Law & Order (1990–2010): Season 11, Episode 1 - Law & Order - full transcript

A frustrated, over-stressed mother is charged with murder after starting a fire that killed her disabled son, but the case weighs heavy on Jack McCoy's conscience. Nora Lewin is introduced as DA Adam Schiff's replacement.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
In the criminal justice system

the people are represented by two
separate yet equally important groups,

the police
who investigate crime

and the district attorneys
who prosecute the offenders.

These are their stories.

Why can't I come up?

No, that's what
you said last night.

That's what you said
the night before.

Hey, Kendra, man, I blew off the comped
list at Justin's 'cause I thought

I was gonna see you and now you're
telling me that your girlfriend's there?

I need your phone!
Come on, what is that?

That's why I'm standing on...
What? Hey, what are you, nuts?

My house is burning and my son's inside!


I need to report a fire.

HARRIS: Building's
only 50% involved.

Our guys got here fast.

Not fast enough.

CO asphyxiation Never woke up.

What were
the suspicious origins?

Some kind of accelerant
was definitely used.

Is that the mother?

Yeah. Mrs. Parnell.

Mrs. Parnell.

I'm Detective Briscoe,
this is Detective Green.

We're really very sorry
about what happened.

ED: Were there any other family
members home at the time?

My daughter's at a sleepover.

It's good that she wasn't here.

Hey, hey, hey! Wait! Where
do you think you're going?

What happened?
Who are you?

I'm Richie Zweck.
I have the store.

What? The store that's
going out of business?

There's one store.
I have the store.

Sir, why don't
you park your car?

We're gonna need to take
some information from you.

This is a frigging disaster. I got
a delivery today of 200 Lladro.

Sir, you're in the
middle of the street.

I just got the Leroy Neiman series
of New York Yankee lithographs.

That's paper. It's burnt!

This woman just lost her son.

Shut your mouth
and move your car!

There's your accelerant.

Paint thinner.
Found it in the back hall.

Better stick close
to Mr. Zweck, there.

He's gonna be really
upset when he finds out

there are people in this world who'd
deliberately cost him his lithographs.

HARRIS: Note the alligator
char on the wall.

ED: Wait, what is that?

Heavy char alternating
with an untouched area.

You get that when
the fire's really running.

Are you sure somebody
used paint thinner?

We're sending three
stairs over to the lab.

I'm guessing we find
accelerant on all of them.

Any idea which floor
they were going for?

That's your department.

How long has this Jacques Ricard
been going out of business?

ED: The neighbors
say five years.

Well, maybe he decided
it was time.

BRISCOE: You had an
electric fire a year ago

that you claimed
a $275,000 loss from.

You had a flood the year before to
the tune of four hundred grand.

No locusts?

Cute. You think I did it?

Destroy your own merchandise
to collect on the insurance?

No, you'd have to be pretty
desperate to do that.

Yeah. You'd have to have, like,
the state sales tax authority

padlock your front door
for non-payment.

That got straightened out.

Because you came into enough
money to pay off the arrears.

100%. And you know how
I came into the money?

My partner went
into hock to the shys.

And don't ask me for any names,
'cause I ain't moving to Montana

in the Witness
Protection Program.

Who's your partner?

Jack Anta.

Jacques Ricard.

Jack and Richard.

(SIGHING) Why not?

He had a bypass. He had
to move to Florida.

I keep the name out of regard.

When did you get out?

What do you mean,
"When did I get out"?

You didn't get those tattoos at a kid's
birthday party. When did you get out?

A year ago.

What were you in for?

Possession with intent.

Your boss ever ask you to do something
that might get you sent back?


You know we're gonna
be looking pretty hard

for somebody who starts
a fire that a kid dies in.

I don't know anything
about that, man.

You know somebody who does?

That old woman sits in front
of the building all day.

She saw anybody around here
last night, it wasn't me.

I gotta get back.

I don't like telling
tales but, you know,

you got all kinds of
characters on this block.

All kinds of sex business, drugs,
people coming and going all hours.

BRISCOE: You see anybody around last night
who might know something about the fire?

I got my theories.

Oh, yeah?

Yeah, like this
one with the store.

You saw somebody from
the store around here?

Last night was my program, so I
was watching the television.

But this is what these people do. They
wait for some unsuspecting person

to come in from out of town,
so they could cheat 'em.

