Two maintenance workers discuss a recent football game, and one pays the other what he owes for losing a bet on the Jets. They show up at a third worker's apartment to collect what he owes them; he lost the bet too. When they go inside, they find piles of electronics equipment, a destroyed living room, and the third worker dead.
Curtis talks to one of the workers, and says that the building was owned commercially. The worker says only one other person was squatting in the building. Curtis talks to Briscoe and says there's no sign of forced entry, and Briscoe says he found $200 in the victim's wallet, as well as an ATM slip for Grand Concourse Savings. Curtis finds spilled wine glasses, indicating that someone else was in the apartment. A cop mentions that about 200 electronic items were there, but when Briscoe wonders if the victim, Bobby Cassidy, was dealing stolen goods, but Curtis finds some shipping invoices indicating that Cassidy paid for all the goods. The cops search Cassidy's body and find a gun hidden under his shirt; the manner in which it's hidden indicates that Cassidy was an undercover cop. Curtis exposits that the death penalty has just been reinstated.
"Bad time to kill a cop."
"There's a good time?"
"No, but now the state gets to fry his ass."
—Reynaldo Curtis and Lennie Briscoe
Van Buren says that the dead guy's real name was Bobby Croft, and the intelligence division won't say what he was doing. Curtis adds that the other resident was home by midnight and didn't hear anything, so Croft died before then. When Curtis asks about surveillance, Van Buren says the department didn't want to pay for it. Briscoe suggests they talk to his partner.
The partner says that Croft got really into his undercover persona and didn't want him around. He adds that Croft had a girlfriend but neglected her while undercover. He eventually says that Croft was going after a drug dealer named Ted Quinlan, a resident of Hell's Kitchen who also runs an antique business as a cover for his drug operation. Briscoe asks about the electronics, and the partner says that Croft was trying to blend into the criminal scene. Curtis reads from a file that Croft had just requisitioned $125,000. The partner says that the money was going to be used to buy drugs from, and arrest, Quinlan, but the location of the deal changed and the partner lost him. He didn't worry because Bobby was out of contact a lot. After learning that neither the money nor the heroin were in the apartment, the partner says Quinlan must have been greedy.
Quinlan says he's just an importer.
"The way we hear it, Mr. Quinlan, you're importing from Mexican poppy fields."
They ask about Cassidy, but he says that he ignored Cassidy's offer to fence goods. Curtis says that Cassidy was really Croft, and he died, but Quinlan doesn't care.
"Cop? No way he could afford the Queen Anne."
He says he was with his accountant, Paul Sandig, at the time of the shooting.
Sandig confirms the alibi. Curtis asks if Sandig knew what was going on, but Sandig says his job is just to go over what his clients provide — he's not responsible for anything they don't report.
ME Rodgers says that Croft was shot at a range of six feet. He was shot six times, all over the body, and he kept getting shot even once he was down. Also, there were signs of recent sexual activity.
Croft's girlfriend, a waitress named Sarah Tabor, talks to the cops at her workplace. She says that Croft was married to his job and wasn't seeing her enough. They did spend the last night together, and he promised her that he'd take her to the Pocanos for a weekend. They split up at about 11 the night before, and Croft returned a call before going home.
Curtis and Briscoe get lunch at a truck and discuss the newly reinstated death penalty. Curtis says that his wife will want to see the killer executed, and he agrees. When Briscoe looks skeptical, Curtis mocks him.
"What are you, a bleeding-heart, Lennie?"
Briscoe tells Curtis about a time when he and Logan were chasing someone who shot two grocers. They almost walked right into his gun, but the killer surrendered rather than shoot them. Briscoe figures that, if the killer were already up for death row, he would have shot them anyway.
"Screw bleeding-heart. I just don't want to end up bleeding on the floor of some joint on Columbus."
Curtis gets a call. Croft, using his girlfriend's phone, called the restaurant where Quinlan was eating dinner.
In interrogation, Quinlan is nonplussed. He says that the call was just about unloading cheap electronics, and he ignored it. After he insults Briscoe a few times, Briscoe leaves. Curtis, who until then was standing against the wall silently, approaches Quinlan and yanks the cigarette out of his mouth. Quinlan protests his innocence, but Curtis says that Quinlan is lying. After some bickering, Curtis slams Quinlan against a wall and begins choking him.
"Listen to me, you peace of crap. That body in the morgue could be me. So when I see you sitting there with that smirk on your face, I don't really feel like waiting for the state to put that needle in your arm."
