Detectives Briscoe ties his shoe as Peabody, an archeologist, talks to him. The two are on Roosevelt Island, in the middle of a historical dig. Briscoe complains that the body was lifted out of the ground before the police arrived, and Peabody says they didn't know that it was more recent than the ruins they were excavating. Briscoe also complains about the flags and lines that the archeologists set up that are messing up the crime scene. When Peabody protests that they couldn't have known how recent the body was, Logan points out that the body has a watch. The body is just bones by this point, along with a toupee, the watch, and the remains of a fancy cashmere blazer with a gold button.
"Nothing like going in style."
The detectives find scraps of plastic indicating that the body was wrapped in a sheet before being buried, and a CSI guy says that the corpse's teeth were knocked out.
At the forensic lab, the technician determines that the body was killed from a gunshot to the back of the skull. Logan identifies this as the hallmark of a mob hit. The tech tells them that it will take a few weeks to determine the age of the corpse or how long it was buried. They do learn that the victim was male and stooped. With Van Buren, the detectives say that a check on Missing Persons came up blank, and that they recovered a pin from the corpse's knee but it's untraceable. Logan says they should give the case to Detective Profaci, but Van Buren says they should look into the fancy button on the blazer.
The proprietor of Queen Anne's buttons identifies the button, a very rare British button from a now-defunct company. She offers Logan a comparable button to buy, for $300. When Logan balks, she says the real button would cost much more. Very few companies bought them. The detectives then go to a tailor named Harry Schuman, who handles very expensive clothes. After some threatening, they get him to give up his client list.
"I have a select number of very distinguished clients."
"Sir, obstructing justice will get you a select number. Around your neck."
—Harry Schuman and Mike Logan
Schuman says he sold the buttons to a youth choir, an 'ale and quail' club, and a realtor firm for the Brokers of the Year.
Back at the precinct, they've crossed off all the male brokers of the year. The choir and ale club are also ruled out. Van Buren says to try the female brokers; maybe one of them gave the blazer to her husband or another relative. They eventually find a Beverly Dorfman, whose husband, Sidney Cohen, was murdered several years ago by a man named Phillip Swann. Briscoe exposits that Swann was a Wall Street financier who killed Cohen over a business deal. Swann was convicted even without the body and sent away for life — but the body wasn't where it should have been. Cohen's accomplice at the trial said that the body was buried in Patterson, New Jersey, not on Roosevelt Island.
The forensic technician matches the pin to Cohen's medical records, and says it's a virtual certainty that the body is Sidney Cohen's. This means they have to talk to Stone, because the body jepordizes some of the evidence used to convict Swann. In Stone's office, Briscoe summarizes the players — Swann foisted a pyramid scheme on a lot of his old friends and schoolmates, then Cohen conned Swann out of about a million dollars. Stone repeats that the accomplice testified that the body should have been in New Jersey, and adds that the accomplice said Cohen was stabbed in the throat, not shot.
Later, Stone complains to Schiff and Kincaid. He's still certain Swann is guilty, saying Swann bragged to others about the crime. Schiff wants the detectives to get the accomplice, Russell Bobbett. The detectives find him working on a construction project, and bring him to Stone. Bobbett maintains that he helped bury Cohen in New Jersey, and that Swann told him that a knife and not a gun was used to kill him. He says that Swann probably planned this just to discredit the case against him. Stone goes to talk to Kincaid, maintaining Swann's guilt, and then they get a call saying that Swann's petition for a new trial is being heard.
At the courthouse, Swann, in handcuffs, introduces himself to Kincaid and says hello to Stone. Swann is going pro se, and says that he admires Stone. In court, Swann asks for his conviction to be voided, or failing that, for a new trial. Swann says that Bobbett may have been exaggerating or outright lying, but either way, he has a right to confront Bobbett given the new evidence. Stone disagrees, saying that the body was probably moved after burial. Stone manages to maintain that the factual question of the body's location is insufficient to warrant a dismissal, but later on Kincaid gets a call stating that Swann is getting a new trial. Stone says they'll have to get the witnesses back together.
The detectives talk to Chip Rafferty, Swann's former VP. He says that Swann was charming and convinced him to invest $200,000. When the money began to vanish, the investors panicked and had Swann invest with Cohen in junk land deals. Cohen took all the money, dooming the company. Briscoe asks how Bobbett got involved; Rafferty says he was just another victim who lost his mother's pension to Swann's schemes. They eventually tell Rafferty that Swann is getting a new trial, but Rafferty doesn't want to testify — he's over it. The detectives muse about Swann's charisma.
"Swann takes them to the cleaners and all they can say is 'Thanks for the starch."
