Directed by Arthur W Forney
Two black boys, Damon Fox and Luther Haywood, talk as they bounce a basketball down a sidewalk. They debate the merits of a girl they know named Charlene. A black girl named Evelyn approaches them and they talk briefly before she moves on. Fox and Haywood cross a street, now talking about basketball. As they get back on the sidewalk, a black boy named Jerome steals their basketball and runs a few feet. He turns back and throws it behind them, into the street. Fox runs to get it while Haywood confronts Jerome, who runs off. Suddenly, a car screeches by and slams to a stop. Haywood hurries back into the street, to see a car speed off and Fox lying in the street.
The dead boy is identified to Logan by a white police officer. Logan tells the officer to stay by the body and goes to another white officer and Briscoe. This officer says that they found a headlight from the car. He identifies it as a domestic headlight and says it's probably from the right side of the car.
He jokes to Logan about how finding the car will be difficult. A third white officer calls over the detectives so they can meet Haywood. He says that he saw a white male driver in a blue Cadillac speeding away, but didn't get a license plate. He adds that the driver was Jewish.
"You don't think I know a Jew when I see one?"
—Lennie Briscoe and Luther Haywood
Briscoe, who is ethnically Jewish, looks askance at the kid. Logan dismisses him, and the two move out.
Fox's mother, Mary, talks with Van Buren. She says that she was taking the next day off to be at Parent-Teacher's Day. She says she told him to stay inside until he got back from the store, and blames Haywood for luring Damon outside. She asks if they know who did it, and Briscoe says no. She wonders what a white man was doing in the neighborhood anyway. Profaci comes in and says that a Reverend Ott has arrived, who claims to be with Mrs. Fox. Van Buren stands as Ott and Evelyn come in. Ott first comforts Mary Fox, who says that the cops haven't found the driver yet. Van Buren interjects that they just started looking. Ott asks how many men are on the case, and Van Buren says that Briscoe and Logan are leading it. Ott says that two are not enough.
"We're doing the best with what we have, sir."
—Reverend Ott and Anita Van Buren
Ott says that the police clearly aren't doing well since he's already found an eyewitness they didn't know about. Evelyn confirms that the car was a blue Cadillac and remembers four of the characters on the license plate. Briscoe thanks her, and Mary and Evelyn leave. Ott then confronts the police.
"Sure, right after we have a couple of donuts."
—Reverend Ott and Michael Logan
Everyone is silent until Van Buren takes a call. When she hangs up, Ott says that they will keep the community informed, then leaves. Van Buren then says that a Joshua Berger and his lawyer are in an interview room, and they need to talk to them as soon as possible.
Berger, an older white man, confesses to hitting Fox. He was running late and the FDR highway was having repair work done, and so he took a detour through Harlem. He states that he was going 30 or 35 miles per hour, not speeding, and that Fox ran right in front of his car, leaving him with no time to do anything else. Berger asks how Fox is, and when no one answers, realizes that Fox died. His lawyer, a white man, says that Berger called him immediately, and as soon as he could return the call (after court was out), he learned that Berger wanted to turn himself in. He just wanted to speak to his lawyer before doing that, claims the attorney, hence the delay. Briscoe asks why Berger left the scene, and Berger says that he was afraid that the black people in Harlem would assault him if he remained at the scene. He says that he knows leaving the scene was wrong, but he was scared. His lawyer says that they'll plea no contest to leaving the scene, but Van Buren says that they don't do pleas there. Berger asks if he's under arrest, and they tell him to remain there until McCoy arrives.
A white CSU worker named Marks shows the detectives a map of the scene with the car's skid marks bolded, and indicates that Berger slammed on the brakes far before he hit the kid, but the car's wheels locked up and began to skid. The car was going 25 miles per hour at most when it hit Fox, according to his analysis. Kincaid asks what the fudge factor is, and Marks has to admit that the numbers aren't all that certain, but he still thinks that Berger did nothing wrong — he hit the brakes once he saw Fox, and his car failed. Marks leaves, and Kincaid says that she'll talk to the lawyer about a plea. She thinks she can get a suspended license and community service.