They're not nice.

And if they can't make a dollar any
other way, they burn the place down.

All this poor woman's been
through until now, and now this.

Well, what has she been
through up until now?

Oh, the handicapped son,
the husband, all of it.

What is it about the husband?

Well, I don't like to tell tales,
but there was a lot of problems.

When's the last time
you saw the husband?


Come on, Katie, let's
go get some ice cream.

Let me know
if you need anything.

What would I do if I didn't
have her as a friend?

Mrs. Parnell, what can you
tell us about your ex-husband?

What do you want to know?

Well, when was the
last time you saw him?

I don't know.

A few weeks ago, maybe.

What about last night?

Why do you ask that?

We were told the two of you
used to quarrel quite a bit.

That's true.

That's probably
why we got divorced.

He wouldn't
start a fire, though.

That fire probably started
by something electrical.

That building had fuses
blowing all the time.

What can you tell us
about your son?

What do you mean?

What kind of condition
did he have, exactly?

What difference
does that make now?

Probably none. It would just help
us to understand the situation.

He had developmental problems.

I had a difficult pregnancy,

and he had respiratory problems

and some learning disability.

But nothing that matters now.

Where can we find your
ex-husband, Mrs. Parnell?

Colin's off today.

Did he call in sick?

That's what they tell me.

In other words, you haven't
spoken to him yourself?

Me personally? No.

Well, who has heard from him?

Has anybody talked to Colin?

I talked to him. Did he
say where he'd be today?

No. He just called in to
say he wouldn't be in?

He told me what happened to his son
and said he wouldn't be in all week.

All week? He left a phone
number if I need to reach him.

Thank you.


LORI: Yeah?
Police Department.

We're looking
for Colin Parnell.

Can you tell me
what this is about?

We just need to ask him
a few questions.

He's in the other room.

You're Colin Parnell?


I'm Detective Briscoe,
this is Detective Green.

We'd like to speak to you.

About the fire?

Yeah. We'd like to fill in
a couple of the blanks.

(SIGHS) Not a lot I can
help you with there.

Tough break about your son.

What are the blanks you'd
like me to fill in?

Probably be better if you
came down off the ladder.


When was the last time
you spoke to your ex-wife?

I don't know. I don't keep
track of things like that.

When was the last time you
were over to her apartment?

A month, six weeks.
I don't know.

ED: Not more
recently than that?


Why? Did somebody see me?

Will that determine whether or not
you're gonna tell us the truth?

I've gone to see my kids
when they weren't there.

I wasn't counting those times.

Was yesterday
one of those times?


Yesterday was one of 'em.
Does that make me a suspect?

Is this oil base or latex?


Clean up with paint thinner?

Yeah. So what?

So wipe your hands.
You're going for a ride.

Let me explain
something to you, Colin.

Somebody set the fire
that killed your son.

That makes it a homicide.

And that makes your life and everybody
else's life in that building our business.

You think I'd kill my son?

I don't know yet.

ED: So what'd you two
used to fight about?


From the wrong brand of beer
to a towel left on the floor

to whether or not we'd be better off
with Ian living someplace else.

Because of
a learning disability?

Is that what Megan called it?

He had a learning disability
with some respiratory problems.

Ian was borderline
retarded, epileptic.

His digestive system
didn't work right,

meaning he had to be
fed and cleaned up after,

and just for laughs,
he had bad enough asthma

that he had to have a
respirator kept by his bed.

That'd be Megan calling
it a learning disability.

Was it your son's condition
that led to the break-up?

Megan saw him as God's gift.

I'd look at him and see God's curse
and on my best days, God's joke.

I hated her for how she
threw herself into it.

How she never asked anything
of me, never complained.

She made me feel like I didn't deserve
to breathe the same air as her.

I stood it for as long
as I could stand it.

And now you're feeling
good enough

to paint another woman's
apartment, huh?

I took off from work
because my son died.

I don't know you
all that long, Colin,

but I'm guessing that you're
a guy who has a lot of guilt.

The Irish have a long,
proud tradition of that.

ED: Got too much
to take?

BRISCOE: Hey, you didn't have to be
thinking about the consequences.

You were walking by the building
where you used to live,

the family that
you walked out on,

you had the paint thinner to take
to your girlfriend's apartment

and that Irish guilt
kicked in, huh?

I bought the paint thinner
this morning.

