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Recap / Law And Order S 6 E 21 Pro Se

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Directed by Lewis Gould

Written by Rene Balcer & IC Rapoport

Two women walk and discuss the universe. One, who has a bag of groceries, claims that the universe is going to fall into entropy; the other thinks she's being silly. She picked this up from a date the previous night, and the other woman mocks her for discussing philosophy on her date instead of having sex. The first woman says that it doesn't matter.


"Like, if the whole universe is doomed to spin out of control, what is the point of anything?"

She enters the clothing store where she works, announcing that it's lunchtime. She sees four bloody bodies spread throughout the store, and stares in shock.

An officer tells Briscoe and Curtis that three people were already dead and the fourth is likely to die from his head injury. One of the dead people was the cashier, another, Linda Bowers, was a customer, and the third was Irving Marks, the owner. The sales clerk who had brought back groceries was sent to the hospital after collapsing into hysterics. The till wasn't robbed, and there were no witnesses. Briscoe and Curtis begin exploring the shop.

"Vintage clothing. Wonder if anybody actually makes a living selling this stuff."
"Apparently not."
—Lennie Briscoe and Reynaldo Curtis

Briscoe runs into an officer that he knows, a guy named Mickey Leahy. He says that the victims were killed with a sword of some kind. The survivor was the last to be hit; she was another customer who was just leaving the fitting room. Leahy leaves, and Curtis wonders what the motive was — it wasn't a robbery or a shakedown. Briscoe has no answer.

The clerk, in the hospital, says that she didn't see anyone suspicious, but remembers that two kids got into an argument with Marks right before lunch — Marks caught a girl shoplifting a blouse, and the girl's boyfriend became hostile. The boyfriend threatened to come back with a group of people. The clerk gives a decent description of the two, including that the girl had a varsity jacket with the initials WTS. Curtis recognizes this as a Wagner Tech School jacket.


At Wagner Tech, the principal grumbles, but turns over photos of basketball players. She identifies one of them, Jerome Early. They bring Early, who says that, since he's a black person, he's always being watched in stores by suspicious shopkeepers. Curtis says that Early has an attitude problem, and Early says that he also has a 3.5 GPA, but adds that a cop wouldn't think that a black student could have good grades. Early then says that he never threatened Marks with violence, only a lawsuit, for taking his girlfriend's shirt. He claims that the blouse was hers.

"I was gonna get mine back the American way."
—Jerome Early

The girlfriend, Liana Rogers, tells Briscoe and Van Buren that her mother got her the blouse. She points out that there's no tag or anything else on the blouse indicating that it comes from the vintage clothing shop. After the store, Rogers claims that they went back to school, with Jerome. She also says that she saw a crackhead outside the store, who was clearly high. She gives a good description of the man.

Curtis and Early are still arguing. Curtis says that Jerome was once caught with a sword cane; Early says it was a toy. Curtis then says that Early is known for having a temper on the basketball courts, but Early says that it's part of the game. Briscoe comes in and asks asks he saw anyone outside the store; Early describes the same man as Rogers. The cops go out to talk to Van Buren, who tells them to have Early and Rogers talk to separate sketch artists.

Later, Van Buren sees that the sketches match closely. Briscoe remarks that the sketch looks like a lot of homeless people. Van Buren says that they should talk to the survivor, Joanne Ellis, who might be able to make an ID. Briscoe says that the witness is all they have; there were no prints. Curtis says that the Medical Examiner determined that the weapon was a sword or bayonet.

Ellis tries to talk, but can only mumble incomprehensibly. The doctor says that the woman will likely have trouble with fine details. Nevertheless, Ellis eventually manages to say that a man hit her. They show her the sketch that Early provided, and she says that it's the man who hit her.

Curtis, during canvassing, complains that no one saw the homeless man. Briscoe says the same thing. The proprietor of the store they are in, a furniture shop, comes over and asks how soon they'll want their goods delivered.

"Well, at these prices, we oughta be able to drive it home."
—Lennie Briscoe

The proprietor recalls seeing the homeless man the day before. He kept looking into the store, seeming to watch one of her customers. The customer was Linda Bowers — the second victim.

Bowers's boss, the owner of a bakery, says that Linda was a good employee. He also recognizes the man. Bowers gave him some samples a month prior; since then he'd periodically wait outside the shop and stare at her. Bowers called the police, but it was clearly ineffective.

The officers that responded to Bowers say that Bowers call them from home, saying a man followed her home from work. She described him, and they caught him later outside the bakery. The man had no ID and wouldn't give a name. Briscoe asks what they did with him.

