Justice isn’t as straightforward as armchair quarterbacks tend to think.
Law & Order Season 22 Episode 6 took on some of the flaws in the justice system, including bail reform, insane caseloads, and judges who make questionable decisions.
These are important discussions to have. There are no clear-cut answers to any of this stuff, but that doesn’t mean viewers shouldn’t be asking questions.
When all the dust has settled, though, what will probably stick most in viewers’ minds is that obnoxious defense attorney who tried to object her way into an acquittal because she didn’t like the prosecution’s facts.
That attorney should never have allowed this case to go to trial. She accused Maroun of being incompetent, but that label fits her better.
A solid defense doesn’t mean trying to win an unwinnable trial with tricks, stunts, and spurious objections to distract the jury from the truth. Sometimes, it means convincing the client and the prosecutors to agree to a plea bargain, which should have happened here.
Maroun: We could offer a plea.
McCoy: No. Even though the jury won’t know that Castillo is a career criminal, the people of New York will. We need to send a message.
Although McCoy wanted to send a message, if a plea included some jail time and a conviction on a lesser charge, he probably would have agreed to it. This trial was a waste of the jury’s time and taxpayers’ money.
Convictions aren’t supposed to be about sending messages. That rarely works anyway; one person’s conviction doesn’t often deter other criminals from the same behavior. What convictions are supposed to do is hold people accountable for their behavior, and that’s what this one finally did for Nick “107 arrests” Castillo.
Similarly, Cosgrove’s claim that Sutton’s murder had anything to do with bail reform was spurious. Crime rates and re-arrests have not changed since bail reform laws were adopted.
It made even less sense that police were turning a blind eye to shoplifters because of bail reform. The law doesn’t say to ignore non-violent crimes; it says that people accused of such crimes don’t have to sit in jail waiting for trial.
Nor did Castillo’s lack of convictions for all those arrests have anything to do with bail reform. Bail has nothing to do with whether a jury convicts someone, and if Castillo was a career criminal, most of his arrests occurred long before the new bail laws.
Cosgrove’s continued harping on bail reform as the cause of high crime rates was ridiculous and felt out of place since bail policies had little, if anything, to do with the case.
He also wanted a woman punished for “pulling a gun on the police,” when that’s not exactly what happened.
Dixon: I just got off the phone with Sophia’s doorman. He confirmed that she was in her apartment from 5:26 pm to 8:32 AM the next day.
Cosgrove: So she’s not our shooter.
Dixon: No, and ballistics came back, too. Her gun is not the murder weapon. So let’s go easy on her.
Cosgrove: She pulled a gun on us, Lieu.
Dixon: I get it, but she’s a single woman and she’s got someone stalking her so I think we should give her a break.
Cosgrove and Shaw did not identify themselves as police until after Sophia pulled out a gun. They then told her who they were and ordered her to drop the weapon, which she did — only to be arrested for pulling it out in the first place.
This could have ended tragically, but it hardly was a case of a person attacking a police officer on purpose.
Sophia legally owned her gun and attempted to protect herself from a stranger she mixed up with her stalker. Cosgrove shouldn’t have needed Dixon to tell him to let her go.
Maroun claimed that Castillo was let go ten months ago because of the new bail laws, but that didn’t quite make sense either.
He was denied bail in this case because he failed to show up for 63 of his previous 107 hearings, not because he was charged with murder. Why couldn’t Maroun have used the flight risk argument during the earlier arraignment?
Once Maroun’s mistake came to light, things took a weird turn.
Since prior bad acts were inadmissible, why was Jasmine allowed to testify? Her case was one of the previous arrests that weren’t supposed to be allowed.
In addition, there was no real reason for the judge to allow the testimony. If the defense attorney wanted to question whether this witness was telling the truth about being held at gunpoint, she could have cross-examined the witness.
Instead, she declined to ask Jasmine anything, then demanded Maroun take the stand to explain the discrepancy in Jasmine’s testimony.
What judge in their right mind would allow this stunt? Maroun’s testimony was unnecessary and might have a chilling effect on other victims considering coming forward about crimes.
Once Maroun was forced to take the stand, the defense attorney did nothing but ask inappropriate questions that got shot down when Price objected, proving it was as much of a waste of time as Price said it would be.
Although the story didn’t do a great job addressing concerns about bail reform, it did demonstrate how problematic it is to be short-staffed.
Maroun: I called her a few times. I tried to get a translator, but then I got promoted to homicide, handed over the case to another prosecutor, and that was that.
Nolan: It happens, Sam. You did what you could given your workload.
Maroun: He had a gun, Nolan. If I’d been paying closer attention I could have upped the charges to armed robbery and got bail. Castillo would have been locked up and none of this would have happened.
Nolan: How many misdemeanor arraignments did you do that week?
Maroun: That’s not the point.
Nolan: It’s exactly the point. It’s a mistake any of us could have made. Too many cases, too much crime, impossible to keep up.
Maroun made the mistake she did because she had far too many cases to be able to follow up appropriately on Jasmine’s. Many shows have addressed this problem regarding public defenders, but it makes sense that prosecutors would have it too.
After all, someone must prosecute the hundreds of cases public defenders work on.
Maroun’s excessive guilt about her mistake shows how much she cares about justice, but it’s time to let it go.
McCoy told her to stop feeling sorry for herself, not to put her self-pity on hold until after the trial. And realistically, she has no way of knowing what would have happened if Castillo had been locked up ten months ago.
Maroun: I’m so sorry about what happened today. Are you here to fire me?
McCoy: I know who you are, Miss Maroun.
Maroun: I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I screwed up.
McCoy: Like everyone else. If you don’t screw up, you’re not trying hard enough.
Among other things, Castillo wasn’t the only thief wandering around Manhattan with a gun, so Sutton could have met the same fate even if this particular shooter was in jail.
What did you think, Law & Order fanatics?
Did Cosgrove’s indictment of the bail reform system have any merit? Was Maroun right to feel guilty about her mistake? And was I the only one who couldn’t stand the way the defense attorney tried to turn the courtroom into a circus?
Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know your thoughts. And don’t forget you can watch Law & Order online.
Law & Order airs on NBC on Thursdays at 8 PM EST / PST.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.