I have the receipt to prove it.

Well, where were you
last night?

With Lori and her friends,

first having dinner at Leshko's
and then back at her apartment.

Can you provide us
with proof of that?


Good. You'll need to.

He was with me
the entire night.

With you where?

We had dinner at Leshko's, we took a
walk through Tompkins Square Park,

we went back to my apartment, watched
Yojimbo, had sex, went to sleep.

BRISCOE: What time was it
when you went to sleep?

1:30, 1:45.

Had you had anything to drink,
anything to smoke before that?

You guys are a joke,
you know that?

Yeah, well, we're just trying to figure
out if you might be off about the time.

Nobody told you
about this kid and fire?

We're cops.
Nobody tells us anything.

The kid was obsessed with fire.

You couldn't put lit candles
on his birthday cake

'cause he wouldn't
stop staring at them.

He started fires a dozen
times in the past.

Why wouldn't either his mother
or father have mentioned that?

They'd rather not think about the
possibility that he did this to himself.

You talk to Colin?

Yeah. According to him, your
son was severely handicapped.

Sure. According to him.

He found the least little thing we had
to do for Ian utterly overwhelming.

We were told that Ian
was prone to starting fires.

I stopped smoking so there
wouldn't be matches around.

I replaced the gas stove in the
apartment with an electric.

Was he out of your sight long
enough to have set that fire?


BRISCOE: Since you stopped smoking,
where'd he get the matches?

I don't know. I must've had a
pack hidden away somewhere.


Mommy, watch me!

Excuse me.

Wherever she hid 'em,
he must have found 'em.

And the paint thinner?

I kept the supply room locked.

Where was the key?
Above the door.

How high is that?

Did Ian know it was up there?

Maybe he did.

As long as I wasn't using anything that
made noise, he liked to hang around me.

When I mopped or
changed the light bulbs,

I made it like
he was helping me.

He could've known the
key was up there. Sure.

He had a history
of starting fires.

He could've set this one
and then forgotten about it.

Gone to sleep and died
of smoke inhalation.

I'm just not sure this kid was
capable of setting this fire.

But you said
he set them in the past.

Hey, setting a match to a
newspaper is one thing.

Here he's dragging something to
stand on over to the closet door,

reaching up for the key,
unlocking the door,

pulling out the can of paint
thinner, opening it, pouring it...

Yeah, but did he know the
paint thinner would work?

I mean, what is this kid's IQ?

His father and his mother have
completely different stories.

Maybe you should
talk to someone else.

SWANSON: Ian had a condition known as
childhood disintegrative disorder.

In some ways,
it resembled severe autism,

but then it comes accompanied with a
whole host of other problems as well.

How long was he a student here?

Five years.

At a certain point,
his condition worsened.

It became impossible for
us to care for him here.

In what way did it worsen?

He'd become
increasingly aggressive,


his motor skills deteriorated,

he required constant monitoring

of his respiratory
and digestive functions.

When you say his
motor skills deteriorated,

what does that mean?

Loss of hand-eye coordination,
balance, equilibrium.

Could he use a key
to unlock a door?

Possibly, if he was familiar
with the key and the door

and there were no additional
obstacles in his way.

How about finding
something to stand on,

reaching over the door jamb
and taking the key down?

Not this kid.

for your time, Doctor.

Ian used to be
a sweet, happy boy.

His mother worked so hard at
believing that Ian could improve,

that he could be mainstreamed.

What she found out was that
Ian would only get worse.

I watched it sink in and
I thought it would kill her.

It nearly did.

I'm sorry, Megan's not here.

know where she is?

I think Katie had a play
date with a friend.

(COUGHING) Excuse me.

Could I possibly trouble
you for a glass of water?

Oh, it's no trouble at all.
Would you like some, too?

Great. Yeah.

how's Megan holding up?

She's hanging in there.

I think spending time with
Katie really helps her.

BRISCOE: Yeah. I guess if
anything would help, that would.


Megan and her daughter
sleep out here?

It's not the Carlyle,
but we're making do.

Well, you're a good friend.

That's what counts
at a time like this.

Is this Megan's nightgown?

Lennie, didn't they want to run those
tests on an article of clothing?

Oh, yeah. The guy kept calling
me, leaving me messages.

I keep forgetting to
do anything about it.

Thank you. You think
she'd mind if we took this?

What's it for?