"We, ah, relocated him. You know, like they do with bears."

They dropped him off in the park.

One of Bowers's neighbors says that the cops should have sent the man as far away as they could. He saw him going through Bowers's garbage a week ago, after the cops had already tried to send the man away. The neighbor was going to beat up the man, but the man pulled out a bayonet (which the neighbor identifies as a new model of a Korean-War era weapon), so the neighbor fled.

Curtis tells Briscoe that the sketch has been sent out everywhere, but no one saw the man — maybe he fled. Briscoe finds this unlikely, guessing that the man has a fixed radius that he stays in. He says they know that he must have gotten the sword recently.

"...the bayonet. He didn't have it when Nit and Wit took him for a ride in the park."
—Lennie Briscoe

At a local outdoor vendor, Curtis observes a knife. The shopkeeper asks to help them, and Briscoe asks for a Korean-War type bayonet, preferably new. The shopkeeper says that someone stole it off of his table. He recognizes the sketch. The man tried to buy it with soup kitchen vouchers from St. Ive's before stealing it.

Father DiTorro recognizes the sketch as being of a man named James. He's a regular at the soup kitchen, and wears Amy clothes but isn't a veteran. DiTorro says that the murder surprises him; James seems lucid at times, and is obviously educated.

"Looks like he's a couple of credits shy of a degree."
—Lennie Briscoe

Curtis wonders if the lucidity might indicate that James is getting medications from somewhere, so Curtis says they should try the local clinics.

A clinician complains about James.

"He always tells me, 'I shall return.' You know, like MacArthur. Because I'm Filipino."

James hasn't been in for a few months. He's on anti-schizophrenic medication, and when he doesn't take his pills, he's completely dissociated from reality. The clinician says that most schizophrenics aren't violent, but James is an exception. He also gives James's last name as Smith. Smith has no current address, but verifies his identity with a library card.

"So what now, we check to see if he had any overdue books?"
—Reynaldo Curtis

Briscoe guesses that Smith does most of his reading in a library. They decide to send sketches to the local libraries.

Several officers and the detectives enter a library, where a librarian says that Smith is in the Ancient History section. Curtis tells another officer to clear everyone else out. Briscoe and Curtis then begin to approach Smith, and Briscoe finds him first — he's standing up and rocking back and forth while reading a book. Smith looks at Briscoe, and quickly realizes that he's a cop. He takes off through the stacks as another officer closes in. He flees through the library, screaming and knocking racks of books down behind him to slow the pursuing officers. Curtis cuts him off, sending him back the way he came, and he eventually gets hemmed in by desks and reshelving carts. He draws his bayonet. Briscoe tries, and fails, to talk Smith down.

"I can hear you! But I'm not listening."
—James Smith

Pointing the sword at Briscoe and the uniformed police, James sidles around the desks and begins backing up. Once he's a few paces back, Curtis tackles him, and knocks his sword away. Smith is arrested.

In interrogation, Smith, handcuffed to the table, rambles on. He claims to be a vet, and thinks that the people he killed were CIA spies. Briscoe tries to talk some sense into Smith, to no avail, and Curtis holds his head in dismay. The cops give up on the interrogation, and go talk to Kincaid and Van Buren in the interrogation vestibule.

"I think I need whatever he's supposed to be taking."
—Lennie Briscoe

Kincaid asks if they even know if Smith's name, they don't. Van Buren says that they're having a technician match the wounds on the corpses to the bayonet. In the meantime, Kincaid will get Smith counsel from legal aid, and the cops will bring in Ellis to make an identification.

Bandaged and bruised, Ellis is brought into the line-up vestibule. Still slurring her speech, she identifies Smith. Smith's lawyer, Lowe, wants to get Smith back on his medication as soon as possible, and Kincaid says that they'll handle that after Smith is booked for murder. Later, a technician tells Van Buren that Smith's prints do match with a James Smith in the system. Briscoe asks what he was in for. He was arrested for stalking a woman, but pleaded out on a minor charge for a $500 fine and probation. The cops are unhappy.

"I guess if he'd killed her it would have been a thousand dollars."
"What idiot in the DA's let him off?"
"...say hello, counselor."
—Reynaldo Curtis, Lennie Briscoe, and Anita Van Buren

Kincaid was the one who pled Smith out.

Smith is arranged, still in his army fatigues. He pleads not guilty before Judge Ian Feist even finishes asking for it. Kincaid asks for remand. Lowe says that Smith's sister Patricia is prepared to post a million dollars in bail, but Smith keeps cutting him off with comments about the prior case.

