis didn't.
"You don't have to leave a limb in the battlefield to be wounded."
McCoy says that the killing wasn't random, since Ellis claimed that the armor produced by Howard's company failed to protect Garcia. Olivet says that it cuts both ways, and that betrayal of some kind is often the basis for PTSD. Rubirosa is skeptical, but Olivet is convinced. McCoy is unpersuaded.
"Not everyone gets to be the victim here."
McCoy says that Olivet doesn't need to testify, and Olivet leaves. McCoy then asks Rubirosa if Ellis's story can be corroborated, and Rubirosa says that, despite official denials of there being any problems with the vest, the army recalled 400 vests from Garcia's battalion two days after Garcia died. McCoy wonders what happened to the vests, and Rubirosa says that Presidio got them back.
Whitney tells Rubirosa that the army pulled the production line due to rumors that the armor was weak. Whitney says, though, that all the vests were tested and passed various tests. The vests were then destroyed. Rubirosa wonders why, if the vests were fine. Whitney just says that there has never been a recorded fatality due to Presidio armor failing. Rubirosa asks about Garcia, but Whitney is adamant.
He says that his company wouldn't stand for defective vests. He shows Rubirosa a window from which they can see the grounds on which the World Trade Center once stood, and says that they take their jobs very seriously.
Rubirosa tells McCoy that the Presidio records indicate that the vests passed ballistics tests, but there's no outside analysis. With the vests destroyed, no further analysis can be done. McCoy wonders if Ellis is just making the whole thing up, but Rubirosa wants to talk about Whitney first. She thinks that Whitney would want to help the lawyers make their case, since doing so would quash the claims of the armor being defective. Instead, Whitney was defensive and nervous, like he was hiding something. He also called Andrea Garcia two days previous. McCoy says that Rubirosa should talk to Andrea.
Andrea tells Rubirosa that Whitney just called to offer condolences. He didn't mention a lawsuit or seem guilty. Andrea is nervous too and starts to leave, but Rubirosa stops her and asks if Whitney gave her money. Andrea eventually admits to this. Whitney, she says, gave her $20,000. Andrea had previously talked to Alan Crockett, who said that he had arranged it and had told her to take her.
Crockett, playing pool, says that he wasn't involved in any sort of extortion, but the lawyers know that he called Whitney from a pay phone outside his apartment. McCoy says that he might be persuaded not to charge Crockett, but only if Crockett comes clean. Crockett cracks and admits that the money was for Garcia's family. He insists he didn't know about Ellis's plan to kill Howard. Ellis told Crockett that he did it because Howard wouldn't admit that the vests were faulty or pay them any compensation money.
"I just tried to do the right thing for Garcia's wife and his kids."
McCoy asks if Crockett threatened to kill Whitney, but Crockett says no. He says that Whitney paid because he knew that Crockett and Ellis were right about the defective vest. McCoy asks how. Outside, Crockett shows them Garcia's vest, which was smuggled home from Iraq by Crockett and Ellis.
Branch says that they have the vest and an extortion scheme, which makes a good motive for Ellis killing Howard and damages his PTSD defense. McCoy says that it's no longer that simple. The armor was defective according to forensic tests. It was completely useless. Branch says that, while Whitney's wiling to pay to get the vest back was a bad idea, it wasn't a crime. Rubirosa shows Branch the file on Savitsky. The two lawyers say that Garcia's armor was produced at the same time as Savitsky's sabotage, and furthermore, while the destruction of a batch of armor should have delayed Presidio by weeks, the company still made their quota. They think that Presidio knew that Savitsky rendered the armor useless, but shipped it anyway. Branch thinks this is circumstantial, but Rubirosa says that Presidio had military contracts worth a hundred million dollars. Branch doubts that one bad vest would jeopardize the contracts, but McCoy thinks there may have been more bad vests. McCoy thinks that Whitney could be held liable for murder. Branch cautions that they'll need Ellis, but McCoy is willing to flip him.
Ellis is surprised to learn that Whitney was responsible for the bad vests. Schatzberg says that it's a great defense, but McCoy says that it's not justification, since it was Howard and not Whitney that was killed. McCoy offers a five year reduction on his previous offer, for a total of fifteen years. Schatzberg thinks this is a bad offer, but McCoy says he's offering Ellis a chance to tell his side of the story. Schatzberg objects that McCoy is hardly doing Ellis a favor, but Ellis interrupts and says he'll take the deal.
"I'll do the fifteen, so long as I get to nail that bastard."
The cops arrive outside of Presidio, where Whitney is entering and a large crowd of anti-war protestors are booing him. They arrest Whitney for Garcia's murder.
In court, the audience is full of army officials. Ellis testifies that he was driving a Humvee while Garcia manned the mounted gun. They were returning to base when a sniper shot Garcia. McCoy shows Ellis the vest, and Ellis identifies it as Garcia's. Ellis shows the court the fragments of the ceramic plate in the vest, which was completely shattered by the single round.