The fire department, whenever
there's a loss of life,

they run these
trans-iridium tests.

I can't imagine
she'd mind if you took it.

Well, thanks. We'll get it back to
her as soon as they're done with it.

We're not seeing drugs
and alcohol involved.

From all reports,
she's a solid citizen.

The ex-husband's alibi checks out?

And the mother hasn't taken up with
some skel we should be looking at?

No. Her whole life's
about caring for her son.

She hasn't taken up
with anybody.

It's hard for me to imagine
this fits the profile

of mothers who
kill their own kids.



And you were your usual painstaking
selves in obtaining the nightgown?



There's paint thinner on it.

I went to bed at 10:30,
woke up, smelled smoke

and ran out of my room.

ED: Where did you go?

I told you where I went. I
went to try and save my son.

But you couldn't?

I couldn't.

I went to try to open his door

and the doorknob
was too hot to touch.

Plus, there was flames and
smoke and I couldn't get in.

The problem is,
Mrs. Parnell,

is that your son's
door wasn't closed.

It wasn't closed?

No. These marks on the ceiling
show that it was open.

I remember it being closed.

If I'm wrong, maybe I was
in a state of panic or...

You also never went to bed.

What are you talking about?

Your bedroom door was closed.
It slowed down the fire.

Your bed was completely intact.


Blanket's pulled all the way
up to the top of the bed.

BRISCOE: That bed
was never slept in.

It was a warm night.

I slept on top of the blankets.

BRISCOE: You're not
helping yourself, Megan.

Are you saying
I killed my own son?

What we're saying is you were
in a desperate situation

and maybe without meaning to,
you looked to get out of it.

I never looked to
get out of anything.

The fire was set, Megan.

So what?

So why is it you think I'm the
only one who could've set it?

We found paint thinner
on your nightgown.

I think maybe I should
talk to a lawyer.

I think maybe she's right.

Jack? Jack!

Good morning.

Mayor Giuliani.
CARMICHAEL: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.

I'm here to accompany Nora
on her first day of school.

Jack and I know each other,

but Miss Carmichael, I don't
believe we've ever met.

No, we haven't.
How do you do?

Well, to tell you the truth,
I'm a little nervous.

Nora and I worked together
on many organized crime cases.

She was always nervous,
but always brilliant.

Well, it is a little daunting
coming in behind Adam Schiff.

He called me last night. He said you
were a great interim appointment.

And he was very impressed.

Gee, I don't think I've ever
known Adam to be impressed.

Well, he asked me
not to repeat that part.

Ah! I gotta get
back to City Hall.

You're going to be
absolutely terrific.

You've been doing
a great job, Jack.

Keep up the good work.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Thank you very much.

Did Adam say where
he was calling from?

Vienna. He's been meeting with
Wiesenthal on the Holocaust reparations.

He seems to be getting a lot
of satisfaction from his work.

That's great. That's good.

Murder in the second degree.
How does the defendant plead?

Barry Peck for the
Defense, Your Honor.

I know who you are, Counselor.

My client pleads not guilty.

People request bail in
the amount of $500,000.

What an unconscionable abuse
of the judicial process.

Mr. Peck!
Your Honor,

forgive me.

This woman has had to endure the
untimely death of one child.

She asks that the imposition
of bail, in any amount,

not serve to separate her from her remaining
child pending resolution of this matter.

This woman is charged with bringing
about the untimely death of her child.

The heinous nature of the crime
requires the imposition of high bail.

Why is she compounding
this woman's tragedy?

Your Honor, I hope the court
recognizes that this prosecution

would not have been undertaken had
there not been substantial evidence

of the defendant's guilt.

That is a blatant falsehood.

You know it to be
a blatant falsehood,

and I'm offended at having to address
you as an officer of the court.

Can it, Counselor.

Bail is set in the
amount of $100,000.

Call the next case.

PECK: Abbie.

Sorry about the rhetorical
excesses in there.

I'm kind of a take no
prisoners type litigator.

Is that right? Well, when you
get to know me you'll see

I don't take it
outside the courtroom.

I don't plan to
get to know you.

The heart's an unruly
little Chihuahua.

You might get to
know me very well.

You want to talk
about a deal, talk.

I have that rarest
of all birds, my sweet,

an innocent client.

The only deal I'm looking for
is one in which she walks away.

Well, then
I'll see you in court.