Kincaid says that Rafferty is the only witness they have, besides Bobbett himself — the others are vanished or have moved. Kincaid also says that lava dust was on the corpse; lava dust isn't found on Roosevelt Island, so it's likely the body was moved. They still can't prove Swann's involvement, though. Kincaid says they can search Swann's car, and when they do, they do find lava dust. Schiff gives Stone some prep talk, and says that Swann will be in trouble when he actually tries representing himself in court, but then Kincaid shows up with bad news. Bobbett bought a ticket to the Bahamas and vanished.
Stone appeals to the judge for a delay so they can find Swann, but the judge refuses. Swann further gets Bobbett's previous testimony thrown out of evidence. Stone and Kincaid decide to talk to Swann's cellmate, Bobby Doyle. Doyle plays dumb until Stone threatens to increase his sentence for obstruction and perjury charges, then agrees to testify.
In court, Rafferty states that Swann invested with Cohen, who lost all the money. Swann, who always made a 'to do' list for each day, wrote down on one of his lists that he get his shoes shined, then would be killing Cohen. Swann asks if Rafferty took his diary entry seriously, then jokes that he would have moved the shoe shine on his list to after when he buried the body. Next, Doyle testifies that Swann killed Cohen for losing his money. Swann said that he killed Cohen with a gun, buried him in New Jersey with Bobbett, then moved the body on his own to New Jersey so that Bobbett couldn't incriminate him. On cross, Swann brings up that Doyle has been in jail numerous times, and was charged with perjury in a previous court proceeding.
Schiff chews out Stone, but Stone refuses to plea out Swann. When Swann takes the stand, he denies killing Cohen, He says one of his investors may have done it. Stone asks about the to do list:
"Mr. Swann, do you routinely list killing people as part of your daily calendar?"
"Mr. Stone, do you routinely lack a sense of humor?"
—Ben Stone and Phillip Swann
Swann says that if he really wanted to kill Cohen, he wouldn't have announced it. Stone asks about the lava dirt in Swann's car; Swann says he golfed in that region. Stone asks how that dirt was found on Cohen, but Swann says that the same sort of rock was used to build roads in the city.
During closings, Swann highlights the discrepencies between the previous case and the actual body, and says that Stone would get rewarded for convicting him. Stone acknowledges Swann's charisma, but maintains Swann's guilt. The jury finds Swann innocent. Stone looks crushed. Back in the office, Stone wants to try going after Swann for bribring Russell Bobbett to run away; Schiff doesn't think Swann had any money to bribe Bobbett with. Stone then gets served notice. Swann is suing the state and Stone for ten million dollars.
The next day, Schiff asks Stone if he's really representing himself. Schiff demands that Stone get a lawyer; if Stone loses that destroys Schiff's office. Stone refuses.
"I can live without this job, sir. There are some things I cannot live without... Mr. Schiff, if a man who lies can go pro se and win and a man who tells the truth can't, I don't want to be in this anymore."
Kincaid comes in. She's been helping Stone with research. They talk about whether Swann really has a case; he doesn't, but he could probably win at least an initial ruling before an appeals court overturned it. At the deposition, Swann goes over a vast history of Stone's records and financial history, and mocks Stone's divorce settlement.
"You don't like me, Ben?"
"You're just waking up to that?"
—Phillip Swann and Ben Stone
Swann outlines his legal theory as to proving that Stone suborned Bobbett's perjury, and says that this isn't his first case. He continues to interrogate Stone.
At dinner, Stone realizes that Swann admitted to having done other cases, and theorizes that the other cases may have been helping his prison friends with legal troubles. Stone thinks that he may have bartered some legal advice for a favor, and the favor might have been called in to get rid of Bobbett. They look up Swann in the legal system — turns out he represented Doyle. That explains how Swann knew about Doyle's perjurious history.
Stone and Kincaid interrogate Doyle again, and Stone threatens to testify at Doyle's parole hearings unless Doyle tells him where Bobbett is. Doyle lets slip that Bobbett died. Stone threatens to charge Doyle with being an accessory to murder until Doyle admits that Swann helped out a George Mazlansky, then called in a favor when Mazlansky was released. Logan and Briscoe go to a parking lot and pick up Mazlansky.
In jail, Stone offers Mazlansky a deal to keep him in solitary confinement, and possible a reduced charge, and he takes it. Mazlansky leads them to Bobbett's body. Swann is re-arrested.
Swann is taken back to Stone's office, again in handcuffs. He tries to banter with Stone, only to get shut down.
"I guess you just weren't clever enough."
"I got this far, Ben."
"A lot of effort to end up right back where you started. And in polite society, sir, you don't call people by their first name unless they ask you too. I haven't asked you to do that. You're not a friend, and you're not a colleague."
—Ben Stone and Phillip Swann
Swann refuses to confess to the crimes and is led away.