Outside, Van Buren says that Curtis is crossing the line. Briscoe says he's not looking. Inside the interrogation room, Curtis threatens to kill Quinlan and call it self-defense. Van Buren orders Briscoe to call Curtis out. When he walks out, he snaps that Quinlan killed a cop and doesn't deserve any fair treatment, but Van Buren says that Quinlan has rights. Curtis mocks her, and even when Van Buren tells him to stop he keeps going. Curtis demands to continue the interrogation, but Van Buren says they'll get sued. When Briscoe tries to defend Curtis, Van Buren says that he shouldn't have given Curtis the freedom to go off the rails. Briscoe tries to argue that Quinlan wouldn't respond to niceties, but Van Buren points out that Logan was reassigned to Staten Island after he got violent and punched an acquitted murderer. Van Buren orders Quinlan released, and when Curtis complains, Van Buren points out that they have no evidence against him.
The next day, Van Buren chews out Briscoe. When he leaves and talks to Curtis, he blows off her criticisms.
"Hey, she just doesn't want to be testifying at your trial. She hates the Hell out of going to court."
Van Buren comes over and says they got a warrant to search Quinlan's financials. Curtis grumbles that getting Quinlan for a minor tax evasion isn't much, but she ignores him. Van Buren says that Croft used marked bills, and they might be traceable.
Sandig gives the detectives Quinlan's financial records, but makes sure to emphasize that there might be things that Quinlan never gave him. At the precinct, the detectives marvel at the vast wealth Quinlan has acquire. When Van Buren comes by and Briscoe says it's slow going, she shows them a paper announcing that Governor Pataki and the public want the killer to be executed.
"Nothing like being the test case."
—Anita Van Buren
When Curtis asks if she's not all that happy about it, Van Buren says that she'd be happier if justice really were colorblind. Curtis says that cop killers are supposed to be executed first, but Van Buren points out that they need to prove that Quinlan knew Croft was a cop. Briscoe finds something interesting — Quinlan paid a certain corporate tax twice. Quinlan has another corporation. Curtis says he has a friend that could help.
Marcie Donner jokes with Curtis about him never being available. She finds that one of the tax caps was for a company called CJC Corp. Quinlan owns all the stock shares. She finds out that the company usually banks at Grand Concourse Savings, and Briscoe recalls seeing an ATM slip for that bank in Croft's apartment.
At the bank, a manager says that the company had a $9000 deposit in multiple accounts every week for the past year. The cops point out that $10,000 triggers federal reporting requirements, and that the bank could be liable for allowing someone to sneak past the reporting rules like that. The manager says he didn't know and that the software was supposed to catch it. The manager insists that the software is working, and finds the name of the person who overrode it and allowed the deposits.
Mary Byman confesses everything, clearly terrified. She says that someone told her that he needed to hide some money because of a nasty divorce, but after she did it once, the person threatened to go public unless she continued to help him — he tape recorded everything. When they mention Quinlan, she doesn't know the name. The person she was helping was Paul Sandig, the accountant. She doesn't know Croft either, but recognizes the face. The day of the murder, he came in after Sandig and said he wanted the same service. He claimed that Sandig had sent him. She threw him out, then called Sandig to tell him what happened. He asked her to describe the man, and she did.
"Am I in a lot of trouble?"
Briscoe thinks that Sandig did it, but Curtis doesn't think that a CPA would be able to kill someone. Briscoe points out that Sandig left the restaurant first. Curtis recommends that they arrest Sandig for laundering, but Briscoe wants to get him for murder and says they should find out what's on the tapes. In the meantime, he adds, Curtis should call Profaci and have him arrest Quinlan for laundering.
Lyndon Whitney, who shares Sandig's office, complains that Sandig will be upset when he finds out about the search. The cops just keep going through his office. Whitney protests that Sandig isn't a killer; he's the President of a Little League team and his wife runs a PTA. Curtis asks if there's more storage space, and Whitney takes them out of the suite and into a neighboring room. He points out a lockbox that Sandig uses. The officers cut the lock and find a shoebox of tape cassettes.
The cops listen to the tape that has Byman describing Croft to Sandig. Curtis says that the next tape is a call between Sandig and Marty Prince. Van Buren says the name sounds familiar, and Briscoe says that it's an insurance adjuster who managed to avoid a fraud charge a few years ago. His recording has him saying that he found out information on Cassidy, but then Sandig terminates the call. Van Buren wonders how an insurance adjuster even got involved, but Briscoe says that they can find out anything about anyone. Curtis says that Prince probably found out that Croft was a cop and told Sandig, which makes the case a Murder-1 charge.
