Law & Order (1990–2010): Season 6, Episode 14 - Custody - full transcript

Detectives Briscoe and Curtis investigate the murder of a social worker, Larry Mello, who is found dead on the street. The investigation reveals that Mello was less than honest creating fictitious children to be placed in foster homes and then pocketing the monthly payouts. As they begin to check out some of his clients they arrive at the home of Alan Corbin to learn that his adoptive son Alex has that morning been kidnapped. Curtis thinks the boy's biological family may be behind it all, both the kidnapping and Mello's murder. They arrest the boy's mother at the bus depot as she is trying to leave town with him. She is charged with murder and kidnapping and is represented by former ADA Paul Robinette who argues in court that she had every right to take her African-American son back as he was adopted by a white family.

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.

Quentin Tarantino and his buddies
over there were shooting a video.

They found him.

They were scoping the place out a
couple of hours before, around 7:00.

They didn't notice
the deceased then.

We've been canvassing the area.

All right, thanks, Kelly.

Let me know
if anything turns up.

Lawrence Bello, 47.
Lives in Syosset.

Not anymore.

$33. All his credit cards.
And a wife.

Looks like blunt-force brain surgery.

Probably took a header
into the climbing blocks.

CSU found some blood and
tissue on the corner there.

What did he do,
slip on the ice?

With a little help.

He's got some bruises
on his neck.

Finger marks.

Probably got grabbed by the throat.

Big hands, going by the spread.

Detectives, CSU's got
something across the street.

It's monogrammed, initials LB.
Same as your vic, right?

BRISCOE: Uh-huh!

The perp leaves the wallet,
but takes the briefcase?

What was he expecting to find?
I don't know.

Bello didn't look like he
was carrying gold bricks.

Long Island Railroad commuter
pass, Sporting News.

A screwdriver.

Might be the perp's.

The locks look like
they were jimmied.

Go ahead and bag it.

New York Child Health
and Welfare Agency.

Lawrence Bello,
case supervisor.

A social worker.

Yeah, the taxpayers
will be heartbroken.

The playground, is it famous for
its after-hours recreation?

According to the beat cops,

the worst thing that goes on
there is some underage drinking.

Anyway, looks like gambling was Mr.
Bello's vice of choice.

That Sporting News
we found in his briefcase,

he already had his picks
of the week circled.

CURTIS: He could have been paying
off a bookie and come up short.

Or some nut doesn't like
the welfare system.

But the only prints on the
briefcase belong to Bello,

and there's no prints
on the screwdriver.

Tradesman All-Pro.
Expensive item.

Professionals use these.
Plumbers, electricians.


There's a Mrs. Bello.
Wants to see you.

Usually, Larry takes
the 6:30 from Penn Station.

Yesterday, he called to say
he had a late appointment.

I assumed it was
about his kids.

CURTIS: His kids?

I mean, his foster kids.

He took kids out of bad homes
and found families for them.

Can you think of any reason why
he was in that park last night?

No. He didn't like the cold.
He was always getting sick.

Was he mugged?

We're not sure.

Mrs. Bello, did your husband ever
talk to you about his gambling?

Gambling? He didn't gamble.
What makes you think that?

Well, we know he was
interested in sports.

No, he'd watch it on TV
and read the sports page.

BRISCOE: Did any of his
friends share his interest?

Larry and I didn't socialize very much.
We had each other.

He was here for a couple
of hours in the morning

and then he left
to do his fieldwork.

He was always very busy.

How busy with his gambling?

You know, you're not doing him any favors
by pretending you don't know about it.

So, sometimes he liked to talk
about how many points the Jets got

instead of how many cigarette burns
he found on a five-year-old.

Some days, this job...

How did he make out with the betting?
Did he lose?

I wouldn't know.

He always seemed
on top of things.

You see what he had in his
briefcase before he left?

The usual stuff.
I put his case files in for his visits.

An appointment sheet.

Did he check in,
in the afternoon?

For his messages.


He got one from his wife, one from
our supervisor, Mr. De Simio,

and one from the Pattersons.

Who are they?
Foster parents.

Mr. Bello kept playing phone tag with them.
He needed to see them.

I didn't see their file
in his briefcase.

Well, he didn't connect with
them until late afternoon.

The way he was talking, I thought they
were candidates for an action memo.

Mr. Bello seemed
pretty angry with them.

You have an address?

Patterson, Henry and Sharlene.
3002nd Avenue.

Three blocks from
where he was killed.

Sure, Mr. Bello was here.
He left just before 7:00.

