Saturday, September 25, 2010
Law & Order UK “Defence” Recap & Review
Law & Order UK “Defence” was based on an episode from the original U.S. Law & Order series, titled “Pro Se”, written by Rene Balcer and I.C. Rapoport. “Pro Se” was another one of my favorite Law & Order episodes and fans will recall the excellent performance by Denis O’Hare. “Defence” was a nice remake, and while the story mirrored the original very closely, it was still entertaining to watch and observe how the UK legal system would address this kind of case. The episode makes the point that those with mental illnesses that can be treated by medication should not be excused for their behaviors when they make a conscious choice to go off their medication.
I also discovered that I really don’t watch Law & Order UK because of the cases or the stories – I already am very familiar with them. I watch the show because I really like the cast. Bradley Walsh and Jamie Bamber making a great pairing, and Ben Daniels has such presence on the screen. The writing is also first rate and everything and everyone comes off as very natural. I am so glad that Law & Order UK will be coming to BBC America in October 2010 because I believe that Law & Order fans in the U.S. will love it!
Here is the recap:
A worker returns to his designer clothes shop to find the other employees brutally murdered. Detectives Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh) and Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber) are called to the horrific scene. There was evidence the employees were killed with a sword. Later, the detectives talk with the employee who was not at the store when the murders occurred. There may have been a problem with shoplifters.
Later at police headquarters, the detectives and Natalie Chandler (Harriet Walter) speak with the two suspected shoplifters who admit there were in the shop but say they killed no one. The suspects both say there was a “nutter” crack head in the alley.
Back in at their desks, the detectives mull over the sketches of the suspect obtained from the shoplifters and also find that the weapon used by the killer was a something like a U.S. Army bayonet from 1950. They also find that Joanne Ellis (Catherine Steadman), one of the victims who had not been killed, has regained consciousness. The detectives question her in her hospital bed and she describes the attack. They show her the sketch of the suspect and she says that is him.
The detectives try to identify the homeless man and work the area. They find someone who recognizes the man from the day before, who seemed to be eyeing one of the customers, whose name was Linda Bowers, one of the victims. They realize the killing was not random.
The detectives question an officer who had contact with the suspect and “relocated” him by picking him up and dumping him across the river. But he had no ID on him. The detectives try to track down the weapon and find that one store owner had a bayonet stolen by a “homeless wanker” who first tried to purchase the bayonet using vouchers from a homeless shelter.
Brooks and Devlin head to the shelter, and the priest there identifies the man as John – and they also call him “Zero.” John has not been at the shelter since Thursday, and the priest says John does not use drugs and is never violent, just sometimes confused. He also seemed educated. At an area medical center, the man is known as “John Smith” and is on medication for schizophrenia, but has not come in for his meds for a while. He uses hi Westminster Library card as his ID to pick up his meds.
The detectives head to Soho Square Library, with reinforcements, and corner John (Rupert Graves) who whips out his bayonet. Devlin knocks Smith down from behind and they arrest him.
In the hospital, a doctor examines John and he seems “off”. The detectives and Chandler confer with James Steel and Chandler says they will set up a video ID with the witnesses. John is identified as the killer. His full name is John Patrick Smith with a previous arrest for stalking a woman but CPS amended the charge to simple harassment.
At George Castle’s (Bill Paterson) office, Steel and Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman) discuss the next steps. Castle is upset they already had this guy and let him go. Steel gets a message that Smith’s solicitor is withdrawing from the case. Later, Steel and Phillips find that Smith has law degrees and is representing himself.
At Crown v Smith pre-trial review, Steel brings up Smith’s mental competence. But Smith is now dressed in a suit and tie and seems very lucid. He admits he is a schizophrenic but is now taking his meds. He cites his degrees and seems completely normal. Steel is worried that if Smith does not take his meds things could fall apart. But the judge agrees with Smith. Smith then asks the judge to allow him to conduct his case from counsel's row. Despite Steel’s objections, the judge allows it.
Later, they review the events with George Castle, who is looking over all the paperwork Smith has submitted in his defense. Castle wonders if they should prosecute him or offer him a job. Smith gave his sister as his residential address and Steel wants to meet her.
At the home of Joanne Ellis, Phillips speaks with her to recount the attack. Phillips tries to get information about what John said during the attack, saying it was something like “life forever.” Joanne’s father Frank ( Gary Powell) gets on Phillips' case as to why Smith was let go before. He tells her they, and the other families, have lawyers and are planning civil action against the police and CPS.