Ott complains about Berger being arrested but not charged. When he learns Berger's name, he assumes that Berger is Jewish based on his name and sarcastically retorts that a Jewish man would never lie to the police. Briscoe says that Berger's religion is irrelevant, and Logan brings up that their forensic people reconstructed the scene and found that Berger didn't do anything wrong. Ott asks what religious background Marks was, and Briscoe gets angry.
Ott says that the cops aren't taking this seriously, and wonders if they've concluded that Fox, living in Harlem, would have soon died anyway.
Van Buren gets angry.
—Anita Van Buren
As the detectives eat pizza, Briscoe complains about some black religious leaders (specifically Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan) blaming the Jews for the problems in their communities. He says that the Jews marched with Martin Luther King Junior in the sixties. Logan recalls when then-Mayor John Lindsay tried to get low-cost housing for black people in Forest Hills, a largely Jewish community, and the community rioted.
Profaci enters and says that Ott is in an interrogation room with another witness. He asks for some pizza. Logan gives him the slice he already bit into, and Profaci takes it with gusto.
The eyewitness, a black man named Bobby Griffin, says that he saw Fox and Haywood outside his window. He says that Fox entered the street relatively slowly, as opposed to dashing into it. He adds that no cars were coming, until Berger showed up, and insists that Berger was speeding.
Logan doesn't believe him, and says as much to his face. Griffen says that a jury should consider that, not him, and insists that he's just telling the cops what he saw. In the vestibule, Ott says that this is enough for an indictment, but Van Buren says she doesn't believe him. Ott says that she's believing two white detectives over Griffen, but Van Buren says that she's actually believing her forensics lab. Ott says that she's ignoring eyewitness testimony. Van Buren demands to know what he's thinking.
"If it does produce justice, yes, I do."
—Anita van Buren and Reverend Ott
Van Buren tells Schiff and Stone what's going on. She thinks Ott coached Griffen. Schiff says that Ott's been ringing his phone off the hook. Van Buren says that another expert could disagree with Marks, and she doesn't want to tell Schiff what to do. Schiff dismisses her, then tells Stone to convene a Grand Jury.
Kincaid points out that the defense could call Marks at trial. Schiff doesn't care; he just doesn't want to look like he's ignoring the case. He knows the case will go nowhere but wants to look like they're pursuing it to their fullest possible power.
In the Grand Jury room, Berger says that he wasn't speeding. Stone brings up Griffen's story and says that Griffen thought he was going at fifty miles an hour. Berger says he knows better than to drive that fast on a city street. Stone asks why Berger left the scene, and Berger says that he can't even imagine Mary Fox's pain. Stone insists that he answer the question, and he says that he didn't want to be assaulted. He was alone in Harlem and was frightened.
Later, Stone tells Schiff that there was no indictment. Schiff is unhappy.
Schiff says that the new white mayor, Rudy Guliani, wants it clear that the city does not discriminate against anyone when it comes to the law, so if the prosecutors did anything improper he'll come down on them. Stone says that Berger will be punished for leaving the scene, but Schiff doubts this is enough to look sufficient for political purposes. Kincaid bursts in and turns on the television, which shows a news report of people in Harlem rioting. Black men are kicking over trash cans and smashing cars, and the newscaster says that Ott publicly blamed Schiff's office for not bringing charges.
A group of men stops a car, and the cameraman zooms in to see a white man and woman inside, both terrified. The man is dragged out of the car and beaten on the snowy pavement by a man with his back to the camera.