Why, he do something wrong?

Other than getting himself killed in
your neighborhood last night, no.

Sharlene, take the kids into
their room to play, okay?

Are they both fosters?

Just the little one.
Robbie is ours.

BRISCOE: They told us at Health and
Welfare that Bello had a beef with you.


Because we put a deposit
on a new place.

We should have checked
with him first.

He said moving was going to
mess us up with the agency,

that we might not be able
to keep all our kids.

How many fosters you have now?

HENRY: Three.

Anyhow, we got it
all straightened out.

I signed some forms,
then Mr. Bello left.

That's funny, we didn't see any forms
with your name on them in his briefcase.

He said he was gonna come
back with some forms.


Where are the other
two kids, Mr. Patterson?

My sister took them to a movie.

On a school night?

You know, I got
three kids myself,

and a whole pile of winter
clothes by the front door.

Here, I hardly see
enough for two kids.

If I go into your kid's room, I bet
I'll find two beds, two bathrobes,

just two of everything.
Am I right?

Henry, what's going on?

He was just about to tell us why
you're short two foster kids.

Sharlene, don't say anything.

Yeah, maybe we'd all be more comfortable
not saying anything downtown. Come on.

I swear to God,
I didn't kill Mr. Bello.

You know what, Henry?

Let's forget about Bello.
We want those kids.

I'm not saying anything else.
I want a lawyer.

Fine with us. Maybe Mrs.
Patterson will be a little more cooperative.

You can't talk to her
without a lawyer.

Hey, unlike you,
she's not a suspect.

She can leave
anytime she wants.

Now, how about it,
Mrs. Patterson?

You want to tell us what your
husband did with those kids?

You know, if we find out later that
you had anything to do with it,

they're gonna take your son away.
You know what that means?

They're gonna
put him in foster care.

You leave her alone.

Hey, excuse me, you aren't talking
until your lawyer gets here, remember?

So, shut up.

Now, what about
those missing kids?

There weren't any other kids.

It was Bello's idea.

He made them up on the computer
and we pretended to take them in.

And the state shoots you a check 800
bucks a head every month, right?

We only kept half.
We gave the rest to Bello.

He said it was okay.
He'd done it before.

It was going fine, until we
decided to move to a nicer place.

Bello went crazy.

He said moving would bring a whole new
inspection by the agency down on us.

He told us to
tear up the lease.

Then he left, just before
7:00, like I told you.

Virtual foster kids.

Yeah, after virtual sex, it
was only a matter of time.

Their story makes sense to you?

They confess to fraud
to avoid a murder charge?

Maybe. Or we're giving
them too much credit.

Bello had
a gambling habit to feed.

Chances are, these aren't the
only foster parents on his team.

All those kickbacks.

He'd be walking around with a
lot of cash in his briefcase.

Somebody knew.
Another parent with virtual kids?

Book these two for fraud.
And find out who else was working the scam.

I could spot all the phony
kids in a half hour

if we were directly hooked
up to birth records,

like we're supposed to.

They've been promising us
for two years.

They've been promising
to fix my chair for three.

This is gonna take days.

CURTIS: Look, the first time
somebody gets a foster kid,

they get put under
a microscope, right?

Yeah, there's a probationary
period, weekly inspections.

There's a whole battery
of people in the loop.

But not the second time
they get a kid?

Well, the foster home's
already approved.

There's less scrutiny.
Only one caseworker is involved.

I'll check foster homes
with multiple placements,

name Bello.

Here we go.

This doesn't make sense.
This file here, it's been dormant for over a year.

Then yesterday
Bello downloaded it.

The same day he was killed.

Whose file is it?

The Corbins.

Two fosters over a period of four years.
Then nothing since a year ago.

And the file wasn't in Bello's
desk or his briefcase.

Alan Corbin?

And who are you?

The police.
Do you mind if we come in?

Lennie Briscoe.
What are you doing here?

I'm working a homicide, Sal.
Larry Bello. And you?

Larry Bello from
Health and Welfare?

You know him?

He placed Alex with us.

BRISCOE: Alex being...

Their adopted son.
He was kidnapped this morning.

We'd just gotten to
the children's zoo.

Alex wanted to see
the polar bears.

I turned away for a second
and he was gone.

He's a good-looking boy.
How long have you had him?

Well, we signed the adoption
papers about seven months ago,

and we had him as a foster
nine months before that.

Alex was a crack baby.

When he came to us,
he was so small,

so frail, but you see,
now he's just fine.


The ransom call came in about
an hour after the abduction.