"I'll take the same deal as last time! Make me an offer."
—James Smith

Feist tells Smith to be quiet and remands him. Smith has to be dragged from the courtroom, and he rants about having fulfilled his probation and his prior deal. Reporters crowd around Kincaid demanding to know about the deal. She refuses to answer.

Schiff gets mad about Kincaid not offering a comment. Kincaid says that the public would have found out and been angry anyway. Schiff says that it looks like they have something to hide. Kincaid says that she feels she did the right thing; there was little case against Smith, he never made threats, and had a job — he graded essays for a bar review prep school. Smith was never even assumed to be insane. McCoy confirms that Smith fulfilled all the terms of his bargain, and says that they do not owe any apologies.

"Good thing you're not writing the press release."
—Adam Schiff

Then McCoy gets a notice that Lowe is withdrawing from the case.

Lowe tells McCoy and Kincaid that Smith fired him and is representing himself pro se. McCoy says that Smith is patently unfit for the job.

"Oh, he has an edge. If you're gonna defend a guy like that, it doesn't hurt to be crazy."

Lowe says that Smith has a hearing with Judge Joseph Rivera to determine if he can represent himself. McCoy tells Lowe that he'll oppose the motion, so Lowe should be there in case he winds up still being Smith's lawyer. Lowe is unhappy.

"What did I ever do to you?"

McCoy says that the right to defend oneself is not absolute and cannot be asserted by someone like Smith. Rivera asks if Smith is insane. Smith, now clean-shaven and in a suit, admits that he is prone to a variety of psychotic behaviors, but he's on his medications and so is lucid and sane. McCoy says that Smith accused the police of being CIA agents, and that Smith will have a case for appeal based on incompetent counsel should he lose. Smith swears that he won't do that. Smith says that he has a law degree and was admitted to the bar with honors. McCoy says that Smith could have a psychotic break during the trial. Smith cites several cases from memory that support his position, then says that, unless McCoy can establish at that exact moment that Smith is incompetent, the court must allow him to represent himself. Rivera says that Smith is right. McCoy requests that Lowe remain as Smith's standby counsel, and this is granted. As Rivera dismisses them, Smith says that he'll have an omnibus motion to suppress on Rivera's desk by the end of the week.

Schiff comments that the motion is huge.

"Must have had every jailhouse lawyer in Rikers working on it."
—Adam Schiff

Kincaid says that he wrote it himself. Smith graduated summa cum laude from law school, got into the Law Review, and was selected for a postdoctoral associateship. Smith has no actual experience, but a great academic record.

"His first trial, and he knows just enough law to turn it into a circus."
—Jack McCoy

McCoy wonders why Smith isn't pleading insanity. Schiff posits that it might be because Smith is crazy, but Kincaid says that Smith might think he can beat them. He's attacking all their evidence. McCoy doubts that Rivera will grant the motion, but Schiff points out that Rivera already let Smith represent himself. Schiff adds that they have no motive, and when McCoy says that Smith was insane, Schiff responds by pointing out that they need to be thinking of Smith as a lawyer, not a schizophrenic. He tells them to take another run at Joanne to see if she remembers anything else.

Joanne, her arm still in a sling, one eye covered with a patch, and her words still slurred, says that she can only recall screaming. She eventually recalls someone saying, "Life forever." Her husband, Frank, asks what difference it makes, and Kincaid says that Smith's doing a good job on his case, so she needs Joanne to be as helpful as possible. Frank blames Kincaid for letting Smith go the first time. Kincaid protests that it wasn't her fault, but Frank says that they're suing her and the city.

Patricia Smith says that she talked to James a month ago, and he didn't mention Bowers. He called because of one of his delusions. Kincaid brings up the "Life forever" phrase, and Patricia says that it was probably, "The wife of Heber." This refers to Jael, a character in the Bible. Jael lured an enemy army captain into her tent with food, then killed him while he slept. James minored in theology, so he knew the Bible, and when he first went crazy, he began using the allusion a lot. Kincaid realizes that this must refer to when Bowers gave him pastries. Kincaid wonders if James attacked his girlfriend, and Patricia admits that he tried to strangle her. Patricia also blames Kincaid for letting Smith go free the first time — she called Kincaid, but Kincaid never responded. Patricia had described the prior assault, but Kincaid, assuming that Patricia was calling to beg for leniency, didn't listen to the message.

"I called to tell you that he belongs in a hospital."
—Patricia Smith

Kincaid says that it was Patricia's job to get Smith hospitalized, not hers.

