A police officer is writing a ticket when an old lady comes up to him. She's holding torn pages from a Chumash, a Jewish holy text. The officer notes blood on the pages, and asks where the woman got them.
In a street, Chumash pages are flying everywhere, and many people in Jewish religious dress are rumming around collecting them. Two people are almost run over by an armored truck, and the officer calls for traffic control. Then the officer finds a body at the bottom of a flight of stairs outside a synagogue.
The officer tells Fontana that all the people scattered once the cop cars arrived. The old woman talks to Green and says she didn't see anything unusual besides the torn pages. She says there should be more police in the neighborhood, and the detectives send her home. The detectives next approach the body, and upon rolling it over, find the remainder of the Chumash under it.
A forensic technician, Julian Beck, says that the Chumash is from the 40s, but the damage is all recent. The blood on the book matches that of the victim, but the saliva match won't come back for a while. After clarifying that someone spit on the book, Beck asks how they'll know if the dead man wanted to save or destroy the book.
Rodgers says that the dead man has no tattoos, a tan line indicating outdoor work, and died from a blow to the head. He took several blows before dying. Fontana looks at the man's penis and finds that he wasn't circumsized.
A councilman yells at Van Buren that he wants results. He's sure that this was a hate crime and blames a local Muslim shop owner. Van Buren says that the cops will talk to the Muslim.
Fadi Abu Ubdeh is yelled at by a line of Jews behind a police blockade. He gets mad at the cops when they accuse him of being a terrorist. Eventually Fontana gets him to go on an anti-Israel rant, but Ubdeh still insists that he doesn't know anything about the dead guy. Green gets a call — the dead man was Jeffery Kilgore, who did time for burglary. The detectives decide to see if anyone at the temple knew Kilgore.
Rabbi Geller introduces Father Royce and Iman Adiani, who are trying to help keep religious tensions under control. After the others leave, the cops ask Geller about Kilgore. Geller says that he doesn't know Kilgore and wonders why he'd destroy the Chumash; Green says they're more worried about why someone would kill him. Geller agrees to show the police where the book was kept.
Geller shows the detectives to the front of the prayer room. He says that the destroyed Chumash was the Torah that they read from during services; it was incredibly important to the people who worshipped there. He says that the room was open and no one was guarding the place at the time of the murder. The Chumash belonged to a Barry Speicher.
Barry talks to the cops and discusses the history of the Chumash. His father had that book while he fled Poland and the Nazi regime. He eventually hid the book in a barn and left the country; thirty-five years later, he went back and found the book again, right where he left it. Speicher asks if they checked out Ubdeh, blaming him for what he sees as a decline in the neighborhood. Leaving, Green says that it was probably someone who caught Kilgore mutilating the book. He says they should investigate Kilgore before pointing more fingers.
The detectives find Kilgore's girlfriend, Kayla Watson, as his home. She says that Kilgore was a mason and wasn't in any anti-semitic groups. She goes on a small anti-semitic rant, but claims not to know why Kilgore was in the city that day. She says that he hated New York — when someone owed him money, Kayla went to get it. She met some guy and got $2500 cash. She figured the person paying her was the money was Jewish from the way his voice sounded.
Back in the Temple, the detectives ask for a list of congregants. Geller refuses, and Speicher backs him up. Fontana threatens to get the district attorneys involved.
Branch approaches Borgia with the subpoena for the congregants. Borgia defends it, but Branch dismisses her defense and says that she will withdraw the subpoena.
The detectives complain to Van Buren that they have no subpoena, no warrant, and Geller barred them from the synagogue. They bring up that $2500 is a lot of money for masonry, and Van Buren wonders why someone would hire Kilgore for this. Van Buren wonders if this might have been a personal vendetta against Speicher, who owned the book.
At Ben-Daniel real estate, Eric Speicher (Barry's cousin) talks to the cops. He says that Barry was in at around 10 the day of the murder, and seemed alright. There weren't any notable client complaints. Eric mentions that Barry's first wife was infertile, but his second wife has born several children.
Rachel Speicher fills in the detective on Barry's schedule, which puts him at the tTmple when Kilgore was killed, and says that she doesn't know why someone would have mutilated the book.
The cops tell Van Buren that Barry's financial records look spotless — mostly charitable organizations and normal expenses. Green finds weekly withdrawals every Thursday, and he and Fontana realize that the location is at a strip club. Van Buren notes that the weekly withdrawal is $400 and wonders if Barry had a regular girlfriend. She tells them to find Barry at the strip club.
The cops find a group of congregants from the Temple. After threatening to drag them outside, the congregants admit to knowing Barry. One says that Barry isn't there; he had to make a Shiva call — visiting the relatives of a recently deceased member of the faith. One man complains about the Chumash sacrilege as a girl gives him a lapdance, and the cops order the girl away. The congregants say that Barry has no girlfriend, and one admits that the Speichers own the synagogue building.
Geller tells the detectives that the congregants rent the building from the Speitzers at prices set seventy years before. It's a hundred times below market value. Gelleralso says that Eric doesn't go to services anymore, and isn't even devout.
Eric and his wife, Amanda Yuen, are defensive.
"We're accusing him of lying."