Do me a favor.

Wear those heels.

What's her lawyer hoping for?

He's hoping a jury will find her
too sympathetic to convict.

Is she?

Not as far as I'm concerned.

She kills her son, she
sets fire to a building,

endangers who knows
how many other people's lives.

Once you get past her
being pretty,

I don't think she's got
a lot else going for her.

She did spend the last 12 years
taking care of this kid.

Well, that's what
she's supposed to do.

I understand.

We still have to expect them
to use her son's condition

to cultivate sympathy
for the defendant.

Then you use it to cultivate
sympathy for her son.

Is taking the life of
a person with disabilities

any less of a crime than taking the
life of a person without them?

Absolutely not.

Since the underlying crime is arson, why
aren't we trying her for felony murder?

There's not a jury in the world
that would convict her of it.

Are we vulnerable to a defense of
extreme emotional disturbance,

bringing it down
to manslaughter?

I don't think it's
proximate enough in time.

The extreme emotional disturbance
is one she was living with

for 12 years.

We have her deliberately
setting the fire?

Yes. And we have a witness
we're hoping will give us

her state of mind at the time.

Abbie needs to interview her.

Well, if we have her for the fire,
then we have her for murder two.

I saw him
at least once a month.

Fractured skull,
broken wrist, broken ribs.

Was he being physically abused?

Not at all.

The fractured skull came from
autistic-type head banging,

the broken wrist
from an epileptic seizure,

the broken ribs from a fall.

The hospital also
treated his mother.

For what?

He was having a seizure and she tried
to hold him down to protect him

and he threw her halfway across the
room, chipped a bone in her elbow.

I told her he needed
to be in a home.

And what did she say?

He'd be better off dead.

Your Honor,
it's our contention,

and I think I'm on very solid
legal ground making it,

that this emergency
room doctor's testimony

falls squarely
under the heading

of privileged communication and
should be excluded perforce.

JUDGE SCHEPPS: Who was the patient
at the time she made the statement?

Her son was.

Privilege doesn't come
into play.

The testimony's in.
What else?

Well, I think it's self-evident
that the nightgown doesn't come in.

Assume it's
not self-evident.

No warrant, no consent.

The defendant's friend
gave consent.

She didn't have the
right to give consent.

Case law says, and I can stack
'em as high as you like,

that where there's a reasonable
expectation of privacy,

cops can't go in
and start grabbing.

Where in the apartment
was the nightgown found?

The living room floor.

Has the defendant's
friend affirmed that?

She has, Your Honor.
We have a sworn affidavit.

Judge, even if you grant consent to
search, they had no right to seize.

Consent to seize motion
wasn't briefed, Your Honor.

Motion's denied.
Nightgown comes in.

Mr. Gee, did you undertake
tests on the back steps

leading up to the
defendant's apartment?

Yes. We used a methyl silicone gum capillary
to extract volatile hydrocarbons.

What did you find?

Several alkane peaks that indicated
a class three accelerant.

Can you be specific as to which
class three accelerant it was?

In my opinion,
it was paint thinner.

This is the chromatograph
in question? Yes.

People's exhibit 1A.

And what does this represent?

That's from the nightgown.

People's exhibit 1 B.

These look remarkably similar.

There was paint thinner
on the nightgown, too.

Thank you.

Mr. Gee,

you maintain that these graphs
indicate a class three accelerant,

such as paint thinner.


What other class three
accelerants are there?

Dry cleaning solvents,
charcoal lighters...

So in other words,

this graph might
show paint thinner

and this graph
might show lighter fluid.

It's not possible.

It's not possible

that Ms. Parnell was trying
to get a spot out of a dress

or grilled up a hot dog,

and that that's what put the
accelerant on her nightgown?

That's not possible?

The number of peaks on the graph
would be different in this case.

What's on the nightgown
is paint thinner.

So you say.

I'm through with this witness.

HARRIS: Because her
bedroom door was closed

and the room itself was far
away from the point of origin,

the damage to the defendant's
bed was relatively minor.

In what position
did you find her blanket?

As you can see in the photos,
it was still tucked in.

Are you aware of the defendant's
statement to the police

that she was asleep in bed
when the fire started?

Yes, I am.

Have you ever heard of somebody

waking up with flames
all around them

and tucking in their blanket
before they run out the door?

Not in my experience.