Now the male voice,
sounded black to me.

How much do they want?

Nothing specific. Said the boy was fine,
and he would call back with instructions.

You think that the same people who killed Mr.
Bello took Alex?

Could be a coincidence.

We looked at everybody who ever
set foot in the Corbin's house.

Maids, trades people, but a social worker?
Come on. That's a new one on me.

If Bello was in on the kidnapping,
what's he doing in the morgue?

After he gave his partners
the Corbin's address,

maybe they got greedy,
they cut him out.

This isn't about money.

You got one call eight hours ago.
Didn't even name a price.

What do you think
it's about, Rey?

Well, when kids are adopted,
their files are sealed, right?

To protect the
birth parents' privacy.

And the kid's.

If the birth parents are trying to find
Alex, Larry Bello is the man to see.

No, the mom is a pipe head.

That's been known to dampen
the maternal instinct.

Yeah, but a man killed Bello.
A man made the ransom call.

We could be
looking at the father.

What the hell?
Wonder Boy might be right.

I'll look into it.
No, we'll look into it.

We caught the homicide, Sal.
That makes me and Wonder Boy the primary.

Your deceased is not gonna go anywhere.
I've got a missing kid.

Put them back in your pants, gentlemen.
There's enough work to go around.

Detective Martel, talk to the Corbins, see
what they know about the birth parents.

You two get over to Health and
Welfare, get that boy's file opened.

You know what happens to me if I let you
guys see the file without a judge's say-so?

You mean besides having
dinner on us at The Palm?

That will make a nice change from
standing in the unemployment line.

We don't have time to suck
up to a family court judge.

Now, you give us the name
of the kid's parents,

we promise nobody will
know where it came from.

Sorry, I can't do it.
I could get sued.

Now, you listen to me!
If we get to that kid too late because of you,

a lawsuit's gonna be
the least of your worries.

Rey. Rey,
take it easy.

Listen, we're not trying
to get you in any trouble.

Just point us in the right
direction, you know?

You said the mother
was a crack addict?

When Bello put her kid in the
system, he would have referred her

to one of six rehab clinics
we have under contract.

A referral from Larry Bello
16 months ago?

Even if I had time to look,
those files are in storage.

Well, maybe this will help.
It's a photo of her son. His name is Alex.

Oh, yes. I've seen
a baby picture of him.

I remember because of the
raspberry birthmark on his wrist.

You know the mother's name?

Mays. Like Willie.
Jenny Mays.

Attitude to spare. She said
the kid's name was Jamal.

What about the boy's father?
She ever mention him?

She hardly even
mentioned the boy.

I practically had to beg her
to show me a picture of him.

Any idea where
we could find her?


She was in and out
of here for a few months.

Then she came down with pneumonia.
We sent her to Mount Sinai.

That's when the state
terminated her parental rights.

That must have
boosted her morale.

Standard operating procedure.

She showed no interest in her boy.
The state had to do something.

What about calling
her next of kin?

She mentioned she had people
in Springfield, Massachusetts.

I'm sure they tried
to contact them.


You want to find her, try Mount Sinai.
They'll have her Medicaid records.


Jenny Mays.
Lived in 2D.

Chipped two tiles
in the bathroom.

I could have charged her
for it, too, but I didn't.

She moved out five months ago.
The hospital gave you this address?

That's right.

Well, she didn't look sick.

She didn't have nothing
catching, did she? No.

Did she leave
a forwarding address?


Most likely living
with her boyfriend.

He came by a couple of
times to pick up her mail.

He got a name?

(SIGHS) Michael.
Nice looking boy. Big.

Did Jenny have a job?

Well, she used to work
a register at Loehmann's,

but she quit that
before she moved.

I'm told she got a better
job somewhere else.

All right, let's try it this way.

When she paid the rent,

do you remember what bank
her check came from?

Checks? I don't take checks.
Hard currency only.

Except for one month,
I did let her pay in trade.

What did she do, bake cookies?

My fuse box sparked out. Her boyfriend replaced it.
Got me a new one at cost.

He's an electrician.

Now, where does he work?

Well, there's a sticker on the
fuse box with a phone number on it

in case I need service.
Come on.

We're looking for
a Michael Walters.

Hey, Mikey.

What did I do, man?
What did I do?

(GRUNTS) Nothing, until you cut out.

Michael Walters, you are under
arrest for obstruction.

You have the right
to remain silent.

He's not my boy.

But you helped Jenny
take him, right?

No. I didn't even know
she had a kid.

