A building superintendent is found murdered near the boiler room of an apartment house, the window of the outside door broken. It looks as if some crack head broke in, was discovered by the victim, and killed him with a hammer.
But, as is usual, things aren't what they seem. The "lab boys" find that the window was broken from the inside out, and then swept back inside to make a phony break-in look more authentic. What's more, the dead and bleeding body had been dragged from the boiler room and left close to the door, as if everything had been staged.
There are the usual red herrings before the law pins the murder of the victim's own seventeen-year-old son, the pride of the family. The kid has brains. His father was working twelve-hour days to put him through a prestigious prep school, and the kid had gotten admitted to Princeton. But, ashamed of his working-stiff father, the boy was forever beating his old man, putting him in the hospital four times, until the final confrontation turned lethal. The mother and daughter covered it all up as best they could for reasons of their own.
I doubt the story was "ripped from the headlines" because incidents like this aren't very common. Murder in families are common enough but not systematic abuse of a healthy father by a dominant teen-aged son. To the extent such a case is sensational it would be because of its rarity.
The lawyer for the defense is pretty sharp. He doesn't manage to get the kid off -- which, for the kid, means good-bye Princeton, and that's all he cares about. He may see the inside of a jail cell but never the basement of the Firestone Library. Yet, watching this episode, I found myself wondering how this working-class family was able to hire a competent trial lawyer.
How much could they have had in the way of assets after paying the son's tuition at that tony prep school? I've seen two lawyers. One charged $100 to make a phone call and then forgot to call me with the results. Another charged $100 to retype a letter I'd prepared and then got the contents wrong. If the family had assets like mine, they'd have been flat broke before their lawyer reached 150 hours. If they'd been terribly wealthy, of course, they might have engaged Alan Dershowitz, in which case the murderer would now be in a fancy club somewhere chatting about Old Nassau over a glass of single malt scotch.