Steel, meanwhile, is talking to John’s sister Patricia Smith (Amanda Root), who says John probably didn’t say “life forever” he probably said the “wife of Heber” from the Old Testament. She speaks of an old girlfriend who John called the wife of Heber and he tried to strangle her. She said the last time John was arrested she tried to tell them he needed meds and support. She said the mentally ill have rights and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
Back in Castle’s office, Castle says he has been summoned for a strategy discussion, and Steel says that Smith’s application to dismiss has been denied and he is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. Castle tells him to accept the plea and establish the facts, and then put Smith back where he belongs. Phillips reminds Castle that once Smith is back on his meds, he could get back out on the street quickly. Steel says there has to be a trial and Steel wants to talk to Smith about taking a manslaughter plea.
In the legal visits room, Steel speaks with Smith about a plea. Smith says he would have enjoyed a trial and wanted to flex his legal muscles. Steel wonders why Smith is not bothered by the deaths, and Smith says he won’t take the blame for something he really did not do and has no memory of. Steel tells him they will accept a plea of manslaughter due to diminished capacity, but Smith says they will never get him sent to prison. They both argue their points, but John does not want to end up in a mental institution, and he is fine when he is medicated. Steel becomes disgusted with Smith and leaves the room.
Later, Steel tells Phillips that Smith is treating this like a game. As long as John takes his pills his mind works fine, and thinks he knows what he was doing when he stopped taking his pills.
Dr. Roddy Armitage (George Anton) speaks with Smith about his illness and Smith complains about the side effects from being on the drugs. Later, Armitage reviews the recording of the session with Steel and Phillips, and Steel is convinced Smith enjoyed being off the meds. The doctor says Smith can show no remorse because Smith thinks “Crazy John” is a totally separate entity. Steel thinks Smith is playing the system.
Steel later confers with Castle on what the doctor has said and Castle worries about the fallout from the case if Smith is successful. Steel says a whole series of decisions led to those deaths, and Smith should face the consequences.
At trial, Joanne testifies about the attack and describes her injuries. She was a dancer with the Royal ballet and can no longer continue this career. Under cross examination from Smith, brings out the fact that he does not look now like he looked like then. He also brings out the fact she has also filed a civil case, and he says it’s the justice system that did not protect her, and she agrees with him.
Dr. Armitage testifies about Smith’s stopping of his medication. He adds that Smith believed that he murdered because he thought one of the woman was plotting to kill him and the others were accomplices. Armitage also says Smith was aware stopping his meds would lead to violence. Smith questions Armitage on the side effects of the medications and if Smith was on these powerful meds, could he have accurately predicted a future psychotic break, and Armitage says no. Steel jumps up and asks Armitage if Smith can predict it in the future, and Armitage also says no. The judge chastises Steel for the asking the question at an inappropriate time. Smith suddenly looks concerned.
Castle, Steel and Phillips discuss the case so far, and note that Smith's sister Patricia is not on Smith’s witness list. Steel later talks to her and asks her to help break the pattern .
Back at trial with Patricia on the stand, she speaks about problems with John not taking his meds over the past 15 years and the resulting problems. Smith sits there listening, staring. She describes one time when he went off his meds and that no one wanted to hire him because he was sick and he rented a flat so he could jump off the balcony. She says someone has to help him, and she breaks down on the stand.
Smith is on the stand and Steel is questioning him. Smith, when off his meds, sometimes remembers things. Smith seems to be a little confused when he answers and seems to be affected by Steel’s pressuring questions. He says he thought they wanted to kill him. He begins to cry and he says he thought they all wanted him dead and had to stop them.
Later, the judge comments that Smith has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and asks if Smith wants to say anything in mitigation. Smith has a prepared statement, and he begins to read it, but he drops the paper and says they are full of needles. He starts to rant nonsensically. He says they took his armor and begins to take off his jacket. The judge orders him to sit down, and Smith does so, continuing to rant “sitting down, sitting down.”
Back in Steel’s office, Phillips stops in and asks if he wants to go for drink but he says he is working late. He tells her they put Smith on suicide watch. Smith also sent Steel a copy of his closing speech, and it was well structured and persuasive. He admits he had potential as a lawyer. As she walks out the door, he calls out to her and asks if she is buying. She comes back in and smiles at her, and he smiles back, and we fade to black.
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