Law & Order/Recap/S17/E09 Deadlock

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Two corrections officers guard a prisoner, Leon Vorgitch, as they wait to enter an appeals court. The guards are discussing sports (specifically, whether Peyton or Eli Manning is better), but when Vorgitch tries to comment, they tell him to shut up. Vorgitch slips out of his handcuffs and stabs one guard, Alfonso Ruiz, in the neck, and the other, Bernie Williams, in the chest multiple times. He takes off at a run.

Van Buren, Green, and Cassady arrive at the scene. The guard who got stabbed in the neck is dead, the other one is at the hospital. Cassady exposits that Vorgitch was a lifer, and a forensics guy says they found a plastic shiv and plastic handcuff key, which were not detected by metal detectors. The media has been alerted. Green adds that Vorgitch killed five people at a fast food joint -- the "Midtown Massacre." Green was one of the first responders, and helped put Vorgitch away. Vorgitch was up for execution, but New York struck down executions, so Vorgitch's sentence was commuted to life in prison. Green looks at a photo of Vorgitch.

"This is the bastard that's supposed to be dead."
—Ed Green

Delores Vorgitch, Leon's mother, tells the detectives that Vorgitch hasn't seen her, and she's blocked off all contact with him. She wants nothing to do with him anymore.

"I never want to see him again."
—Delores Vorgitch

She sends them to talk to Carl Vorgitch, Leon's brother.

The detectives find Carl working at a construction site. Green checks Carl's cell phone and Cassady promises that, if Vorgitch surrenders he won't be hurt, but Carl says she's lying -- the state already tried to kill Vorgitch. Green grabs Carl and threatens him with jail, and Carl gives up several names -- a cousin, an uncle, and an old friend. As he leaves, Cassady notes that Green's list of Vorgitch's contacts includes an ex-girlfriend and another friend that Carl didn't mention. Green says they'll see them next.

Nikki Hale, the ex-girlfriend, says that she hasn't seen Leon since the massacre, but when she lets the cops into her apartment, Green says that Hale visited Vorgitch in prison and signed the visitor's log. Hale claims she forgot.

"I can see how a two hour drive to a state prison could slip your mind."
—Nina Cassady

Cassady observes that there are empty beer bottles, and no scent of beer on Hale's breath. After threatening her with arrest and the removal of her son, Hale admits that Leon came by. Cassady finds Vorgitch's prison uniform, indicating that Hale gave him clothes, and Hale tells them what clothes he's wearing now. She begs Green not to take her child. Cassady checks the tip line and finds a single tip of Vorgitch wearing the clothes Hale listed. The tip puts Vorgitch at the Port Authority. Green says that they'll take the kid if Vorgitch kills anyone, and the detectives leave.

At the Port Authority, the detectives talk to Officer Hannigan and the tipster, Kelly. She saw him an hour ago, but he left quickly once he saw her. Cassady wonders where he is now, and Green says, if Vorgitch is on foot, he's probably within a five mile radius.

The detectives meet Fugitive Team Director Nguyen, who shows them to a food-cart vendor from Russia who says he saw Vorgitch. The tipster doesn't speak English very well, but says that Vorgitch was headed uptown as of half an hour ago. Cassady says that a former cellmate lives in the area. They find the cellmate quickly.

"Get your ass over here!"
—Ed Green

The cellmate, Pedro, says he hasn't seen Vorgitch. Cassady finds some meth on him, which violates Pedro's parole agreements. He offers to help in return for them not telling his parole officer. Vorgitch found Pedro an hour ago and wanted a gun. Pedro sent him to a guy named Skinny. The police burst into Skinny's apartment to find him lying dead.on a sofa with a knife in his heart. Vorgitch took a .45 with at least twenty-five bullets before leaving.

That night, Van Buren says the dogs couldn't find anything. Cassady and Green say that they have tips pointing in all directions and have questioned everyone in the area with a link to Vorgitch. The only person they haven't talked to is Rex Mays, who moved to LA. Van Buren says that Officer Williams died in surgery, making the total body count three.

Pedro is interrogated. Eventually, after several threats, Pedro admits that Vorgitch wanted a phone book. That's all he knows. Van Buren wonders if Vorgitch wants to escape town, or if he just wants revenge. She wants a security detail assigned to everyone involved in the trial that put him away. The detectives go talk to Mia Alvarez, the witness whose testimony put Vorgitch away.

