Law & Order “Innocence” was an excellent episode that gave us a look into EADA Michael Cutter’s (Linus Roache) past, and some of it wasn’t pretty. It seems that Mike covered up the fact that he didn’t get his BA degree, not only lying to the New York Bar, but to the DA’s office as well. We also meet Cutter’s law profession Emily Ryan, played with just the right amount of toughness by Amy Madigan. It seems that Ryan was the person who taught Mike how to be the cold and calculating attorney that we know now. What he learns comes back to both help him AND haunt him in this case, as Ryan exposes Cutter’s fraud about his degree as a way to get back at him and win her appeal which is being lead by the Innocence Coalition. Lucky for Cutter, he learned how to play the game right back, deciding that he wasn’t going to bow to Ryan’s threats, eventually turning the tables on the defendant while at the same time acting a little crazed with anger. it was Cutter - and Linus Roache - at his best.
While everyone else seemed a backdrop to Cutter’s dilemma, we still got to see the detectives in action – their clean shaven look now screams “COPS.” Of course, this still didn’t deter a stupid criminal who noted the same thing but fell for their ruse anyway. We also find that Anita (S. Epatha Merkerson) is undergoing radiation treatments for her cancer and still has the support from her boyfriend Frank (Ernie Hudson).
But it was Cutter’s story that kept me riveted to his episode. It has always seemed that Mike has always been working to gain McCoy’s respect, and McCoy always seems to have some gnawing doubts about Cutter. With this case, and the big reveal that Cutter lied even to the DA’s office about his degree, McCoy may have some new concerns about Cutter. This may be a crossroads for Mike, who now has all of his secrets - well, at least all that we know of for now – out in the open. Maybe this will free him to be even more aggressive with his cases now that he knows he survived this latest mess. Of course, if he is worried that McCoy is just waiting for one more thing to use as an excuse to cut Cutter loose, it may make him gun shy for a while. Either way, Mike Cutter has only become a more interesting character and I can’t help wanting to know more about him. I admit when Linus Roache first came on the scene I was not sure he was the right guy for this job, but he has taken the character and turned him into someone that I find more interesting every week.
Here is the recap:
Detectives Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson) arrive at the home of Cedric Stuber (Robin Lord Taylor), the main suspect in a murder of a Alan Camden, a gay man, and Stuber attempts to flee. He’s nabbed by the detectives while trying to flee out the window banging his head. The angry crowd calls him a “gay basher” as he is led out of the apartment.
At the 2-7 under questioning, Stuber denies the killing. The detectives try to rile Stuber by implying that he may also have gay tendencies, which works, and inflames Stuber. Later, the victim’s husband Jon Sorrentino (Cheyenne Jackson) identifies Stuber as killer of his partner Alan Camden.
Later, Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) is waiting with Frank (Ernie Hudson) at the hospital for a cancer treatment. Frank is being very attentive to her, and Van Buren also tried to encourage a young woman who is also waiting for her first radiation treatment.
In court and on the stand, Sorrentino testifies to seeing Stuber kill Camden, but the defense attorney tries to discredit his testimony, bringing out the fact that Camden had drugs in his system and getting Sorrentino to admit he had a few hits of pot that night.
Stuber’s mother testifies Cedric was home with that night and implies he was a good kid. When she tells EADA Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) that Cedric was watching "project designer”, a fashion design show, Cutter hammers that the show features a lot of gay people and maybe Cedric enjoys watching gay people. This line of questioning gets Cedric’s mother riled up, saying that her boy is not gay and that is disgusting, clearly showing her prejudice. Later, Cedric is found guilty.
Back in his office, Cutter tells ADA Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) of all the people who have contacted him for interviews and appearances as a result of the trial, and DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) enters and cautions him on his celebrating. He tells Cutter that the Hudson University Innocence Coalition is filing an appeal, lead by Innocence Coalition head Emily Ryan, none other than Cutter’s former law professor and mentor. McCoy says, “Guess she’s not done schooling you.”
Later, at the Innocence Coalition, Cutter and Rubirosa talk to Ryan (Amy Madigan) and her assistant Lisa (Anna Chlumsky) and find that a “concerned citizen” by the name of Sylvia Corgan came forward with more information. Ryan won’t give Cutter specifics, just has Lisa get them Corgan’s address. Ryan tell Cutter not to take this as a personal attack, they are both interested in justice.
At the home of Sylvia Corgan, she tells Cutter and Rubirosa that she is a real estate agent and saw Jon Sorrentino check out a property with another man and they were kissing, and it was only two weeks after the murder.
Cutter and Rubirosa speak with this other man – Ted Wilson - who tells them he is a business partner with John and says he was only consoling John, and that two gay men can be affectionate, “just like you two.” He admits that now they are a couple but wanted to keep it quiet.