So what, you ran
just to give us a workout?

Call it a survival reaction.
Pale faces, dark suits. Usually bad news.

Hey, you want real bad news?

He dropped his screwdriver next
to Larry Bello's briefcase.

A Tradesman All-Pro, just
like the rest of his set.

Just like a lot of tools
sold in this city.

Well, it was enough

to get us a search warrant
for his apartment.

We got people
in there right now.

Oh! Rey, I don't
think Mikey likes it.

CURTIS: Help yourself out, Mr.
Walters. Tell us where the boy is.

Michael, don't say anything.

He's with Jenny, right?

Where are they?

I don't know
what you're talking about.




Okay, thanks.

That was Detective Martel.

He just found a pair of shoes
in Mr. Walters' apartment.

Matches the footprints
found at the playground.

And guess what?
There was blood on the soles.

Give us a minute.

Thanks for the call.

I knew it sounded
too good to be true.

Martel did call from
Walters' apartment.

Confirmed Jenny lived there.

He's staying put
just in case she turns up.

In the realm
of the "what if."

Bello agreed to sell
Jenny Mays an address.

She asked my client
to act as go-between.

Then Bello upped the ante,
there was a scuffle.

Oh! I get it.
The whole thing was an accident. Huh?

Yes, it was.

He pleads to man two,
minimum sentence.

And we get Alex Corbin.

He'll help you any way he can.

I'll make a recommendation
to the D.A. Now he talks.

Jenny took him to my sister's.

Please, don't hurt her.

Jenny Mays?

No, I'm Darla.
Darla Walters.

Where are they?

Where are who?
What's going on?

Hey, Darla, you want to join your
brother Michael down at the station?

Just keep being a wiseass.

She left about an hour ago with her boy.
She took her suitcase.

Going where? Where?

She called a cab.

I heard her say Port Authority.

She's got family
in Massachusetts.

Keep an eye on her.

We caught it just as
it left the terminal.

We kept the passengers on board.
Not a happy bunch.


Hey, kiddo.
Are you Alex?

His proper name is Jamal.

And you're Jenny.

Don't worry, Jamal, everything
is going to be all right.

Stand up, please.

Jenny Mays, you're under arrest for
the kidnapping of Alex Corbin,

for the murder
of Lawrence Bello.

You have the right
to remain silent.

Unless they changed the rules since
I sat on your side of the table,

felony murder
requires a felony.

Try kidnapping, Paul.

In the commission and furtherance
of which, Larry Bello was killed.

Mike never told me what he did.

I didn't find out until
I heard it on the news.

He was your accomplice.
Share the crime, share the time.

An accomplice to what?
She had no intention of kidnapping her son.

She just wanted to see him.

I was a sick junkie when
they took him away from me.

I never got to say goodbye.

You were saying goodbye
all the way to Springfield?

She saw her boy on the street,
she was overcome by emotion.

She took him.
Chalk it up to maternal instinct.

That doesn't explain
the ransom call.

I only wanted to let the
Corbins know Jamal was okay,

so that they wouldn't worry.

ROBINETTE: Look, Jack, you've got a dead,
corrupt bureaucrat and his confessed killer.

I've got a reformed
drug addict,

with a good job, who's only
guilty of wanting her son.

Offer us something reasonable.

I'll let you know.

For the record,

we'll take custodial interference
and a suspended sentence.

If I don't hear from you by tomorrow,
I'll prepare my motion for dismissal.

I imagine you already have
a draft in your briefcase.

She just wanted to see him.
That's all it was about.

We didn't scheme
any kidnapping.

You told the Corbins you
were after ransom money.

We didn't want money, she just told
me to call them, to throw them off.

She thought of that,
and you expect us to believe

that she didn't think of kidnapping
her son until she saw him?

Well, if she told me
she was gonna kidnap him,

I never would have helped her.

I don't want kids.
She knows that.

We are done talking,
Mr. McCoy.

We were promised a deal.

No deal until
he tells us the truth.

He lied about her leaving town, and
he's lying now about her involvement.

I didn't know
she was taking the bus.

She must have
just panicked, that's all.

Look, I told you all
everything I know.

Me and Jenny didn't
set out to hurt nobody.

Things just went wrong.

She's laying the murder
on her boyfriend.

As long as he keeps lying for her,
she might get away with it.

This is giving me a headache.

Drop the felony murder.
See if she'll take a plea on kidnapping.

Paul is asking for Custodial
Interference and no jail time.

It's not acceptable.

Split the difference.