A line of police officers, their faces obscured by riot gear, stand in front of a deeper line of black men and women. Logan and Briscoe push their way through. A white officer, Barnes, shows the detectives the body of the man who was beaten on TV. His name was John de Santis, and he died of his wounds — the ambulance couldn't get through the crowd and the riots. Logan remarks that there won't be any witnesses, and Barnes says that de Santis's wife was just taken away in an ambulance. Barnes finishes by saying that a man named Graves rescued de Santis's wife from the car. Barnes leaves, and Briscoe notes that, despite Ott's anti-semitic rhetoric, de Santis is Italian and probably not Jewish. The cops then approach Jimmy Graves, a black man. Graves says that the crowd was screaming 'Get the Jew!' Briscoe remarks that they heard that Graves saved de Santis's wife, and he shrugs. Logan asks if Graves recognizes anyone, and Graves gets annoyed.
"That's not what I meant."
—Jimmy Graves and Michael Logan
Graves accuses Logan of thinking that he (Graves) was involved.
He says he was getting some music for his daughter. He says he can recognize the injured woman, but not the guy who beat up de Santis.
In the hospital, Mrs. de Santis looks stunned. She numbly recounts her last moments with her husband. She recounts the attack.
— Mrs. de Santis
She describes her husband's killer as a young man, maybe 20, and also tall. The detectives ask her to look at some pictures.
The TV cameraman, a white man named Jerry Luppin, remarks that the video quality from his camera's feed is better than anything he's seen since the Vietnam War.
Luppin shows the detectives the beating, but Briscoe points out that the killer's back is to the camera. Logan notes another man in the picture, behind de Santis (from the camera's perspective) and facing the camera and the killer. The man's face is blurred, so the cops can't identify him either.
Luppin zooms in on the hat of the witness, which Logan thinks looks like a gas station hat and has the letters 'Syd' on it.
Later, Briscoe says that no one at any gas station they checked knows anything. Logan says they aren't getting cooperation, so Van Buren offers to put a couple of black police detectives on the case instead. Briscoe says a computer team is looking into the 'Syd' logo, so Van Buren looks at a printout of the picture of the hat.
"Well, do you want to give us a hint?"
"Black cops would have known. Syd's Sneaker World."
—Anita Van Buren and Michael Logan
She gives them the address, and a current sale.
At Syd's, the cops ask a black stockboy if he recognizes the man in the photograph. He shakes his head, but Logan sees the guy with the hat at the register. The man with the hat runs, and Logan and Briscoe chase after him. The man runs into a storeroom, and after a chase through shelves of boxes of shoes, Logan tackles him into a huge piles of shoeboxes.
Logan talks to Van Buren about the man's identity. The man is identified as a nineteen year-old boy named Daryl Johnson, with two prior felonies. Van Buren tells Briscoe to handle the interrogation. Briscoe goes in, brings Daryl a soda, and unlocks his handcuffs. Briscoe then turns on a TV, which is playing the news broadcast of the riot.
Briscoe says that Johnson can have a lawyer. Johnson says he already knows to stay silent. Briscoe says that Johnson can do that, but Johnson says that, once his lawyer is involved, he (Johnson) can't talk to Briscoe anymore, and he'll be arrested and convicted even though he didn't do anything. Briscoe says that they know he was there, and pauses the video on a picture of Johnson. Johnson says that it isn't him. Briscoe cites a case where someone tried that in LA (denying that a video of them was actually them), and Johnson says that it worked there. Briscoe sighs and says that he doesn't really care about the riot or vandalism. Johnson wonders why he's there.
Briscoe threatens to charge Johnson with murder unless Johnson identifies the killer. He knows Johnson didn't do it, but says the jury won't care and will want to convict somebody for the death of de Santis. Johnson identifies the killer as Isaac Roberts, and says that Roberts is living with his grandmother, Corina, in Harlem.
The cops storm Corina's home, but Isaac isn't there. Corina, who is home, is an older black woman. She doesn't want to help, and says that Isaac is a good person and wouldn't kill anyone. The cops say that Corina will need to come to the precinct. Corina goes to get her coat, and a neighbor outside complains.
In Stone's office, Corina and her lawyer, a black woman named Shambala Green, talk. Green says that the arrest was overly dramatic. Kincaid says that Corina might have committed a felony, but Green makes fun of this.
Stone says that he's not in a mood for jokes.