Back at the 2-7, Cutter and Rubirosa discuss the timing of all this with Lupo and Bernard. They also find that someone took a photo of Cedric the day he was arrested and posted it on a gay rights blog, and they decide to see if Sorrentino saw that blog picture before he was arrested which could have tainted the ID. They also want to find if he was involved with Wilson before the murder. Lupo says according to his phone records, there were a few calls to Wilson plus a series of calls to Holt, Levy & Trachtenberg – divorce lawyers.
When Lupo and Bernard question Sorretino at his office, he admits he wanted out of the marriage but did not kill his husband. Later, back in Cutter’s office, the detectives, Rubirosa, McCoy and Cutter discuss their dilemma. They find someone at Sorrentino’s office – at least someone at that IP address – visited the gay rights blog with Stuber’s picture, and McCoy is concerned that Emily Ryan will use that for the appeal.
In Supreme Court at the motion hearing, Ryan makes her argument to Judge Cormac Braden (Zach Grenier) and then says she has another witness. Rodrigo Diaz gets on the stand, and says he was Sorrentino’s and Alan’s drug dealer, and that Sorrentino once told him that he wanted out of his marriage and wanted his partner dead. Under cross from Cutter, he says he tried to get this information to the police before but got frustrated when he was put on hold. He said Lisa Kline form the Innocence Coalition found him and convinced him to testify. He also has to admit he doesn’t know if Sorrentino ever got a hit man.
Later, the judge rules that because the alternate theory of the murder was not presented, and that Cutter may have influenced the line up, he sets aside the verdict and orders a new trial. Rubirosa tells Cutter she doesn’t know whether to be outraged or humiliated, or both. Ryan tells him it was nothing personal, and let’s see if she really did learn something from her. As Ryan walks off, Rubirosa says, “That WAS personal.”
Afterwards, in McCoy’s office with Cutter, Rubirosa and Van Buren, they commiserate. Van Buren says she will get her guys back on the case. McCoy worries that Ryan may be right, and when Cutter seems unsure, McCoy tells him to forget she was his mentor and to forget she is a defense lawyer who just won a retrial for a killer.
When Bernard and Lupo break the news to Sorrentino, he admits Diaz used to be his drug dealer but that Diaz is lying about the hit man. He admits Alan had a bad meth habit and that if Diaz kept dealing to him he would go to the police. They asks for Sorrentino’s help in getting information from Diaz.
Elsewhere, at restaurant, Diaz comes in to meet with Lupo who seems undercover, with Bernard nearby. Diaz says Lupo looks straight. They talk about using Diaz’s services, and when they make a deal, Bernard arrests him. Outside, they ask him about what he said on the witness stand, and Lupo sees a card from a tequila bar with Lisa’s contact information on it, and Diaz clams up.
At Tequila Chito’s, they question someone who works there and says Diaz had been there with a woman who looks like Lisa and that the woman got into a fight with Diaz. She came up to the bar with her credit card and asked for $100 cash back and she gave Diaz the money and got a car service for Diaz.
Back at Cutter’s office, Bernard tells Cutter and Rubirosa that the car service took Diaz to a drug house, and Cutter comments that Lisa greased the wheels with Diaz with drug money. Lupo also says they can throw in Sorrentino's threat to call the cops puts Diaz credibility at zero.
At the Innocence Coalition, Cutter and Rubirosa speak with Lisa and says she only gave him care fare. Cutter wonders that now she knows all the facts if she has doubts, she says they are grasping at straws rather than admit they are wrong. Cutter says he thinks the grasping has just begun.
Outside at a snack stand, McCoy asks Cutter what is going on that Cutter subpoenaed the records of one of Ryan’s students. Cutter tells him that student paid off a witness who blew up their case. But when McCoy said the subpoena covered every student that attended Ryan’s class in the past 10 years, Cutter argues they are entitled to know if there is a pattern. McCoy thinks he has declared war on the Hudson Innocence Coalition, and Cutter asks him why protect people that undermine their work? McCoy says he is not arrogant enough to think they never make mistakes. Cutter says his doubts disappeared when they enticed a witness to come forward with cash and tequila. He tells McCoy it is easy to wax philosophical about Ryan but the egg is on his face, and don’t ask him to withdraw the subpoena.
Later, over Chinese food, Cutter and Rubirosa are discussing the case when Ryan enters, saying McCoy told her they are standing by the subpoena, and she is calling it a crusade. She says he has more hoops for him to jump through. She gets in his face and asks didn’t she teach him about blowback, saying sometimes you open up a door you think is safe and an inferno comes roaring out. She tells him to just remember this was his call. Cutter looks a little uncomfortable but when Rubirosa asks if she just threatened him, he says it was just standard defense lawyer shtick and not to worry about it.
With the judge, Cutter and Ryan argue the subpoena. Cutter argues that he is trying to determine if Ryan’s’ students were incentivized to manufacture evidence. The judge agrees with Cutter and wants to know what else is going on. He allows Cutter to have the records but not the students’ emails.