Split the difference?
Have you read the file on Jenny Mays?

I'm sure I'm about
to get a synopsis.

Crack addict since the age
of 17, in and out of rehab.

Arrests for vagrancy,
petty larceny, possession.

So far, par for the course.

When Child Welfare was
called in 18 months ago,

they found her son
lying in his own filth.

He'd been crying for 10 hours straight,
while she was out buying drugs.

He was malnourished, underweight,
covered with rashes.

If they hadn't taken him
away from her, he'd be dead.

And if the police
hadn't found her,

who knows what fresh hell she
would have put him through.

She's not charged
with being a lousy mother.

Her story doesn't
make sense, Adam.

I'm not giving her a walk
for lying to us.

You think she premeditated
the kidnapping, prove it.

Before Paul throws the
charges back in our face.

This is her desk. The police said they'd
be by today to pick up her things.

I never thought I'd see
her on the 6:00 news.

She talk to you about Jamal?

Just that she put him up for adoption
because of a medical situation.

An addiction to crack.
Past tense.

Not Jenny? Well, she certainly
kept that to herself.

She ever mention
wanting him back?

No. I wasn't
that close to her.

She was taking her son to
Springfield when she was arrested.

Did you see any signs that
she was planning to leave?

She mentioned Springfield
a couple of weeks ago,

when I helped her change the
direct deposit on her paycheck.

She was moving her account from

the Credit Union to the
bank on Union Square.

I don't get the connection.

There's a branch in Springfield,
where her parents live.

She said they only had
social security to live on.

She wanted to send them money
every month to help out.

She was in a rush
to get the paperwork done.

She's meticulous.
She was skipping town,

but not without making sure
she'd get her last paycheck.

Paul will argue the bank move
was to support her parents.

Only makes her
halo shine brighter.

The only people wearing
halos would be her parents.

I checked with the county registrar
in Springfield. They're both dead.

Good going, Claire.

It's still only circumstantial
evidence of premeditation.

We need to back it up.

Her boyfriend.

Unless Jenny never told him.

It wouldn't surprise me.

You're making this up.

CLAIRE: Look at the date
stamped at the bottom.

She opened the account a full
week before she kidnapped Alex.

But she would have told me.

Mr. Walters, all this lying
on behalf of Jenny is noble,

but it's just putting you
in a very deep hole.

I can't believe she didn't
tell me what she was doing.

Okay, so she played him.
You here to rub it in?

Actually, we were hoping that
she had said something to him.

What about Larry Bello?
What did she tell you about him?

She knew he might get hurt.

He said he wanted a grand for the
address, so she scraped it together.

An hour before the meeting,
he said he wanted two grand.

Jenny flipped out.

She told me she wanted that
address, whatever it took.

Including murder?

We thought I might have to
scare him, but not kill him.

I wouldn't be seeking a dismissal if
I thought my motion had no merit.

I prosecuted dozens of
felony murder indictments.

I know the requirements.
This crime doesn't meet them.

It's textbook. It takes a felony,
in this case a kidnapping,

and a murder during the
commission of that felony.

The intent to kidnap wasn't
formed at the time of the murder.

They're separate crimes.

Referring to the moving affidavits, Your Honor, Ms.
Mays made preparations

to leave the state with her son a
week prior to Mr. Bello's death.

That evidence can be interpreted
any number of ways.

JACK: She spent her last dime
to get the boy's address.

It wasn't just
to say hello and goodbye.

Whatever plans she had, she did not
communicate them to her boyfriend.

How can his killing Bello be in furtherance
of a kidnapping he wasn't even aware of?

His knowledge isn't important. Ms.
Mays was calling the shots.

She told Walters to get the Corbins'
address by any means necessary,

including the use of force.

That's enough for me.

Mr. Robinette,
your motion is denied.

The charges stand.
Voir dire to begin tomorrow.

Judge, can we go
off the record here?

Tomorrow, I intend to move to
recuse you from this case.

On what grounds?

ROBINETTE: Your bias
against my client.

Three years ago,
over dinner at Elio's

you said all drug addicts should
be rounded up and sterilized.

I don't remember saying
anything of the kind.

I do. And if I subpoena
him, so will Ben Stone.

We nearly fell off our
chairs when you said it.

You can either
recuse yourself now,

or after your views on forced sterilization
become a matter of public record.

Let's do this by the book, Paul.
I want a hearing.

Thank you, Mr. McCoy.

For the record,

I won't be available
to hear this case.

I'm sending it back to
Part 40 for reassignment.