On cross-examination, Whitney's lawyer Aaron Solomon verifies that Ellis is testifying as part of a plea deal. Ellis says that he shot Howard to try to wake up the world in regards to the bad armor. Solomon asks if it had anything to do with the extortion attempt, and reveals that the attempt was for $100,000 he and Crockett attempted to extort from Howard, or the $20,000 they got from Whitney. Ellis says that the money was for Garcia's family, not them. Solomon asks if Ellis wore a Presidio vest in Iraq, even after Garcia's death, and he has to admit that he did. Solomon emphasizes that no one stopped wearing the armor even after Garcia died, and that no one else had problems.
"So you would characterize the incident with Garcia's vest as a tragic, but a, an isolated incident."
"That doesn't make it right, or that it doesn't matter!"
"An isolated incident: yes or no, Mr. Ellis?"
—Aaron Solomon and Kenny Ellis
A one legged soldier, Sergeant Hayes, testifies for Whitney. He was hit in the left leg and torso during a mission. He lost his leg, but the armor stopped the bullets to his torso. McCoy asks if there's such a thing in combat as an acceptable loss of life. Hayes says it's a reality of war, even if he doesn't accept it. McCoy says that Solomon has argued that Whitney had to send over a vest that he knew was faulty. He asks if Hayes would order a soldier into combat with armor he knew was defective. Hayes says that, in battle, improvisation and making due with inadequate equipment is necessary. McCoy says that this doesn't answer his question. Hayes says that, if he had to give the order, he'd give it, though it would be hard. McCoy then asks if Hayes himself would go on a mission with armor he knew was useless. Hayes can't answer.
Whitney testifies that the military supply companies haven't been able to produce enough armor for the troops. They had to boost production to meet the demand, but they boosted it regardless to save soldiers' lives. Solomon asks how many armored vests Presidio has supplied to the army, and Whitney says 60,000. Of those, Whitney testifies, only Garcia's failed.
"…this is not a zero-sum game. If we have ninety percent success, it means we're doing our job."
McCoy verifies that Whitney knew that the batch of vests had problems but sent them anyway. Whitney responds that there was not enough time to weed out the bad vests.
"So playing Russian Roulette with a soldier's life was an acceptable risk?"
Whitney says that a delay could have killed more soldiers. McCoy points out that he didn't notify the army, but Whitney says that he did. McCoy picks up Presidio's quarterly report from the time period when the defective vests were produced, and asks Whitney to show the court where the defective vests are mentioned. Solomon objects, but Judge Hatch overrules. Whitney pages through the report, but can't find the right page. McCoy tells him that it's on page 319, one page buried in a report of more than four hundred. McCoy then points out that Presidio has a one hundred million contract with the Pentagon, but Whitney says that Garcia's death isn't just the cost of doing business. McCoy argues that Whitney didn't tell the army the problem with the armor because delays in production could have jeopardized the contract. Whtiney says that delays would have meant more troops without body armor, but McCoy demands to know why Whitney covered up the bad armor. Whitney doesn't answer. McCoy then points out that Savitsky wasn't charged with anything, even though Whitney thought he sabotaged the armor, and that Whitney paid off Crockett and Ellis extortion money to get the vest back. Whitney denies this last point, saying that the money was a gesture, not an attempt to purchase the vest. He argues that a decision had to be made.
"Who said sacrificing Garcia's life was your decision to make?"
In the audience, Andrea Garcia cries.
Later, Branch asks McCoy for a moment. General Donald Barrett, from Washington, wants to meet him. Barrett says that the case has garnered a lot of attention and Congress wants hearings. Branch says that Barrett wants them to plead the case out. McCoy says that Whitney already rejected a plea deal, but Branch says that Whitney and Solomon have agreed to a five year sentence. McCoy is scornful. Barrett says that the trial is hurting morale, and they want to minimize publicity.
"Let the story vanish with the news cycle."
McCoy asks what the Pentagon's spin will be, but Barrett says that this is just for the soldiers who are still out there, fighting for the country. McCoy says that the army should care about the quality of its vests, but Barrett responds that the problem with Garcia's vest was isolated, and that the error won't happen again. Barrett tells McCoy to take the deal. McCoy accuses Barrett of knowing about more faulty vests, but Barrett says that Presidio will not be producing any more defective ones.
"So you want to step over the bodies and not look back?"
"If it's in the best interests of the ones still standing, absolutely."
—Jack McCoy and Donald Barrett
Barrett tells Branch to explain things to McCoy, then leaves. McCoy says that he won't do it. Branch says that the army will help Whitney if McCoy doesn't plead the case out. Branch argues that their case can't survive that, so they're making the deal. McCoy asks if Branch is okay with this, and Branch says that the general has a point.
"The point being that the truth is the first casualty in a war?"
Branch says that the remaining soldiers need to be supported, and that Whitney will still do five years, which is real time. McCoy says that five years is not enough time for multiple deaths.
"You take the justice you get."
McCoy complains that the deal isn't justice, then leaves.
In a conference room, Rubirosa offers the deal, and Solomon and Whitney accept. McCoy asks how many bad vests were shipped to Iraq. Solomon protests that it isn't relevant, but McCoy says that it is to him.
"I wanna know how many soldiers died because of what you did."
He accuses Whitney of caring more for money than for the soldier's lives. Whitney protests that he's innocent, and that what he did was for the greater good.
"YOUR CONSCIENCE ISN'T CLEAN! I hope five years is enough to make you face it!"
Whitney says that he saved lives. He is not repentant. McCoy leaves the conference rom.