—Amanda Yuen and Joe Fontana
Eric agrees to go to the precinct for interrogation. Once there, he tries to pretend that he cares about the book, and denies everything, but Fontana gets a piece of paper showing that Ben-Daniel realty had used Kilgore's masonry services. Eric finally admits to hiring Kilgore to mess up the book. He says that he did it to spur Barry to sell the building and move the congregation; Barry had been talking about it due to graffiti but hadn't done it yet.
He says he doesn't care about the book, and claims that Barry is a hypocrite who only acts religious to look good. He says that Kilgore wasn't supposed to die; rather, Eric called Barry to have him go downstairs and find Kilgore destroying the book. Barry wasn't supposed to have killed anyone.
The detectives arrest Barry Speicher during services.
In court, Borgia argues with Barry's lawyer, Stan Malloy, about bail. Borgia brings up that the cops found an umbrella stand with blood on Barry's fingerprints. Malloy argues that the offense was justifiable thanks to the book burglary, and says that Barry wants to testify to the Grand Jury. Judge Thomas Everton sets bail at $250,000.
The lawyers discuss the case. McCoy thinks it's inane, but Borgia says that this is playing like a religious case and not just a family dispute. Branch says that they should try to plea bargain the case. Barry would get a 5 year manslaughter sentence. McCoy is reluctant but goes along with it.
Malloy says that Barry wants a dismissal.
"You beat a man to death!"
—Barry Speicher and Jack McCoy
Malloy tries to sell the lawyers on a justification defense — Kilgore stole not just a cornerstone of Barry's faith, but an artifact from his family. McCoy demands to know if Barry thinks he should get a free pass; he says no. Speicher asks how much time he could do; when he learns that it would be 25 years at minimum he says he'd miss weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. He agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a five year sentence.
Rachel Speicher barges into Borgia's office. She says that, because Speicher is in jail and can't work, his family has to sell the synagogue and the congregation is twisting in the wind. Eric, though, made seven million dollars.
McCoy tells Branch that he wants to charge Eric with manslaughter. Eric admitted to wanting Barry to fly into a rage; Eric used religious fervor to incite Barry against Kilgore.
McCoy says that he can make the legal case if Branch can deal with the political fallout. Branch is grumpy but goes along with it.
Sharon Quaid, Eric's attorney, tries to laugh at the charge, but McCoy shuts her down. Eric rants about how his cousin's family hated him for not being devout; they wouldn't go to his wedding, they barely let him into the family business, they wouldn't even eat his wife's food.
Eric says that his uncle was a businessman who would have traded the book for a scrap of food if he'd have the chance. He admits to wanting to lash out at Barry, and says he didn't think anyone would die. McCoy offers a six year sentence for Reckless Manslaughter. Eric protests that he didn't kill anyone, but McCoy doesn't care.
The lawyers prepare Barry Speicher to testify. He says he's fine with testifying about what he did to Kilgore, and then demands to be able to discuss Eric's lack of faith and death threats he made. Even when the lawyers say that this would detract from the rest of his testimony, he continues asking if he can bring up particular events.
Borgia sighes and says they'll need to go over what Barry will say in detail.
Watson testifies about picking up the money for Kilgore. She identifies Eric as the one who paid her. Geller testifies next. He discusses the Temple's schedule the day of the murder, and says that Barry left Talmudic studies early that day. McCoy asks about the book, and Geller is extremely reluctant to testify. Eventually, McCoy makes him discuss the book's history in detail. Geller says that the barn where the book had been stored was gone — he and Barry's father bought a replacement in a bookstore. That's the one that Eric tried to steal. McCoy demands to know why Geller went along with the deception, and Geller said that, real or not, it was a powerful symbol of the congregation's faith.
Outside, Quaid and Speicher ask if McCoy will drop the charges, but Borgia says that Speicher thought the book was real. Speciher says that religion makes people crazy and cites the fake book; McCoy is unmoved.
Barry Speicher testifies last. He admits to killing Kilgore for damaging and trying to steal the book. When it comes time to testify about Eric, though, he recants what he said earlier — he says that his relationship with Eric was fine, and denies any threats. McCoy asks for a half-hour recess.
—Judge Iris Chapman
In a side room, Barry says he can't go through with testifying — his father lied to him, and he realizes that his religious faith was hypocritical. He admits that he wouldn't sell the building just to spite Eric. He says he can't testify against Eric, even when McCoy insists. He says that the people who set everything in motion were the ones who knew about the deception, and they're mostly dead.
Later, Branch tells McCoy that without Barry they have no motive. He says they should dismiss the manslaughter charge and just try to get a burglary conviction. The two of them argue, and Branch shuts down McCoy's attempt to charge Barry with perjury.
"Well, sometimes criminals get lucky. And we don't charge them with what almost happened... not everything fits your little orthodoxy, Jack."
"Interesting choice of words."
—Jack McCoy and Arthur Branch
Branch points out that McCoy has no case for manslaughter, and orders Jack to drop that charge. In court, McCoy does so. Later, Eric is convicted of theft.
Borgia says that the Speichers will do the same amount of jail time, and they asked to be sent to the same jail. Branch and McCoy remark over how screwed up the Speicher family was.