Back in his office, they go over a list of students where students got higher grades that got exonerations. McCoy argues this does not mean all of them cooked the books. Cutter argues that the pressure and her reward system fosters overzealousness. He says Ryan finds the way in, and cites an example where she knew he had nowhere to go for the holidays and she invited him to the house with her husband for holiday dinners and he would have run into bullets for her. Cutter wants a hearing to find out how far Ryan is pushing her students.
At the motion hearing, Lisa is on the stand talking about Diaz. Cutter brings out the circumstances surrounding her getting his testimony. She admits she did not mention all this stuff to Ryan, and that afterwards Ryan gave her a letter of recommendation for a federal clerkship. Ryan cross examines, Lisa says he has gotten other letters from other people and is only motivated to expose the truth.
Cutter calls Ryan to the stand, and she objects, and the judge tells her to take the stand. Ryan gets a little defensive about her work. She admits a lot of her students get overzealous but they do not suborn perjury. The judge tells her to step down, and says he is troubled by the apparent bribe to Diaz. He now finds Diaz’s testimony suspect. And he reinstates the jury’s conviction. Ryan moves to dismiss for another reason, and Cutter is quick to object. But she tells the judge that the lead prosecutors license to practice law was obtained fraudulently saying Cutter is not an attorney at all.
In McCoy’s office, Cutter admits he went to three colleges in four years and a few credits slipped through the cracks and he thought he would get is sorted out before law school. He admits he does not have his BA. He says he did the work but no one actually handed him a diploma. The oversight was perpetuated when he applied to the bar, implying he had his undergraduate degree, and also on his resume to the DA’s office. Ryan was his faculty advisor and he mentioned it to her and she told him not to worry about it, but McCoy says it puts all his convictions in question. Cutter says the judge wants to put him under oath in his chambers tomorrow and McCoy says he will be joining him.
In the judge chambers, Cutter recounts his story, also saying he checked and found a college degree was not a requirement and he believes his license to practice law is valid. Ryan asks a few questions and says he was committing a fraud, and McCoy objects, saying this did not impinge on someone’s right to a fair trial and wonders why Ryan waited so long to bring this up. The judge says he will take this under advisement and says his is disappointed in Cutter
Later, over drinks, Rubirosa and Cutter commiserate. Cutter thinks McCoy is going to fire him.
McCoy pays a visit to Ryan at the university , saying Cutter went after the Coalition because that’s what she taught him to do. She said McCoy failed to reel Cutter in, and McCoy says she should blame him instead. He argues that Mike is a fine prosecutor and does she want to destroy him, also asking if she still believes her client is innocent or is she teaching Mike another lesson? He offers a lesser plea for Stuber but she won’t make any promises.
Later, McCoy tells Cutter about his deal and Cutter is livid, saying Stuber is a hate murderer and doesn’t deserve man 1. McCoy agrees on merit, and Cutter sees that McCoy needs to make a deal to save Cutter’s ass, but he’d rather be disbarred than be a part of that. McCoy tells him he should be worried that Stuber would get retried and walks because there is enough doubt and the judge turns him over for his misfeasance. Cutter says he won’t do it but McCoy says, “Yes you will. If you have any hope of staying on here, end this debacle with a plea bargain.”
In the prison interview area Ryan enters while Cutter is already waiting and they argue about who is fighting dirty. They both push at each other. Rubirosa also arrives, along with Stuber and his attorney. Stuber says he wants out of there, and Cutter quickly moves to leave, but Ryan stops him, and tells Stuber to hear him out. But Stuber counters that Cutter is not a lawyer, and Rubirosa reminds him that she is. Cutter offers man 1, 20 years, and Stuber laughs. But as they discuss the matter, Stuber’s racism begins to come out. Cutter ups the offer to 25 and tells Ryan to go to trial if she doesn’t like it. He tells Ryan to forget about his law license, it would free hum up to testify against Stuber's hate speech and then he’ll go to the US Attorney’s office and have Stuber charged with violating the Matthew Shepard act. Cutter gets hot under the collar and yells at Stuber, reminding him that hate murders against gays is a federal offense and asks is he ready to do two back to back life sentences and to die in jail? When the defense attorney confers with Stuber, he then says Stuber will take the 20 years originally offered, but Cutter stands by 25 years or nothing. Stuber caves and takes the offer and points to Cutter, saying that guy is nuts and does she know that. Ryan says she does.
Later, as McCoy is leaving his office, Cutter tells him he has been reprimanded by the bar overseers and it goes in the law journal tomorrow. McCoy reads from the document, “But we cannot see how the flaw in Mr. Cutter’s credentials prejudiced any of his past convictions.” Cutter comments that he dodged a bullet, and McCoy asks, “Did you?” He looks at Cutter, taking off his glasses, and walks off, leaving Cutter standing there to wonder about that comment as we fade to black.
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