Prince tells the cops that Sandig had said he wanted a potential client checked out. Prince first found out that Croft wasn't his real name — no credit history — and then learned that Croft was a cop. He learned that once he learned that Croft's car had been repossessed in a police drug sting. The cops leave to get a warrant to search Sandig's house.
Jenny Sandig, Paul's wife, complains about the search of the home. Paul walks in and complains, but Briscoe points out that Sandig's kids have wandered in. Sandig has Jenny send the kids upstairs. Just then, Curtis finds a gun and a bag with $125,000 of heroin. Sandig is arrested.
In court, Sandig pleads not guilty. Kincaid want him remanded. His lawyer protests that Sandig is ready to post bail and has community ties, but when Kincaid says that it's a capital crime, Judge Alan Berman remands Sandig. Sandig's lawyer asks Kincaid if the death penalty will be put on the table; she says that it's Schiff's call and he has four months to decide.
In Schiff's office, he gripes that the papers want Sandig executed and he hasn't even been convicted yet. They discuss the death penalty — McCoy is for it, Kincaid is against. Kincaid points out that the homicide rate is low even without the death penalty, but McCoy says that doesn't matter — the people want it. Schiff says that his neighbor would have people executed for having loud dogs, but McCoy says that only serious crimes, such as killing a police officer or killing witnesses to a crime qualify as capital cases. McCoy says that they have a slam-dunk case against Croft, and says that Sandig is the poster-child for the death penalty. He's the height of privileged, and he killed a police officer in cold blood. Kincaid argues that Sandig might have panicked, and says that he has a wife and kids. Schiff says that it's up to him.
Schiff talks to a retired judge, Allen DeLuca. DeLuca jokes around with Schiff, then more seriously says that morality is not a significant part of the criminal justice system. It might be immoral to have Sandig killed, especially since he wouldn't have been killed had he committed the same crime in a different state, but that issue (says DeLuca) has no bearing on whether or not Schiff should ask for the death penalty.
Schiff tells the lawyers that he's filing intent to seek the death penalty. Kincaid protests that he doesn't have to use it, Schiff says that he's made up his mind.
"If we don't ask for the ultimate punishment here, what are we saying on society's position on cop killings?"
Kincaid protests that some people might end up on death row due to incompetent counsel, but McCoy, receiving a letter, says that Sandig doesn't need to worry about that — he just hired Helen Brolin, a brilliant defense attorney.
Brolin argues to Judge Ida Boucher that the tapes were seized as part of an illegal search. McCoy says the cops had a warrant, but Boucher points out that it was only for Sandig's office suite, not the storage room. McCoy says that Whitney let the cops in, but Boucher says that Whitney wasn't a partner or anyone else with the legal power to let them search Sandig's space. McCoy next tries arguing that the cops acted in good faith, but Boucher remarks that the cops had to use a bolt-cutter to get into the storage space, which should have clued them in that Whitney didn't have access. Boucher agrees and suppresses both the tapes,and Prince's testimony (which was gained from the tapes). The state no longer has evidence that Sandig knew that Croft was a cop, so the Murder 1 charge is out.
At dinner, Kincaid says that they can at least put Sandig away for 25 years. She says that execution is barbaric. McCoy says that revenge is a natural human instinct. When Kincaid says that revenge isn't legal, McCoy says that this puts the obligation on the state to carry it out. Kincaid says that life in prison is fitting enough, but McCoy says that the public wants to feel more in control of the criminal justice system. Kincaid asks if there aren't less draconian ways to regain the public's confidence, but McCoy says there aren't, and adds that without it, people will become vigilantes. Kincaid says that it's moot because of the evidence exclusions, but McCoy disagrees. Killing a witness is also a capital crime, and Croft saw Quinlan committing a lot of crime.
In jail, Quinlan jokes that he's supposed to squeal on others, not himself. McCoy says that Quinlan will testify to selling Cassidy drugs; in return, Quinlan will only get two years. Quinlan's lawyer urges him to accept the deal, but Quinlan passes. He insists on a walk, and full immunity for anything he says. Quinlan's lawyer and Kincaid say that this is ridiculous, but McCoy agrees. Quinlan jokes about his lawyer's incompetence.
"You should be paying me."
Brolin complains to Boucher that this is just bloodlust, but McCoy outlines their theory. Boucher says that she'll rule by the end of the day. Later, Kincaid enters McCoy's office. Boucher reinstated the Murder 1 charge. Kincaid gives a quick congratulations and leaves immediately. McCoy drinks some liquor.
In court, Sandig is found guilty of first-degree murder. Boucher overrules Brolin's motion to set aside the verdict. Outside, Brolin approaches McCoy, who says that it's not over until after the sentencing hearing. Brolin gives McCoy her appellate brief — she's arguing that the death penalty is unconstitutional.
