A woman claims that a Puerto Rican man kidnapped her infant daughter while she was in a church confessional. However, she later confesses to killing her baby and cremating her body.

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Elizabeth Connors ...
Leah Coleman (as Elizabeth Hanly Rice)
Michael Dolan ...
Keith Coleman
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Father Carney
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Ross Fineman
Ralph Buckley ...
Cox
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Storyline

Detectives Lenny Briscoe and Ray Curtis investigate a baby kidnapping when Leah Coleman reports that a Perto Rican man took her child, Rachel, out of her stroller. Curtis decides to spend a day with Leah retracing her steps in the hope she may remember something important. In a quiet moment in her church, she tells him that she smothered her baby with a pillow and then incinerated her remains. McCoy thinks he has an open and shut case and is doubly pleased when he learns that a relatively inexperienced public defender, Ross Fineman, has been assigned her case. He's somewhat taken aback with Fineman's proposed defense and his outrageous attempt at manipulating the jury. Written by garykmcd

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29 November 1995 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

This is based on a landmark legal case Brewer v Williams in which a police officer "mentions" that he hopes the child's body is found so she can have a "Christian burial." This statement invoked an impromptu confession from the child's mother. This became a US Supreme Court case about Miranda warnings (of right to counsel and right to not incriminate oneself) and the validity of confessions outside of formal interrogation proceedings. A later landmark Supreme Court case, Rhode Island v Innis addressed similar issues and shares key facts with this episode. See more »

Connections

References The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986) See more »

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"Sandbagged by a rookie."
14 July 2011 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

This is an exceptional episode of a generally good series. It stands out for a couple of reasons. It involves a terrible act of murder but has some of the funniest moments I've seen.

Probably based on the Susan Smith case, a religious young woman smothers her eight-month old daughter and consigns the body to the basement furnace. Then she claims the child was stolen by a Puerto Rican while she, the mother was in confession. Detective Curtis smooth-talks her into telling the horrifying truth.

The woman and her husband are not the kind of couple that "have lawyers," just as I myself don't "have a lawyer" and for the same reason. At the trial, the couple are represented by the fresh-faced Fisher Stevens from the Public Defenders Office. He has the features of a debauched teen-ager and he cheerfully admits that he has no legal experience beyond a handful of misdemeanors and that he's way over his head on this one. And, indeed, he seems to be. Dr. Olivet will testify that the young woman is sane. They have her confession. And they have physical evidence from the furnace. Open and shut.

When McCoy is finished with his opening statement, Stevens asks that he be permitted to present his statement later because, frankly, he's unprepared. He objects to nothing McCoy says. McCoy presents his case in chief and Stevens makes his opening statement. He blames God.

The logic goes something like, "Heaven is a better place than earth; therefore the mother was doing her child a favor by sending her there." The judge calls everyone to her chambers and explains that you can't make claims in an opening statement that can't be proved later. "Well, I didn't KNOW that!", exclaims Stevens. "In that case, I move that the charge be changed to guilty by reason of mental defect." It's pointed out to him that the prosecution needs a three-month lead if such a defense is offered. Fisher didn't know THAT either, but why should his client be punished for his own stupidity? I should emphasize that this incident, though thoroughly comic, isn't treated as a joke. McCoy and the judge are aghast at Stevens' effrontery. Nobody laughs. It all works out in the end.

Outrageous irony aside, the episode is distinguished by especially good performances from the young couple (Elizabeth Connors and Michael Dolan). One of the elements of this series that's so appealing is its absence of glamor, and that's evident here. Connors and Dolan look like two ordinary people from the streets of New York. Connors looks a little like Frances McDormand and expertly conveys conflicting emotions. Dolan does a good job with the not-overly-bright husband.

And the episode also "beats up on a priest." The priest is a nice, well-intentioned guy but he doesn't LOOK the way we think a priest should look. He's a fatty with thick glasses. And McCoy crucifies him on the stand for suggesting earlier to the mother that a baby's death is the result of God's will. It's a perennial and unanswerable question, of course. I mean -- if God is so cosmic why is all this crap going on in the world? When McCoy challenges him on the stand, the priest is stumped, just like the rest of us.

This is certainly one of the better episodes.


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