Two corrections officers guard a prisoner, Leon Vorgitch, as they wait to enter an appeals court. The guards are discussing sports (specifically, whether Peyton or Eli Manning is better), but when Leon tries to comment, they tell him to shut up. Vorgitch slips out of his handcuffs and stabs one guard, Alfonso Ruiz, in the neck, and the other, Bernie Williams, in the chest multiple times. He takes off at a run.
Van Buren, Green, and Cassady arrive at the scene. The guard who got stabbed in the neck is dead, the other one is at the hospital. Cassady exposits that Leon was a lifer, and a forensics guy says they found a plastic shiv and plastic handcuff key, which were not detected by metal detectors. The media has been alerted. Green adds that Leon killed five people at a fast food joint — the "Midtown Massacre." Green was one of the first responders, and helped put Leon away. Vorgitch was up for execution, but New York struck down executions, so Leon's sentence was commuted to life in prison. Green looks at a photo of Leon.
Delores Vorgitch, Leon's mother, tells the detectives that her son hasn't seen her, and she's blocked off all contact with him. She wants nothing to do with him anymore.
She sends them to talk to Carl Vorgitch, Leon's brother.
The detectives find Carl working at a construction site. Green checks Carl's cell phone and Cassady promises that, if Leon surrenders he won't be hurt, but Carl says she's lying — the state already tried to kill Leon. Green grabs Carl and threatens him with jail, and Carl gives up several names — a cousin, an uncle, and an old friend. As he leaves, Cassady notes that Green's list of Leon's contacts includes an ex-girlfriend and another friend that Carl didn't mention. Green says they'll see them next.
Nikki Hale, the ex-girlfriend, says that she hasn't seen Leon since the massacre, but when she lets the cops into her apartment, Green says that Hale visited Leon in prison and signed the visitor's log. Hale claims she forgot.
Cassady observes that there are empty beer bottles, and no scent of beer on Hale's breath. After threatening her with arrest and the removal of her son, Hale admits that Leon came by. Cassady finds Leon's prison uniform, indicating that Hale gave him clothes, and Hale tells them what clothes he's wearing now. She begs Green not to take her child. Cassady checks the tip line and finds a single tip of Leon wearing the clothes Hale listed. The tip puts Leon at the Port Authority. Green says that they'll take the kid if Leon kills anyone, and the detectives leave.
At the Port Authority, the detectives talk to Officer Hannigan and the tipster, Kelly. She saw him an hour ago, but he left quickly once he saw her. Cassady wonders where he is now, and Green says, if Leon is on foot, he's probably within a five mile radius.
The detectives meet Fugitive Team Director Nguyen, who shows them to a food-cart vendor from Russia who says he saw Leon. The tipster doesn't speak English very well, but says that Leon was headed uptown as of half an hour ago. Cassady says that a former cellmate lives in the area. They find the cellmate quickly.
The cellmate, Pedro, says he hasn't seen Leon. Cassady finds some meth on him, which violates Pedro's parole agreements. He offers to help in return for them not telling his parole officer. Leon found Pedro an hour ago and wanted a gun. Pedro sent him to a guy named Skinny. The police burst into Skinny's apartment to find him lying dead.on a sofa with a knife in his heart. Leon took a .45 machine gun with at least twenty-five bullets before leaving.
That night, Van Buren says the dogs couldn't find anything. Cassady and Green say that they have tips pointing in all directions and have questioned everyone in the area with a link to Leon. The only person they haven't talked to is Rex Mays, who moved to LA. Van Buren says that Officer Williams died in surgery, making the total body count three.
Pedro is interrogated. Eventually, after several threats, Pedro admits that Leon wanted a phone book. That's all he knows. Van Buren wonders if Leon wants to escape town, or if he just wants revenge. She wants a security detail assigned to everyone involved in the trial that put him away. The detectives go talk to Mia Alvarez, the witness whose testimony sent Leon to prison.