JACK: How about closing the door
behind them after they run out?

No, sir.

Thank you.
No more questions.

Your witness.

Is it possible to fall asleep
on top of the blankets?

It's possible.

On a hot night
you could even say,

could you not, that it was more
than possible, it was common?

The night of the fire
was 54 degrees.

Well, if someone was reading
a book or a magazine,

they might fall asleep
on top of the blankets

regardless of temperature,
mightn't they?

They might.

No further questions.

But no books or magazines were
found by the defendant's bed.

BALAKRISHNA: I saw Ms. Parnell
two days before the fire.

JACK: What did she say
about her son at that time?

She said that his seizures were getting
more violent and more frequent,

that the anti-convulsants
weren't working.

She said that she
was afraid for her son.

That she didn't know
what to do.

What did you recommend?

I recommended that she place
him in a residential facility.

What was her response?

She said that
she had looked into it,

but that every halfway
decent group home

that was equipped to handle
her son's medical needs

had at least
a five year waiting list.

She said that if it came to
putting him in an institution

that he'd be better off dead.

Thank you, Doctor.
I have nothing further.

Dr. Balakrishna, you're
from Pakistan, aren't you?

Objection. Irrelevant.


I'm sure that
wherever you're from,

people exaggerate
sometimes, don't they?


Doesn't the phrase,
"He'd be better off dead"

sound to you
like an exaggeration?

I thought so at the time.

And what did you think
at the time

of Megan Parnell's
feelings toward her son?

I thought that she loved him,

that she cared
very deeply about him.

Did you think at the time
that she wanted him dead?



Did she say she wanted him dead?

As a matter of fact, Doctor,

didn't she ask you about alternative
treatments for her son?

Yes, she did.

Did she ask you about a place
she could take her son?

Somewhere in the world, where
she could take her son

that something
might be done for him?

Yes, she did ask me that.

Does that sound to you like someone who
was looking to end her son's life?

No, it doesn't.

Thank you, Doctor.

I have nothing further.

I think we might have come in
a little high at murder two.

What was her intent?

Her intent was to set a fire.

That doesn't mean an emotional
disturbance defense won't fly.

The fact is she went to this
emergency room doctor that week,

she was confronted
with the hopelessness

of her son's condition
and she reacted.

Is that a legal opinion
or an emotional response?

It's a legal opinion.

Is it your legal opinion
that justice is served

by letting her enter
a plea to manslaughter?


I'll defer to Jack on this one.

Got to it.

Thank you.

Are you expecting us to fall
to our knees in gratitude?

I expect you to recognize this is
the best deal you're going to get

and advise
your client accordingly.

I'd have to go
to prison, though.

Any deal is going
to entail prison time.

I don't think I can bear to be
separated from my daughter.

JACK: If you're found
guilty of murder,

you'll be separated
for a lot longer.

The long and short
of it, guys, is

we'll take our chances
with the jury.

You mean, she'll take
her chances with the jury.

I don't distance myself
from my clients.


We're due in court.

At this time, Your Honor,

the Defense moves to dismiss all
charges against Megan Parnell

on the grounds that the Prosecution has
failed to make out a prima facie case.

Denied. Approach.

Is there a plea to
be worked out here?

We've offered man one, Your Honor, but
defense counsel's not interested.

Can you explain your thinking
on that one, Mr. Peck?

Your Honor, while I'm aware of the potential
cumulative impact of the evidence,

though it may be,

I don't believe the interests
of justice are served

by exposing my client
to criminal penalties

a manslaughter plea
might entail.

Therefore at this time, after
having consulted with my client,

I'd like to change our plea to not guilty
by reason of mental disease or defect.


This was always anticipated
as a possibility.

Your Honor, this is nothing
more than Mr. Peck's conceit

that he can pull
a rabbit out of a hat

and his never-ending love of
opportunities to hear himself talk.

I'd stake my life that
this doesn't represent

an informed decision
by the defendant herself.

I speak for
the defendant herself.

You've got a week.


What's this jury gonna think when
they hear you change your story from

she didn't do it to she did do it,
but she was insane at the time?

Well, they're going to think that
Megan Parnell is a young woman

of tragic circumstances
and I have beautiful eyes.

Short version?
She's not insane.

Not now, not the night
she set the fire.

And the long version?

For a murderess,
she's very appealing.

Well, when she's released from
prison, you can ask her out.