Stone says that Isaac killed someone, and Corina could be charged with multiple felonies if she's hiding him. Kincaid urges her to tell them where he is. Corina disagrees.
Stone asks where Isaac is again, but Green says that Roberts already denied knowledge. Stone and Kincaid have a black police officer come in, and the officer arrests Roberts. Green complains that Berger got off with a light sentence and Roberts will do more time than he did. Stone says that Berger didn't commit a felony, so Green says that she's fine with the law but doesn't like seeing it applied unequally. Stone asks if Green knows where Isaac is, but she won't say.
Schiff sighs, and says that everyone lived in harmony in New York City together thirty years ago. Stone blames Ott for fomenting racial hatred, comparing him unfavorably to Adam Clayton Powell.
"To promote anti-semitism?"
—Adam Schiff and Ben Stone
Schiff points out that there's still a long way to go for racial equality, and Ott makes good points when he says that the police and law are prejudiced against black people. Stone says this doesn't justify Isaac's actions. Schiff wants Corina Roberts released for political reasons. Stone doesn't want to, saying that releasing her condones her, Isaac, and the entire mob.
Stone begs Schiff to let them keep Corina for a week in case she confesses what she knows, but Schiff wants her released, because then Isaac might contact her. He wants a wiretap on the Roberts home.
The detectives tell Van Buren that Corina hasn't called anyone suspicious. Then Profaci comes in, saying that Daryl Johnson used his one phone call to dial a church in Harlem. The detectives figure that it's Ott's church, and that Isaac might be hiding there. Van Buren warns that she doesn't want any screw ups in the arrest.
The detectives and Kincaid enter the church. A black assistant of Ott's stops them, saying it's too late for morning prayers. Kincaid shows them the warrant, and the cops quickly find Isaac and Ott in a side room. Ott says that they can't arrest Roberts due to the principle of sanctuary. This is a medieval law saying that criminals cannot be arrested in a church.
Ott then chastises Logan for swearing in church. Briscoe asks Kincaid what to do, and she says to keep the church under surveillance until they can sort it out.
Stone is incredulous.
Green says that she'll argue it as far as she can, up to the Supreme Court if need be.
Green says that Isaac will stay in the church until they run out of appeals or they get a favorable deal. She wants second-degree manslaughter with a minimum sentence. Stone says this isn't enough. Stone won't settle for less than murder 2, so Green says that they'll be arguing in court for a decade, then leaves.
Later, Stone and Kincaid are researching sanctuary laws. Kincaid says that she admires Green's creativity, but Stone says she specializes in specious motions. Kincaid says that Green is just zealous, as is required by law, and thinks that Green wanted Stone to work harder to prosecute Berger. Stone says that Berger and Roberts can't be compared, and Kincaid agrees, but worries about the motion succeeding. Stone asks if Kincaid would drag someone out of a car and beat him to death.
Stone is stunned into silence.
Green argues before Judge Phillip Franks, an older white man, that sanctuary has been a legal concept since ancient times. She says that it's important to have a place of religious refuge from civil authorities, and that the church is important in the black community. Stone asks for a case from after the medieval age, so Green cites a 1991 case in which a church in Harlem provided refuge to soldiers who refused to be deployed to the Gulf War. Stone says that the soldiers were there pending the determination of their status as conscientious objectors. He says the comparison is not relevant.
Green says this is about civil disobedience. She argues that Roberts violently opposed the law's mistreatment of black people. Franks thinks this is idiotic.
Green says she has grounds for appeal, but Franks says he doesn't care, since he'll be retired by then.
Logan and Briscoe wait in the church's vestibule. Logan wonders what Ott and Roberts are doing, and Briscoe guesses that it's some kind of confession. The two come out. Ott complains that his church's sanctity was violated, but Briscoe dismisses this. The detectives arrest Roberts.