Alvarez said she almost died thanks to Vorgitch, and thanks Green for the security detail. She used to get threats, but they stopped once the death penalty was outlawed. She sends them to John Garvey, the person who fought hardest for Leon to get executed. Garvey still protests the stay of execution. At Garvey's house, he reads one of the letters he wrote to Vorgitch, excoriating him. Garvey says that he wants the security detail dismissed -- he has a gun and wants a chance to shoot Vorgitch. Green gets a call -- they found Rex Mays, who isn't in LA but is squatting in a dead relative's home. As they leave, Garvey begs them to shoot Vorgich if they have a chance.

"You get a shot at Vorgitch... please, take it."
—John Garvey

The detectives find little in Mays's home except for a phone book, open to hospital listings. Cassady realizes that the place at the Port Authority where Vorgitch was spotted was across the street from a hospital. The cops wonder if Vorgitch was hurt. Cassady finds a phone, but it's dead. Green finds a box from a disposable cell, saying they can trace the phone, and thus Mays.

The detectives find Mays, and demand to know what Vorgitch is doing. He plays dumb, but when Green threatens to have him arrested, Mays talks. Delores Vorgitch is dying of cancer, and Leon just wants to say goodbye. That's why he wants to find a hospital. Green has Mays arrested anyway.

"You're still gonna charge me?!"

"Oh Hell yeah!"
—Rex Mays and Ed Green

A heavily armed police team storms the hospital. The officer on guard says that Vorgitch got in while he was in the bathroom. Delores in unhurt; she says that Leon wanted her forgiveness but she wouldn't give it. Vorgitch fled through the window.Green goes after him, eventually catching up to him. Green chases him through several back alleys until Vorgitch ducks into a nearby elementary school. Green calls in the situation, then finds Vorgitch in a classroom.

"Back the Hell off! Anyone makes a move on me, they all die!"
—Leon Vorgitch

The cops evacuate the rest of the school and form a perimeter. Van Buren says the hostage negotiator is coming. Robert Purcell, the father of one of the hostages, shows up. His daughter Meg needs an insulin shot. Vorgitch yells that he wants the police cars moved out, but one of the cars backfires, making a sound like a gunshot. Vorgitch begins shooting the hostages. When the cops storm the room, Vorgitch surrenders, and Green points his gun at Vorgitch's head.

"You can't shoot me. I'm unarmed."
"Why'd you have to shoot them?"

"Why not?"
—Leon Vorgitch and Ed Green

After a few moment,s Green puts his gun away. Vorgitch is arrested.

In court, Judge Albert Bryce remands an insolent Vorgitch. Rubirosa has Vorgitch put in a super-max facility. Gavin Edlund, Vorgitch's attorney, raises no objections. On his way out, Vorgitch threatens Rubirosa.

McCoy offers a murder 2 charge. Vorgitch wants additional perks. Vorgitch points out that he's already serving several life sentences, and the state can't kill him, so McCoy can't threaten him with anything. Furthermore, every day he goes to trial is a day he has an easier chance of escape.

On TV, Purcell is interviewed. He says that his daughter is dead and Vorgitch should have been killed years ago. State Senator Dena Carter is there too, and she says that she'll fight for the death penalty if she's reelected. The lawyers talk about what to do. Branch outlines the problem: the jury instruction for death penalty cases was struck down. The death penalty itself is still legal, butt he government-approved jury instructions are not. Branch wonders if they could have a judge issue different instructions to get around this issue, thereby allowing the death penalty.

-Judge Rochelle Desmond is skeptical, but McCoy tells her the plan. Desmond points out that the jury instruction was written by the legislature, and she'd have to basically rewrite the law in order to give a new one. Desmond still doesn't want to, but McCoy says that the legislature hasn't done anything.

"Although the court declined to rewrite [the jury instruction], there's nothing to stop you trying."
—Jack McCoy

Desmond goes along with it. Edlund tells McCoy that he's already filed an appeal.

Edlund and McCoy argue in front of an appeals court. Edlund says, essentially, that the statute required by law is illegal, and Desmond does not have the authority to write a new one. McCoy exhorts the court to apply the death penalty in this case. The appeals court, after some debate, rules for Edlund -- they claim that the death penalty is so important that it requires legislative repair. In the audience, Purcell and Garvey both look disappointed.