I meant appealing from
the standpoint that

she suffered from
significant mental problems.

Like what?

Acute anxiety. Depression.
Chronic sleep deprivation.

Her son never allowed her to sleep
for more than two hours at a time.

CARMICHAEL: Well, I don't think
the penal code has been amended

to include fatigue
as a defense for murder.

DR. SKODA: I feel for her.

She was terrified by all kinds of images
she thought her son would have to endure

if he was taken away from her.

She was exhausted
beyond all measure.

For one short, horrible instant

she thought the way to solve her
problems was to burn them down.

But she wasn't insane.

No, she wasn't insane.

There's a chemical reaction in the
brain when you're under stress.

We can see the abnormalities
in a PET scan.

Can these abnormalities
be serious?


Neurons stop transmitting,
glucose stops metabolizing.

Brain function of
a severely stressed individual

is indistinguishable from that
of a person who is mentally ill.

In your opinion, Doctor,

was the defendant severely
stressed at the time of the fire?

Based on my interviews with
Megan, there is no question

but that her stress level rose to
the clinical designation of ACSS.

And what is that, Doctor?

Acute Caretaker
Stress Syndrome.

ACSS is characterized
by irrational behavior,

radical emotional dissonance
and cognitive malfunction.

Could she tell the difference
between right and wrong?

In my opinion, no.

Thank you, Doctor.

Where'd you go to
medical school, Doctor?

My doctorate is in
applied kinesiology.

I did not go to medical school.

What's your background
in psychology?

I have both read and
lectured extensively

and I have a syndicated radio program
now heard in most major markets.

In other words, you're not a psychologist,
but you play one on the radio.

Objection. Counsel
is mocking the witness.

Yes, I am.


This disorder you speak of,
this ACSS,

I've been looking
for it in these

very large reference books
and I couldn't find it.

It's a relatively
new diagnosis.

Invented by whom?

It was first identified
by myself.

Recognized by the American
Psychiatric Association?

Not yet.

Any other
professional organization?

It will be.

I'm glad
we're on the cutting edge.

Objection. Mr. McCoy continues
to mock the witness.

I have nothing further.

I was Ian Parnell's caseworker at
Children's Services for the past two years.

So you were intimately involved
in his situation? Yes.

It was you who placed Ian in the
Highcrest Home for disabled children.

That was the best
option at the time.

Was it a viable option?

Why not?

It wasn't equipped for someone
with those kinds of problems.

Ian was ultrasensitive
to noise.

A place like that
got very noisy

and because he would block it out by
banging his head against the wall,

he'd give himself concussions.

So why didn't you
put him someplace else?

I couldn't find a suitable
place that had room.

And his mother was
more understanding

than I had any right
to expect her to be.

she only had two options.

Put her son in a large,
state-run institution

or take care of him herself.

Your witness.

Have you ever had
any other children

who had difficulty adjusting to
their new residential situations?


Did any of their parents
kill their children?

Not to my knowledge.

Thank you.

MEGAN: First time I noticed
something was wrong with Ian,

he'd just turned four.

He was singing his
favorite song, Old MacDonald.

And he forgot that
pigs say oink.

Then he started complaining there
was a bad mouse inside his head.

In three months he stopped
talking or using the toilet.

Would you describe yourself

as having a sustained feeling
of desperation ever since?

Objection. Leading.

foundation, Counselor.

Since your son's condition
made itself known,

have you been able to regain
anything approaching normalcy?

Objection. Leading.

Is Mr. McCoy
categorically opposed

to permitting
this woman to testify?

She has to testify according to
the rules of evidence, Mr. Peck.

So let's see if we
can get her to do that.

Ms. Parnell, when your son's health
began deteriorating, what did you do?

We tried Lovaas Intervention,

auditory interpretation,


several different diets,


Every month there
was a new treatment,

a new miracle cure.

We'd have such high hopes.

Nothing helped.

What about special ed?

He hated special ed. It was
always too loud and disturbing.

When my marriage
started falling apart,

we tried sending Ian to
respite care for the weekend,

but they'd call us up,
usually by Friday night,

to take him back.

And then he started
having seizures and I...

I was...

I was afraid that
he'd kill himself.

Ian, he needed me
but he was getting too big,

and he'd stop letting me

change his diaper or brush his
teeth or give him medicine.