Kincaid says that Brolin isn't arguing that the death penalty is cruel and unusual, but is rather saying that the state doesn't have the Constitutional power to take a life.
"This should keep us in the library for a couple of months."
Brolin testifies to a panel of judges, saying that the 14th amendment says that the state can't deprive any person of life, liberty, or property. Judge Martha Kershan is skeptical of the whole thing, and Judge Lawrence McNeil says that the hearing provided for by statute fulfills the due process requirements. Brolin says that the hearing satisfies procedural requirements but can't satisfy substantive ones. The state doesn't have the power to regulate certain areas of life, she argues. Judge Douglas Spivak lists those areas and says that life doesn't appear on the list, and when Brolin says she wants to add a new one (the list was never said to exhaustive), asks what right she wants to add. Judge Harlan Newfield tells Spivak not to be stupid. Kershan looks annoyed by this. Brolin says that, to legislate an area on that list, the purpose must be compelling and the measure necessary. Judge Shawn McNamara, says nothing but stares at Brolin. McNeil says that crime prevention is a compelling interest, but Brolin says it's unnecessary. She adds that it's expensive, and the money could be better spent elsewhere to prevent crime.
McCoy says that Brolin is completely wrong. Spivak says that Brolin made a lot of sense to him, but McCoy says that she ignored another important clause in the Constitution. He says that the 5th amendment refers to capital crimes, and permits capital punishment. Kershan says that it requires due process, but McCoy says that this is satisfied. A prior court found that the death penalty is Constitutional if the juries are unprejudiced. To satisfy this, juries may only consider certain factors when deciding on the death sentence. McNamara points out the juries are now allowed to hear anything the defendant wants to present, which is an inherent contradiction. He adds that the decision to execute someone is so subjective that it can't be done consistently, as the Constitution requires. McCoy says that this argument could be applied to all juries, and McNamara insists that juries are not perfectly objective. McCoy reiterates his points.
"The bottom line is that the Constitution cannot prohibit what its text explicitly permits. Thank you, Your Honors."
Outside the courtroom, Jenny Sandig approaches McCoy. She begs McCoy for leniency, arguing that Sandig panicked and isn't really a bad man.
"You know, it's crazy. Paul and I, we both voted for Governor Pataki."
Back in court, McNamara gives the ruling. After starting out by praising Brolins' argument (for which McNeil says to stop editorializing), he says that the court is not going to make a ruling — the issue isn't ripe yet, since no one's been sentenced to death. The death penalty can be considered in Sandig's case, and if Sandig is senteced to be executed, the court can pick up the issue then. Later, McCoy gripes that the judges passed the buck. He then complains that Kincaid keeps glaring at him. Kincaid says that it's a value judgement — killing a cop is worthy of execution, but not killing a hairdresser, for example. McCoy says it's the law.
"Like it or not, Claire, society has established a hierarchy of evil."
Kincaid says that there are cracks in the system; innocent or undeserving people could be killed. McCoy says that there are enough checks and balances in the system to make this unlikely. Kincaid asks if he can live with that. He doesn't answer.
In court, Jenny Sandig testifies that Paul is a good man and a loving husband. She says that Paul killed Croft so his sons wouldn't find out what had happened. McCoy has her elaborate on this, and says that Sandig was laundering Quinlan's drug money. Jenny says that he tried to stop, but Quinlan wouldn't let him. McCoy mocks her arguments that Sandig was cornered.
"So, if the stress is bad enough and you're an otherwise nice person, it's okay to put six bullets in a cop."
He withdraws the question after Brolin objects.
Sandig testifies that he was scared and didn't know what to do. He says he feels remorse and can't sleep or eat. McCoy has Sandig admit that he made almost a million dollars from Quinlan, and theorizes that Sandig may have had other reasons not to stop working for Quinlan. Sandig asks what he's supposed to say.
"I was a son of a bitch, okay?"
He says that he thought his life would be ruined if he stopped working for Quinlan, and says he's ashamed of what he did. He adds that he kept the gun to kill himself. McCoy asks why he didn't, and Sandig says that he doesn't want to die. He begs for mercy and breaks down in tears.
After deliberations, the jury returns. Jenny Sandig is in the audience, as are Schiff, Briscoe, and Curtis. The jury rules that Sandig should be put to death. Brolin requests that the jury be polled. Boucher asks if each jury member agrees that Sandig should be executed. The scene fades to black and displays the executive producer credit over a voiceover of each juror's affirmative statement.