In court, McCoy preps Green for his testimony. Rubirosa is trying to get in touch with Purcell, but can't. Gunshots sound outside. When everyone runs out, they find that Purcell has shot and killed Vorgitch.

"He killed my little girl."
—Robert Purcell

McCoy offers Purcell and his lawyer, Carter, a seven-year sentence. Carter doesn't want the deal. Rubirosa points out that two police officers and a security camera saw it. Purcell claims that he was justified.

"And I executed him. How can you come after me for that?"

"Because New York doesn't have a Do-It-Yourself death penalty, Mr. Purcell."
—Robert Purcell and Jack McCoy

Carter says she's going to plead temporary insanity -- Purcell can't tell the difference between right and wrong. When McCoy objects, Carter says that Purcell thinks he did a moral thing. If the state agrees, they shouldn't prosecute, and if they disagree, then it's a valid defense.

The lawyers discuss the case. Branch asks if they can't just take the insanity plea and have Purcell committed, but Carter won't hear it. The lawyers had three psychologists, including Olivet, interview Purcell; all say he was sane during the shooting. McCoy decides to try making a deal with the jury.

McCoy asks Judge Harold Gordon to let the jury consider a manslaughter charge. Carter objects. McCoy says that they can easily get a murder 2 conviction, but don't want to sentence Purcell for so long. Carter says that the jury should have to make an all-or-nothing choice. Gordon says that Purcell has the right to make the jury go for an all-or-nothing verdict. Outside, McCoy tells Carter that her defense of Purcell is sub-par and just a political publicity stunt. Carter says that, if that's the case, McCoy can drop the charges to deny her the platform. She leaves.

Outside, Rubirosa asks why they don't just drop the murder charge and replace it with a manslaughter charge, but McCoy doesn't want to set that precedent -- it's an obvious murder case. Rubirosa points out that it's rather convenient that the shooting happened so close to the election and Carter catching the case. McCoy says that, without any proof that Carter intervened in the shooting, they shouldn't worry about it.

In court, Dr. Sheryl Burnett testifies that Purcell had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after Meg was shot and killed. He was doing okay, she says, until he learned that Vorgitch wouldn't be executed. At that point, she claims, Purcell had a mental breakdown.

"In your opinion, Robert's mental breakdown was caused not by the death of his daughter but by the state's failure to act? Withdrawn."
—Dena Carter

Purcell admits to killing Vorgitch. He says that he killed Vorgitch to stop him from killing again, and he didn't do anything wrong.

"All I did was carry out the will of the people."
—Robert Purcell

McCoy compares Purcell's actions to Vorgitch's, since they both killed people. McCoy says that it's ridiculous to think that the shooting was entirely about justice and had nothing to do with revenge. Purcell protests that he didn't want to kill anyone. When Purcell says he has nightmares, McCoy says this is proof that he knows what he did was wrong. Purcell remains defiant.

Later, McCoy says that Carter still doesn't want a deal, and he wonders if Purcell might walk. Branch jokes that McCoy is becoming cynical. Rubirosa shows up and says that Purcell testified that he arrived right when Vorgitch did, but Vorgitch's arrival time was rescheduled so that Vorgitch would be in less danger. Someone must have tipped off Purcell. McCoy goes to talk to Carter at her campaign office and asks if Carter told Purcell about Vorgitch's changed schedule. Carter basically admits to it, but says that McCoy has no evidence or he'd have had her charged. She says she just wants to help Purcell, but McCoy still thinks it's a political stunt.

At closings, Carter reiterates the 'he deserved it' defense. McCoy says that Vorgitch was a dangerous monster, but the nullification defense is also dangerous -- an acquittal would sanction vigilantism.

"If you let Robert Purcell get away with murder, just because you hate the man he shot? You're telling everyone out there that it's okay to kill if the victim was a bad person."
—Jack McCoy

The jury finds Purcell guilty.

In jail, McCoy talks to Purcell. Purcell finally realizes that he was used by Carter to get reelected, and admits that Carter told him when to intercept Vorgitch.

McCoy tells Branch that, due to the information he provided, Purcell got a ten year sentence reduction, and can be paroled in three years. Carter has been indicted.

"Now that's justice."
—Arthur Branch

Actor Allusion: Leon Vorgitch's actor previously showed up on L&O as a defendant who murdered his older brother, a retired sports star. The CO's are discussing sports as they walk him to the gate and he says he has nothing better to do than read the sports page in prison.