Alvarez thanks Green for security detail. She used to get threats, but they stopped once the death penalty was outlawed. She sends them to John Garvey, the person who fought hardest for Leon's execution. Garvey still protests the stay of execution. At Garvey's house, he reads one of the letters he wrote to Leon, excoriating him. Garvey says that he wants the security detail dismissed — he has a gun and wants a chance to shoot Leon. Green gets a call — they found Rex Mays, who isn't in LA but is squatting in a dead relative's home. As they leave, Garvey begs them to shoot Leon if they have a chance.
The detectives find little in Mays' home except for a phone book, open to hospital listings. Cassady realizes that the place at the Port Authority where Leon was spotted was across the street from a hospital. The cops wonder if Leon was injured. Cassady finds a phone, but it's dead. Green finds a box from a disposable cell, saying they can trace the phone, and thus Mays.
The detectives find Mays, and demand to know what Leon is doing. He plays dumb, but when Green threatens to have him arrested, Mays talks. Delores is dying of cancer, and Leon just wants to say goodbye. That's why he wants to find a hospital. Green has Mays arrested anyway.
"Oh Hell yeah!"
—Rex Mays and Ed Green
A heavily armed police team storms the hospital. The officer on guard says that Leon got in while he was in the bathroom. Delores is unharmed and claims that her son wanted her forgiveness but she wouldn't give it. Leon had fled through the window. Green goes after him, eventually catching up to him. Green chases him through several back alleys until Leon ducks into a nearby elementary school. Green calls in the situation, then finds Leon in a classroom.
The cops evacuate the rest of the school and form a perimeter. Van Buren says the hostage negotiator is coming. Robert Purcell, the father of one of the hostages, shows up after his daughter Megan, a diabetic, sends him a text message that she's in medical distress. Leon yells that he wants the police cars moved out, but one of the cars backfires, making a sound like a gunshot. Leon begins shooting the hostages, leaving four of them dead. When the cops storm the room, Leon surrenders, and Green points his gun at his head.
"Why'd you have to shoot them?"
—Leon Vorgitch and Ed Green
After a few moments, Green puts his gun away and arrests Leon.
In court, Judge Albert Bryce remands an insolent Leon to a super-maximum security facility in Pennsylvania. Gavin Edlund, Leon's attorney, raises no objections. On his way out, Leon threatens Rubirosa.
McCoy offers lesser charges, but Leon refuses, then points out that he's already serving several life sentences, and the state can't execute him, so McCoy can't threaten him with anything. Furthermore, every day he goes to trial is a day he has another chance of escape.
On TV, Robert Purcell is interviewed. He says that Leon should have been killed years ago, or his daughter would still be alive. State Senator candidate Dena Carter is there too, and she says that she'll fight for the death penalty if she's elected. The lawyers talk about what to do. Branch outlines the problem: the jury instruction for death penalty cases was struck down. The death penalty itself is still legal, butt he government-approved jury instructions are not. Branch wonders if they could have a judge issue different instructions to get around this issue, thereby allowing the death penalty.
-Judge Rochelle Desmond is skeptical, but McCoy tells her the plan. Desmond points out that the jury instruction was written by the legislature, and she'd have to basically rewrite the law in order to give a new one. Desmond still doesn't want to, but McCoy says that the legislature hasn't done anything.
Desmond goes along with it. Edlund tells McCoy that he's already filed an appeal.
Edlund and McCoy argue in front of an appeals court. Edlund says, essentially, that the statute required by law is illegal, and Desmond does not have the authority to write a new one. McCoy exhorts the court to apply the death penalty in this case. The appeals court, after some debate, rules for Edlund — they claim that the death penalty is so important that it requires legislative repair. In the audience, Robert and Garvey both look disappointed.
In court, McCoy preps Green for his testimony. Rubirosa is trying to get in touch with Robert, but can't. Gunshots sound outside. When everyone runs out, they find that Robert has shot and killed Leon.
McCoy offers Robert and his attorney, Carter, a seven-year sentence. Carter denies the deal. Rubirosa points out that two police officers and a security camera saw it, but Robert claims that he was justified.