Kincaid tells McCoy that Smith's girlfriend never prosecuted, so the strangling was never reported to the police. McCoy is unhappy. Kincaid adds that Smith trashed an office during his postdoc. McCoy grumbles that it would have been nice to know this sixteen months ago, during the first case. Kincaid blames herself for not returning Smith's call, but McCoy points out that Kincaid has far too many cases to examine each one in great detail — she had 47 cases, including 9 felonies and 15 plea bargains. He reassures her that it's okay that she's not a superhero, then adds that Rivera turfed Smith's omnibus motion. Then Schiff comes in with a notice — Smith just changed his plea to an insanity defense. Schiff tells them to plead him out, but Kincaid objects that an insanity plea has no minimum sentence — he could be out in a day. Schiff thinks this is unlikely. Kincaid demands that they let a jury decide. Schiff says that Smith has already been diagnosed as a schizophrenic.

"A trial is an absolute waste."
—Adam Schiff

Kincaid accuses Schiff of only caring about the budget when three people are dead. Schiff says he can count bodies too. He says that Kincaid can't use the office to make up for her mistake.

"My only mistake was following your lead, Mr. Schiff."
—Claire Kincaid

She blasts Schiff and, starting to cry, says that she cut the deal quickly and cheaply, as Schiff prefers. Schiff throws her off the case, then says that she can take some vacation. Kincaid leaves as McCoy tries to defend her, but Schiff says he doesn't want to hear it. He demands that McCoy plead Smith out.

Smith rejects McCoy's offer of a six-year minimum sentence in an asylum. He says that there are zombies and cannibals at Bellevue, and he'd go out of his mind. He says he can beat McCoy if it comes down to a legal battle, since he's an expert on legal insanity. McCoy says that the jury will be biased against Smith.

"They don't want to cure you. They want you behind bars. For life."
"Let them try!"
—Jack McCoy and James Smith

Smith says that doctors from every law firm that wouldn't hire him can testify that he's crazy. McCoy demands to know if Smith is sorry for what he did. Smith says that he is, but that it wasn't him. He says that he isn't the 'creature' that killed all the people, and that he won't serve time for the crime that his crazy persona committed. He says that Kincaid should show up, since she's good at making deals. McCoy withdraws his offer.

Kincaid tells McCoy that, if Smith couldn't appreciate that his actions were wrong, or what the consequences were, he wasn't legally liable. McCoy says that he's going to go after Smith for not taking his medication. He created the circumstances that led to the death by choosing to go off his pills. McCoy says he'll argue that Smith knew the risks of being unmedicated from the incident with his girlfriend but chose to ignore them, meaning that he's liable for depraved indifference homicide — a murder 2 charge. Kincaid wishes McCoy luck. McCoy says that he wants Kincaid to be in the second chair, whatever Schiff says. When Kincaid is reluctant, McCoy again says that it's not her fault — the system worked like it was supposed to.

"Yes. And doesn't that scare the Hell out of you?"
—Claire Kincaid

McCoy realizes that Kincaid is thinking of quitting, and Kincaid says that she's starting to think that they're useless. McCoy tells her that, to feel useful, she can help put Smith away. After that, McCoy will let her resign with no hard feelings. Kincaid agrees to help, starting by calling Olivet to interview Smith.

Smith tells Olivet about his history of medication, and insists that he was insane. He says that he was off his medication for two months. When Olivet asks if Smith thinks that he has a problem, he says yes.

"My brain doesn't look like yours, doc."
—James Smith

Olivet asks if Smith knew that his symptoms would come back if he went off his medication; Smith says yes, but he didn't think he'd hurt anyone — he'd attacked people in the past, but thought that this time would be different. When Olivet pushes him, Smith says that the side effects are terrible, and that's why he went off of them.

"I'm using every ounce of energy I have right now just to talk to you. I feel like I'm pawing through a wool blanket... I get so damn tired just holding on to reality."
—James Smith

Kincaid has Olivet testify that Smith went off his medication because of the side effects. She says that he knew that he could become violent if he didn't have his pills, and cites his history. Kincaid asks about Smith's delusions, and Olivet says that Smith believes that he's a Biblical warrior who was killed by Jael in his sleep, so he's paranoid and believes that women are the tools of his enemies. That's why he went on his killing spree.

"Dr. Olivet. Is it your opinion that he willfully and voluntarily put himself in that state of mind?"
—Claire Kincaid and Elizabeth Olivet

Smith has Olivet testify that he, Smith, made no effort at all to conceal his crime. He has Olivet conclude that he was out of his mind when he killed everyone. Olivet points out that his sanity only matters when he went off his medication, not when he killed the people. Smith then argues that he made his decision to go off his medications while under duress from the side effects that Olivet mentioned, and she has to concede that this is possible. He argues then that, while under that stress he couldn't have predicted his future actions, but Olivet says that he's smart and could have figured it out. Smith responds by saying that Kincaid is smart but couldn't predict his behavior, and so cut a deal with him the first time around.