I couldn't take care
of him anymore.

Why didn't you
send him somewhere?

Whether it was an institution
or a group home.

Whatever it was, someplace
would've taken him off your hands.

I couldn't.

To other people
he was just some weird

kid who threw
his poop around the room.

To me, when he was listening

to Old MacDonald, he was

my baby.

I loved him so much.

Your witness, Mr. McCoy.

Ms. Parnell,

your plea is not guilty
by reason of insanity.


That means that at the
time you set the fire,

you didn't know
right from wrong.

I didn't know what I was doing.

You knew enough
to lie to the police.

I didn't mean to lie to them.

You knew enough
to go downstairs,

unlock the janitor's closet,

pour paint thinner on the steps

and leave your son
to die in a fire.

No, I did not.

Ms. Parnell,

is it or is it not true that
you willfully and deliberately

set the fire in which
your son died?

My son didn't die in the fire.
He died before the fire.

The coroner's report

states that the cause of
death was smoke inhalation.

He was having a seizure and
he went into convulsions

and I had the syringe to give him his
injection to stop the convulsions,

just like I've done
all those times before.

But this time I I didn't do it.

I... I watched his
body contorting in pain.

That poor tortured little body
that never stopped hurting.

And I didn't do it.

I let him go!

And then I went into the
bathroom and I took his pills.

All of them.

And I swallowed them.

I set the fire.

And I lay down next to him

to die myself.

But you changed your mind.

The smoke made me cough.

And the pills didn't work.

And I started to think

about my daughter.

And I got up and I ran outside

and I grabbed the phone
out of some guy's hand.

And I dialed 911.

And I never would have set the fire
if I'd known that Ian was alive.

I never would have
done that to him.

I never would have
made him suffer like that.


He suffered so much
in his life.


Is she telling the truth?

The M.E. said the kid could've
been in a coma from the seizures.

She thought he was dead when
in fact he was still breathing

just enough to get
some smoke into his lungs.

Why did she wait this
long to tell us?

It's possible she suppressed
her memory of that night,

it's possible
she felt too guilty

to fully participate
in her own defense.

It's also possible that her lawyer
isn't the idiot we take him for.

He held on to this

until he thought
it would do the most good.

No, he's an idiot.

What's the likelihood of getting
a conviction on murder two?


Unless the jury
thinks she's lying.

JACK: I don't think
she's lying.

Assume she's not.
That's manslaughter.

Given her state of mind and the
extenuating circumstances,

I don't think what she did warrants
a conviction for manslaughter.

Well, what do you think?

Marshal of the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade?

I don't think we should
be sending her to prison.

CARMICHAEL: Her failure to act
comes under depraved indifference.

It qualifies as manslaughter
under People v. Little.

If that's what
the judge charges on,

that's what the jury
will convict her for.

We have the evidence
to support that?


In this case, for this defendant,
the penalties are too severe.

We can't let our sympathy for a defendant
distort our primary responsibility.

What are you saying?

You've got to
do your job, Jack.

Do either of you intend to bring a
motion for lesser included offenses

to be charged to the jury?

The Defense asks for a
charge on murder two only.

That's what the Prosecution
got an indictment for,

that's the burden of proof
they should be held to.

As usual, Mr. Peck,

you've completely
misstated the law.

Mr. McCoy, you're entitled to ask
that my charge to the jury include

allowing them to return guilty verdicts on
manslaughter one and two as well as murder.

The Prosecution has no objection
to a charge on murder two only.

Your Honor, may I have a
moment to confer with my...

That's not necessary, Abbie We'll
take our chances on murder two.

Madam Foreperson, has the
jury reached a verdict?

We have, Your Honor.

Will the defendant please rise?

What is your verdict?

We the jury, on the charge of
murder in the second degree,

find the defendant not guilty by
reason of mental disease or defect.

Thank you for your verdict,
ladies and gentlemen.

The defendant is
hereby remanded to

Kirby Forensics
Center for evaluation.


Tough case, McCoy.

Little tip from the other
side of the aisle.

Next time you have a shot at
lesser included offenses, take it.


I heard about the verdict.

Yeah. You win some,
you lose some.

Which was this?

I would have
gone for a conviction.

Me, too.

Which is why I'm glad it
was Jack trying the case.

Well, based on what this woman
did, she deserves to be punished.

I think she is.

Have a good night.

You, too.