Congratulations, Paul.
You just bullied a judge.

I'm a bully?

I don't have 500 attorneys in my
office, or a $200 million war chest,

the power to investigate
and arrest any citizen,

and a well-armed police
force to back it up.

That's you, Jack.
You're the biggest badass on the block.

Ben Stone. He's traveling in Europe.
He's not available to testify at any hearing.

Paul knew.

Yeah, pure poker.

He caught a break with the new judge.
Lisa Pongracic.

Permanent resident
of the Great Society.

ADAM: No breaks.

I'm sure Paul checked the
roster before making his move.

You talk to him about a plea?

I offered him man one.
He won't even discuss it.

Paul knows how it works.

If we go to trial, we'll
have to seek the maximum.

Murder two.

Whatever his reasons, I think a
trial is exactly what he wants.

Jenny Mays sent her boyfriend to beat
an address out of Lawrence Bello.

Then she followed Alex Corbin from
that address and kidnapped him.

She says that she never
thought to kidnap him

until the moment
she saw him on the street.

The evidence says that, that
was her intent all along.

Lf, after you've heard all the testimony,
you think she's telling the truth,

you must find her
guilty of kidnapping.

If you think she was lying,

then you must also find
her guilty of murder.

Mr. Robinette will ask you
to feel sorry for Jenny Mays.

That's all right,
you can feel sorry for her.

But don't forget that
there is a dead man here

and a grieving family.

And don't forget
Alex Corbin was abducted

by the woman who got him
addicted to crack in her womb,

who neglected him in ways
that will turn your stomach,

and who finally abandoned him
to the care of strangers.

So, go ahead and feel
sorry for Jenny Mays,

but never forget who the
real victims are here.

The People's case rests
on one word, kidnapping.

They use it to describe
what my client did.

They could have used other words.
Custodial interference.

Restitution. Justice.

That's right, justice.

But they're stuck on kidnapping.
They say she planned it all along.

They're right. She did.

But it doesn't matter,

because the real kidnapper
here is the state of New York.

It stole Jamal Mays
from his mother,

and gave him to a white family,
to raise as a white child.

Now, over the next few days,

I'm going to talk to you about
racism in this country.

About black children
lost in white America.

I'm going to show you
how trans-racial adoption

has become the code word for the
cultural genocide of African-Americans.

Now, you won't hear this from them.
They don't want to talk about race.

Because they are good,
moral people,

they'll concede there is racism in
America, and, oh, what a shame that is.

But they'll never concede it has any
bearing on what happens in this courtroom.

Or in the district
attorney's office.

I know, because I worked in
that office for seven years.

And they won't point the finger at
the Child Health and Welfare Agency,

because one hand
washes the other.

Because they're all a part
of the same racist system.

I'll lay the facts
out before you.

Then it's up to you
to right the wrong

that was done
to Jenny and Jamal Mays.

The zoo had just
opened for the day,

and I stopped at the concession
stand to buy Alex some hot cocoa.

Just like that, he disappeared.

And what did you do?

Well, I went crazy
looking for him.

The whole time he was gone, I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't eat.

I just prayed
he'd come back to us.

When Alex was first placed in your
home, what condition was he in?

He was underweight.
He was always sick.

He was difficult to feed.
He never cried.

He didn't know more
than a couple of words.

He was 20-months old and he
couldn't even walk without help.

JACK: And now?

I can hardly keep up with him.

He knows his numbers up to 20.
He talks constantly.

He's as normal
as our other child.

JACK: Thank you.

You sound like an excellent
mother, Mrs. Corbin.

Tell me,

why did you change
Jamal's name?

Alex is my father's name.

I wanted to make him feel like
he was a part of the family.

Did you ever consider Jamal might
have been his father's name?

No. I didn't know anything
about his parents.

So, when he grew up and
asked you about his roots,

what were you
going to tell him?

I don't know.
His file was sealed.

All they told me was his
mother was a crack addict.

Then you didn't know his grandfather
was a cabinet maker in Springfield.


Or that his mother's
great-great grandmother

rolled bandages
for the Union Army.

Or that her uncle was a surveyor
for the Union Pacific Railroad.

You couldn't tell him
about any of those people.

No. Because I wasn't
allowed to know.

But you could tell him his
mother was a crack addict.

They didn't take Alex away
from her because of me.

She couldn't take care of herself,
let alone a defenseless baby.

Then why didn't they take away
your daughter five years ago,

after you were arrested for driving
under the influence of drugs?


In my chambers.

Donna Corbin was hooked on
pain killers for three years.