Schiff reads a newspaper article in which Ott threatens the city if Roberts is convicted. He's concerned that the jury will be scared. Stone doubts this will happen, but Schiff cites the case of Reginald Denny, a white man in LA who was badly beaten by four black men shortly after the Rodeny King riots. The men were essentially acquitted. He tells Stone to offer a plea to manslaughter one with a lenient sentence. Stone says this isn't just, but Schiff doesn't care. Stone says that Green won't settle for less than manslaughter two, so Schiff recommends they try to use Corina to influence her son.
Corina is not interested in talking.
She says that her son, Isaac's father Rickie, was a janitor at an office building. Someone else robbed the place and he was suspected. Their lawyer advised him to take the deal, and Rickie has been in jail for the last three years. She won't talk to Isaac about taking a deal. Then Green knocks and enters. She tells Stone that he must talk to her before talking to Corina in the future. Stone says that her advice is bad for Isaac, but she won't hear it. She gives him a notification; she's calling a Dr. Myron Jansen to testify. She's pleading diminished capacity.
Judge Rebecca Steinman hears the motion. Green says that normal, non-violent people can be pushed to violent rages by mobs. Stone says that the law requires self-control, and Green agrees for normal circumstances, but not during a riot. She argues that the riot induced a diminished mental capacity in all of its participants, and that they can't be held responsible for their acts. This includes Isaac's murder of De Santis. Steinman is doubtful, but Green says that Jansen can back her up.
"Exactly. It's called group contagion."
—Ben Stone and Shambala Green
Steinman says she'll hear the expert, but will reserve ruling on admissibility until after the defense rests.
Outside, Stone complains about people blaming other people for their crimes. He references the cases of the Menendez brothers and Lorena Bobbitt.
Stone says this is just an attempt to make the jury sympathize with Roberts, and that his sympathies are with Mrs. De Santis. Green says that this is only natural, since Stone is white and can't understand what it's like to be Isaac Roberts. Her voice cracks a little as she argues that Roberts was in a system that was biased heavily against him in every way.
Stone insists that oppressed people can't freely commit crimes on those with privilege, but Green argues that the privileged have been committing crimes against the oppressed for centuries. She says that Stone doesn't have a good commitment to civil rights. Green leaves angrily.
Johnson testifies about jumping on the car and about Roberts killing De Santis. He says that Roberts didn't talk; he just beat up the man. Green has Johnson testify that Roberts didn't say he wanted to go beat up a Jew, and that Johnson never saw Roberts beat up someone before De Santis. Johnson says that Roberts wasn't acting like himself. He continues and says that Ott's rhetoric inflamed them.
Mrs. De Santis says that the mob surrounded her car. She says that Roberts broke John's window, opened the door, dragged her husband out, and hit him until he died. She's sure that it was Roberts that hit John De Santis. Green has her admit that there was a lot of commotion, then tries to lead her into saying that Roberts looked like he was out of control. Mrs. De Santis protests.
—Mrs. De Santis
Green ends her cross-examination.
Jansen, who is black, testifies that crowds can act differently than individuals. He cites a soccer match at England, where a bunch of normally law-abiding citizens rioted over a game.
Stone asks if Roberts heard voices telling him to kill John De Santis, and Jansen says yes — he heard Ott's voice, and the voices of other people in the crowd. Stone checks if Jansen really feels that Roberts is not legally responsible for his actions, and Jansen says yes. Stone asks how Jansen would feel about a crowd of white 'good old boys' lynching a black man in the south. He asks if the same argument would apply to them. Green objects and is sustained.
Green finds Stone eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant. She calls him on his rhetoric.
"Nothing like confusing them with a bellyful of self-pity."
—Shambala Green and Ben Stone
He says they can speak off the record. Green says that Roberts killed a man, which is a crime. She insists, though, that Roberts was provoked. Stone asks if she believes this, and she says yes, she thinks that centuries of racism is in fact provocation. She says that, as a black woman, she's ashamed of the riot. Stone says he doesn't believe her, based on her defense strategy. She insists she doesn't want it to happen again, but Stone says she doesn't get it. He says that her strategy infantilizes black people, by claiming that they can't control themselves due to racism. She's surprised, thinking he would be more sympathetic out of court.