"Because New York doesn't have a Do-It-Yourself death penalty, Mr. Purcell."
"I don't care what the law says."
—Robert Purcell and Jack McCoy
Carter says she's going to plead temporary insanity — Robert can't tell the difference between right and wrong. When McCoy objects, Carter says that Robert thinks he did a moral thing. If the state agrees, they shouldn't prosecute, and if they disagree, then it's a valid defense.
The lawyers discuss the case. Branch asks if they can't just take the insanity plea and have Robert committed, but Carter won't hear it. The lawyers had three psychologists, including Olivet, interview Robert; all say he was sane during the shooting. McCoy decides to try making a deal with the jury.
McCoy asks Judge Harold Gordon to let the jury consider a manslaughter charge. Carter objects. McCoy says that they can easily get a conviction of second-degree murder, but don't want to sentence Robert for so long. Carter says that the jury should have to make an all-or-nothing choice. Gordon says that Robert has the right to make the jury go for an all-or-nothing verdict. Outside, McCoy tells Carter that her defense of Robert is sub-par and just a political publicity stunt. Carter says that, if that's the case, McCoy can drop the charges to deny her the platform. She leaves.
Outside, Rubirosa asks why they don't just drop the murder charge and replace it with a manslaughter charge, but McCoy doesn't want to set that precedent — it's an obvious murder case. Rubirosa points out that it's rather convenient that the shooting happened so close to the election and Carter catching the case. McCoy says that, without any proof that Carter intervened in the shooting, they shouldn't worry about it.
In court, Dr. Sheryl Burnett testifies that Robert had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after his daughter was shot and killed. He was doing okay, she says, until he learned that Leon wouldn't be executed. At that point, she claims, Robert had a mental breakdown.
Robert admits to killing Leon to stop him from killing again, and he himself did nothing wrong.
McCoy compares Robert's actions to Leon's, since they both killed people. McCoy says that it's ridiculous to think that Robert's shooting was entirely about justice and had nothing to do with revenge. Robert protests that he didn't want to kill anyone. When Robert says he has nightmares, McCoy says this is proof that he knows what he did was wrong. Robert remains defiant.
Later, McCoy says that Carter still doesn't want a deal, and he wonders if Robert might walk. Branch jokes that McCoy is becoming cynical. Rubirosa shows up and says that Robert testified that he arrived right when Leon did, but Leon's arrival time was rescheduled so that he would be in less danger. Someone must have tipped off Robert. McCoy goes to talk to Carter at her campaign office and asks if Carter told Robert about Leon's changed schedule. Carter basically admits to it, but says that McCoy has no evidence or he'd have had her charged. She says she just wants to help Robert, but McCoy still thinks it's a political stunt.
At closings, Carter reiterates the 'he deserved it' defense. McCoy says that Leon Vorgitch was a dangerous monster, but the nullification defense is also dangerous — an acquittal would sanction vigilantism.
The jury finds Robert guilty.
In jail, McCoy talks to Robert, who finally realizes that he was used by Carter to get reelected, and admits that Carter told him when and where to kill Leon.
McCoy tells Branch that, due to the information he provided, Robert got a sentence reduction from 20 to three years, and that Carter has been indicted for the murder of Leon Vorgitch.
This episode contains examples of:
- Actor Allusion: Leon Vorgitch's actor previously showed up on L&O as a defendant who murdered his older brother, a retired sports star. The CO's are discussing sports as they walk him to the gate and he says he has nothing better to do than read the sports page in prison.
- Asshole Victim: That's what Dena Carter wanted the jury to believe Leon Vorgitch was, considering his series of murders and that the state couldn't execute him long ago.
- Hate Sink: Leon Vorgitch is too obvious, but Dena Carter is even worse, using Leon's murder as a sick ploy to advance her political agenda, and using her clients as unwitting pawns (as Robert Purcell found out the hard way). Not to mention, she could've sanctioned vigilantism, had Robert been acquitted.
- Spree Killer: Leon Vorgitch himself.