When the police
pulled her over,

she had her two-year-old
in the back seat.

There's a record of this?

Well, thanks to Mrs.
Corbin's lawyers, the record was expunged.

But Mr. McCoy
can confirm the facts,

even though he didn't
submit them for discovery.

It's not Rosario material.
It's irrelevant and prejudicial.

It dramatizes the double standard
that victimizes my client.

White drug addicts go to Betty Ford
while their kids stay with nannies.

Black addicts wait months for
a bed in a rehab clinic,

while their kids are hijacked by the
Child Health and Welfare Agency.

This is all a smoke screen.

Your Honor, even if it were
true, it's a generalization.

Mr. Robinette can't apply it
to the specifics of this case.

Why not, if the shoe fits?

You're practicing law,
not social science.

I'm fighting for my client.

You're playing chicken
with your client's future.

To prove what?

Your Honor, I want defense counsel's
last question to Mrs. Corbin stricken.

And I want special instructions
given to the jury.

Denied, Mr. McCoy.
You can deal with it in your closing.

DE SIMIO: I've been
a supervisor

in the Child Welfare Agency
for 15 years.

I can tell you that
our agency's standards

are the same for everyone,
regardless of race.

Black parents whose kids are in foster
care get the same breaks as white parents.

Normally, how long is a child in foster
care before he's put up for adoption?

We try to hold off
for about a year,

you know, to allow the birth
parents to get their act together.

ROBINETTE: Well, according
to his records,

Jamal Mays was in foster
for only nine months.

Why the rush?

I really don't know, but it's not appropriate.
It's not policy.

Is it policy to place black
children with white families?

We encourage same race adoptions,
but that's not always an option.

Our primary concern is finding
a home for these kids.

Regardless of race.

That's right.

Then tell us, how many white children
has your agency placed in black homes?

DE SIMIO: For adoption?

I can't think of any.

When your agency
went to Family Court

to sever Ms. Mays' parental
rights, did you notify her?

We certainly did.

We sent her a notice by registered mail.
We have her signed receipt.

JACK: If she wanted to oppose the
severance, what's the procedure?

That's spelled out
in the letter.

She could write us, call us.

Sometimes parents
just show up in court.

What did Jenny Mays do?

There's no record she did anything.
We never heard from her.

JACK: Thank you.

Black mothers are programmed for
failure by foster agencies.

They're less likely to get long-term
housing than white mothers,

less likely to get
help finding a job.

With what result,
Dr. Simmonds?

If they can't establish stable homes,
they don't get their kids back.

Meaning, a disproportionate number of black
children are funneled into adoption.

And what happens there?

Adoption agencies restrict
the pool of adoptive parents

by setting standards which white
couples are more likely to meet.

ROBINETTE: Why is that?

They have the jobs, the
education, the resources.

Sounds like an ideal environment
for a black child. Any child.

My research
doesn't bear it out.

I tracked a group of black
children raised by white families.

As adults, they're typically low-achievers,
at risk for suicide and substance abuse.

Having read Jenny Mays' file,

is it your professional opinion that
the Child Health and Welfare Agency

acted in Jamal Mays' best interests when
they placed him with a white family?


Doctor, are you saying
that Jamal Mays

will grow up to be a low achiever
if he stays with the Corbins?

Yes, probably.

Because he's a black child
raised in a white family?


Not because he was born
addicted to crack

and then neglected and malnourished
for the first 18 months of his life?

Well, that might
have an effect, yes.

Paul started an avalanche.

Black-and-white adoptions are suddenly
everybody's favorite whipping boy.

Right along with this office.
Let's end it.

Get in touch with Paul.
See what he'll take.

I know what he wanted before cultural genocide
made the front page of The Post.

I don't see why
he'd back off now.

You won't find Paul Robinette hawking
bean pies for Louis Farrakhan.

Maybe not, but something has changed.

ADAM: He's still a lawyer.
Make him a reasonable offer, he'll take it.

And what should I do?

The way Jenny Mays
lost her son was tragic.

What she did to get him
back was criminal.

Maybe your jury won't think that exercising
the maternal instinct is a crime.

Read the statutes.
Check the case law.

Find something
you can live with.

Then somebody have
a conversation with Paul.

Scotch and water.

I talked to Jenny.

We're gonna pass on the offer.

I'm sorry to hear that.

The system made her a criminal.
She doesn't belong in prison.

That's a political position,
Paul, not a defense.

It's using institutional racism
to justify murder and kidnapping.