"Why should I be held to a higher standard than she?"
—James Smith

McCoy objects, so Smith withdraws and ends his testimony. McCoy begins to ask Rivera for a special jury instruction about that comment, but Rivera tells McCoy to deal with it in his closing.

Ellis, her voice still slurred but her sling and eyepatch gone, testifies about Smith assaulting her. She identifies Smith as the person who attacked her. Smith starts his cross-examination by apologizing for his attack. He then asks how he looked when she saw him before. She says that he cleaned himself up to look good in court, but Smith objects and this is sustained. Ellis testifies that Smith was disgusting and looked like someone who should be locked up. He then asks about the first trial, wondering if Ellis is mad that Kicnaid didn't lock him up when she had the chance. McCoy objects, so Smith changes his question to ask if Ellis is suing Kincaid. He gets Ellis to testify both that she thinks Kincaid is responsible (as evidenced by Ellis's lawsuit) and that Ellis thinks that Kincaid should have had Smith sent to a hospital. McCoy objects several times. Then Ellis gets mad at Kincaid.

"Damn you. How can you sit there? You let him do this to me!"
—Joanne Ellis

Rivera ends the cross-examination.

Schiff says that it was dumb to include Kincaid in the case. McCoy defends her. The two bicker, and then Schiff tells them that they're cutting a deal. Once Schiff leaves, McCoy points out that they can't make Smith accept a plea. Kincaid says that they should talk to Patricia again — if she were really on the side of him being institutionalized, she'd be on his witness list, but she's not.

Kincaid tells Patricia that they'd like to offer Smith a minimum six year sentence in a psychiatric ward, with monitoring thereafter. McCoy says that missing an appointment would violate his parole. Smith will likely need his medication, and thus be on this parole, up through his sixties. Patricia argues that Smith is sick and needs to go to a hospital, but McCoy says that if that happens, he could be released in a few months and be able to go crazy again. Patricia says nothing.

The lawyers and Patricia see Smith in jail.

"I already turned down this deal. Without the lifetime parole. If you think I'll take it now you must be crazier than I am."
—James Smith

Patricia begs him to take the offer. Smith just says that she's not the one who'll have to go to Bellevue, so McCoy asks if he'd prefer Attica. Smith says that they're here because they're losing. McCoy asks what Smith even hopes to win — if he wins the case, he'll be homeless and mentally ill again. Patricia again implores him to take the offer, and Smith is affected, but won't concede. He's already written his summation, and says that he's waited for too many years to argue before a jury.

"I could've been a great lawyer. I'm going to prove it. I'm going to win."
—James Smith

As Smith gets up, Patricia says that she wants to testify on McCoy's side. James says that her testimony is not relevant. Kincaid says that Rivera will be the one to make that call.

In court, Patricia says that Smith has stopped taking his medication over a dozen times, and each time, he wound up hospitalized or under arrest. He would say that he stopped because he felt that he was cured, or because of the side effects, but Patricia always begged him to take his medicine so that he wouldn't hurt anyone. Smith usually responded by saying that people would need to stay out of his way. He had once rented an apartment, but when Patricia came over, confessed that he couldn't stay on his meds. No one would hire him because he was sick, even though he was on his medication, so he concluded that there was no point in taking it.

"He said he didn't belong anywhere."
—Patricia Smith

James told Patricia that he'd rented the apartment so he could jump off the balcony. Patricia argues that he needs someone to make him take his medication. Rivera halts her and asks if Smith wants to object, but Smith shakes his head. He's clearly moved by her testimony. Later, Smith accepts McCoy's earlier plea, with the minimum six year plea. Smith is required to allocate, and with Lowe's support, he reads a paper saying that he followed Bowers to a clothing store, grew impatient with waiting for her to exit, went inside, and killed everyone. His voicing is tense and staccato like, and before he finishes the statement, he tosses the paper away, saying that it's full of needles. He goes on a delusional rant, complete with Biblical quotations. Patricia, in the audience, looks resigned. Smith begins to remove his clothes, saying he needs armor. Taking pity on Smith, McCoy says that they don't need allocution, and Smith is sentenced to a sentence between 6 and 18 years.

In his office, McCoy tells Kincaid that he's reading Smith's summation, which could have hung the jury.


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