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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the few times in this series that a serial killer shows up as
the heavy. Serial killers are far more common in feature films where
they tend to leave clues for the cops, such as allusions to "Alice in
Wonderland", crossword puzzles, or the dicta of The Omnipotent Oom.
Here, the killer is just a racist who hates people of color because
some black kids killed his mother in Central Park.
The NYPD enlists the help of the FBI and uses a profile to track down and nab the killer. The killer hires Horace McCoy (the genial James Earl Jones) as his high-profile defense lawyer. (Horace McCoy, if I'm not mistaken, was a writer of pulp fiction years ago, responsible for some decent work, like "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?") McCoy is pretty clever. He uses the FBI's written profile to make the point that it contains some vagaries and mistaken attributes. The police shrink points out that the profile is only a tool that the cops may find useful. But McCoy is pretty much right about FBI profiles being more a matter of guesswork than the public generally believes.
The episode resonates because, as this is being written, ethnic and racial profiling at airport screenings is a matter of some heated debate. My judgment is that of an amateur but I did spend some 30 years in behavioral science research and I'm compelled to agree that, used properly, profiles can be helpful. By the phrase "used properly," I mean that people, domestic or foreign, with criminal impulses know what's going on too, and that if they fit the profile, they're liable to change their tactics. All they have to do in order to be wised up is watch programs like this. They may be murdering scum but they're not necessarily stupid. While we're busily pruning the list of suspicious airline passengers, they may blow up Grand Central Station.
James Earl Jones is the guest star in this episode playing a defense
attorney who has willingly taken on the case of a racist serial killer
William Carden. As it turns out people who are non-caucasian are being
systematically killed with a shotgun and it's happening in the Upper
West Side of Manhattan where Jerry Orbach grew up.
The motives Jones has for taking this case is that he wants to be an east coast Johnnie Cochran. Reach that uppermost rung of high price defense lawyers although you can see his disgust registering with him as he and his client are together.
The FBI drew up a profile and this as always is used as a guide in what to look for. Profiling is not an exact science, but Jones finds enough consistencies in it to embarrass Michael Moriarty and Jill Hennessy in court.
The episode does not end in a traditional Law And Order way. Let's say that Charlotte Colavin who plays Judge Lisa Pongracic probably should have resigned the bench after this one. But the Judge Pongracic character has been back more than a dozen times over the years.
Always good to see James Earl Jones in anything.
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