Racism doesn't exist
in a bubble, Claire.

It forces its victims to
live in a different reality.

Look at us. A black man and a
white woman having a drink.

Now, how many white men in this
room have taken note of that?

How many of them disapprove?

And what are they
going to do about it?

In Manhattan?
That's not something I'd worry about.

In the Manhattan I live in,
I'd be stupid not to.

So, thanks to the bigots, every black
criminal has a readymade excuse?

Not an excuse.
A mitigating factor.

And we end up with verdicts that
are about race, not justice.

Everything is
about race, Claire.

And all of our goodwill is not going
to make a damn bit of difference.

It's a school night.

Okay, Paul.

But this conversation
is not over.

What did you think

when you read the notice telling
you about the adoption?

The nurse had to read it to me.

I was on antibiotics
for the pneumonia.

I was running a fever.

It just didn't seem real.

ROBINETTE: Why didn't
you oppose the adoption?

JENNY: I didn't know
any lawyers.

But I was sure they couldn't just take
Jamal away from me without talking to me.

Once you got out of the
hospital, what did you do?

I was off drugs, and I
got a job, found a home.

And I talked to Legal Aid
about getting Jamal back.

They told me
it could take years.

So I called Mr. Bello.

What did he say?

He wouldn't tell me
where Jamal was.

He said he wasn't even
allowed to tell me anything

about the kind of people
he was living with.

ROBINETTE: But he did
finally agree to tell you?

Yes, for a lot of money.
I'm not rich.

But I never meant for
Michael to hurt him.

Just scare him, so he'd
give us the address.

Tell us what happened when
you went to that address.

I saw Jamal
with Mrs. Corbin,

and he was beautiful.

He'd grown up so much.

Mrs. Corbin took
good care of him.

But that doesn't give her any more
rights than me. I'm his mother.

He has my blood,
and he has my skin.

I bore him into the world,

and I'm the one who can help
him become a proud black man.

There is just no way
a white woman,

no matter how smart and
rich and decent she is,

could do that for him.

Thank you, Jenny.

You wanted your son back

even before you knew where he
was living, is that right?


Even before you knew
the Corbins were white?


What if the Corbins
had been black,

would you still
have wanted Jamal back?


Then this isn't
about race, is it?

I had to get him back.
They stole him away from me.

They took him away from you
because you were a junkie,

who would rather smoke crack than
change his diapers, isn't that right?

I'm not like that anymore.

No. Now you're someone
who causes a man's death,

who abducts a child
from the streets,

who makes ransom calls
to his parents.

I had no choice.

What about Legal Aid?

Didn't they tell you
that you had a chance

to win custody back of
Jamal through legal means?

That was going to take too long.
He'd be all grown up.

By then it would be too late.

Too late for what?

To make up
for what I did to him.

You felt guilty?


So you tore this little boy
from a good home,

just to make
yourself feel better?

No, I did it for him.
I wanted to take care of him.


You quit your job,
isn't that right?


You had no home, did you?


No means of support.

You weren't thinking of him,
you were thinking of yourself.

Of your needs.
That's not true.

Just like you were thinking of your
needs whenever you lit up a crack pipe.

You're twisting my words.

I am his mother.

I have a natural right
to be with him.

Whatever it takes?

Ms. Mays, is satisfying
your needs so important

that it justifies
taking a man's life?


Is it worth your son's future?

Sustained. Mr. McCoy.

I have no more questions
for this witness.

Madam Foreperson, I understand there
has been no change in your situation.

Is that correct?

Yes, Your Honor.

You've only been
deliberating for three days.

Are you absolutely sure you
can't work past this deadlock?

We need clarification
on the law, Your Honor.

Can we find the defendant
guilty on the murder count

even if we don't find her
guilty of the kidnapping?

She's charged
with felony murder.

You cannot convict on the murder without
convicting on the underlying felony.

Then, Your Honor, I don't think
we'll be able to reach a verdict.

Your Honor, I think an Allen Charge to
continue deliberations is appropriate.

It's delaying the inevitable.
I'm declaring a mistrial.

The jury is dismissed.

Counsel, I want to hear from you by the
end of the week about a new trial date.

My last offer still stands.


Well, I'll talk to my client.

I'll make it work.

I didn't want it
to go this far.

I wanted the jury to send
a message, and they did.

They sent us both a message.

You're a long way from the
district attorney's office.

Ben Stone once said I'd have to decide
if I was a lawyer who is black,

or a black man who is a lawyer.

All those years, I thought
I was the former.

All those years I was wrong.