Law & Order: Season 7, Episode 23

Terminal (21 May 1997)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
8.1
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A man opens fire during the docking of a dinner cruise boat. The Governor appoints a special prosecutor because Schiff refuses to seek the death penalty; McCoy helps Schiff appeal while ... See full summary »

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Title: Terminal (21 May 1997)

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Jack Gilpin ...
Dani Klein ...
Susan Beckner
Lianna Pai ...
Carolyne Trang (as Liana Pai)
Kent Williams ...
Hank Coburn
Peter Jay Fernandez ...
Mr. Tyrell
David Cromwell ...
Mr. Veitch
...
Victor Panatti
Charlotte Colavin ...
John Driver ...
Phillip Keenan
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Storyline

A man opens fire during the docking of a dinner cruise boat. The Governor appoints a special prosecutor because Schiff refuses to seek the death penalty; McCoy helps Schiff appeal while Ross helps the special prosecutor at trial. Schiff's wife is hospitalized following a stroke. Written by Anonymous

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21 May 1997 (USA)  »

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Trivia

This episode paralleled real events that occurred in New York City in 1995 and 1996. First, Chapter 1 of the Laws of 1995 established a new death penalty in New York State. Second, District Attorney Robert Johnson of The Bronx had a "blanket" policy of declining to seek the death penalty in cases authorized (Murder 1, see NY Penal Law §60.06, and §125.27). Dissatisfied, Governor George Pataki ordered Johnson replaced with the Attorney General when Johnson declined to seek the death penalty in the shooting death of Police Officer Kevin Gillespie by one Angel Diaz (who ultimately committed suicide and whose accomplices were ultimately convicted of Federal RICO charges and not brought to answer in State Court.) Litigation ensued, and the New York Court of Appeals upheld Governor Pataki's actions in Johnson v. Pataki (91 N.Y.2d 214, 1997). See more »

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Mass Murder, Politics, Sickness.
24 January 2011 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

A man shoots into a crowd, trying to stop a woman from depositing a check he knows will bounce. He needs another few days to cover it. But the victim is only wounded, while two others are killed.

Given some murkiness about intent and circumstances, it's a clear case of second degree murder according to Schiff, McCoy, and Ross in the DA's office. The governor of New York, however, is displeased. (George Pataki was governor at the time but his name is never used.) The governor wants a first-degree murder charge, which carries the death penalty.

Well, the DA's office CAN work out a logical chain in which, yes, maybe one killing was part of the felony larceny involving that rubber check. The problem is that, in order to bring a charge of first degree, you have to connect a multitude of dots so distant from one another that they make the constellation Casseopeia look like a woman. They're reluctant to do it because it might lose them the case. On top of that, Adam Schiff simply refuses to do it, believing naively that politics has no place in law enforcement. He's removed by the governor and replaced by an incompetent toady. Schiff brings a civil suit against the governor.

Schiff loses the suit. He also loses his wife, brought low by a stroke. The governor's Gofer loses the case for first-degree in front of a jury, who convict the murder of second-degree homicide.

It's a believable episode, though I can't help being cynical enough to think that a real-life Schiff would promptly have yielded to the governor's demands. As it is, he realistically loses the civil suit. He gives his usual shrug at the news and remarks gruffly, "At least we made waves," which somebody named Schiff (German: ship) ought to know about.

I was uneasy about Schiff's wife's stroking out. I always worry that a television series that is cleanly written and logically presented is going to be contaminated with all sorts of back stories that turn it into General Hospital. But, not to worry. The matter is handled concisely and with some delicacy. The series was later to jump the shark but not because it turned mopily sentimental.


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