Stone tells her that he wants people to admit responsibility for their actions.
Green says nothing.
Roberts testifies that everyone went crazy after Ott's spoke. He says that everyone was screaming that 'The Jew killed Damon.' He claims not to remember attacking John De Santis. Stone asks if he regrets killing De Santis, and he says yes. Stone asks about Fox. Roberts is clearly angry about the Berger case.
He says that if a black man ran over a rich white kid, the black driver wouldn't be let off easy. In the audience, Ott nods. Stone says that Berger's free but Roberts could go to jail for life. Roberts say this isn't new, and goes on a short rant about how the Jews own everything. Stone asks if Roberts was thinking about his hatred of Jews when he killed De Santis. Roberts says he doesn't know, so Stone asks if Roberts wanted revenge. Roberts admits to this. Stone remarks that Roberts does then remember something about the attack.
Stone ends his cross-examination. Green calls Berger. Stone says that he has no relevant testimony, but Green says that he can testify as to the defendant's state of mind. Steinman allows this, but cautions Green to show the relevance of the testimony quickly.
Green asks Berger if he left the courthouse through the rear door after his Grand Jury appearance, and he says yes. He adds that the police told him that protestors out front might cause trouble if he left through the front entrance.
"I said people, Ms. Green."
—Shambala Green and Joshua Berger
She then asks if Berger's excuse for leaving the scene of the accident was that he was scared, and he says yes.
"I am not a racist."
"You're not only scared of them, you hate them. Isn't that true?"
"Look. Any middle-aged white person — Jew, Baptist, atheist, whatever — who says that he's not frightened, no, make that terrified, to find himself alone on a city street, being followed by two or three black teenagers, is a liar."
—Shambala Green and Joshua Berger
Green keeps hammering this, saying that Berger's not afraid of individual black people, but he doesn't like them in groups. Berger exclaims that Jewish teenagers aren't in the papers for carrying guns and selling drugs, but black teenagers are. Green cites Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel and Meyer Lansky, two Jewish mobsters, and wonders if they were totally innocent until they were twenty. Berger looks confused. Green says that Berger is a racist. Stone objects and is sustained, but Green keeps going. She asks if Berger can blame Roberts for being angry. Steinman orders the lawyers into her chambers.
Steinman says that she'll hit Green with numerous sanctions once the case ends. She protests, but Stone says she was just trying to inflame the jury. Steinman says they'll be lucky if the jury doesn't convict Berger. Stone wants the jury instructed to disregard Berger's testimony. Steinman goes further, saying she'll instruct them to disregard the mob-mentality defense in its entirety. Green points out that she has no defense, so Steinman tells her to tell it to the jury.
Eight days later, Stone tells Schiff that the deliberations should be over by this point.
Kincaid says that Roberts confessed and Green's defense was thrown out, but Schiff doubts they'll listen. A buzzer buzzes, and Kincaid picks it up. She's surprised by what she hears. The lawyers go to court, where the jury, which has both white and black members, has returned deadlocked. Spectators in the audience cheer and clap, and Green and Roberts shake hands. Stone is visibly horrified. Corina and Ott are thrilled; Mrs. De Santis closes her eyes resignedly.
Later, Stone tells Schiff that three jurors wanted murder two, and four more would take manslaughter one. Schiff says that five, then, wanted an acquittal. Stone says that, on retrial, they can exclude Jansen and prevent the defense from being heard. Schiff says there will be no retrial. Stone is stunned. After a pause, he says that Roberts killed an innocent man and shouldn't walk. Schiff says that they won't be able to get a jury that will convict. He criticizes Stone for his idealism.
Stone says that no one is willing to stand up and defend the law, and insist that those who break it be punished. Schiff remarks that Stone evidently wants to be the one defending it, and Stone says that he wants to at least try.
"Even if it lights a fuse that could blow up the city."
—Ben Stone and Adam Schiff
Schiff says that he's willing to let Roberts go so the city can heal. Stone retorts that he's no longer certain he'll be staying at his job.
Stone leaves Schiff's office.