Friday, September 24, 2010

UK Television: Law & Order: UK, Episode 3.3 "Defence"

Law & Order:  UK
Season Three, Episode Three, Defence
Defence, Original Air Date:  September 23, 2010
Based on Law & Order (US) "Pro Se", Season 6, Episode 21 (8th May, 1996)

Three people are found brutally murdered in a shop with a fourth having been seriously injured.  The investigation turns to a homeless man that Brooks and Devlin must find before he has the chance to hurt anyone else.  Things become complicated when the man, John Smith (Rupert Graves) wants to represent himself at trial.

The murder was violent and done with some sort of sword which is later identified to be a U.S. Army issued bayonet, circa 1950.  The only piece of information they have to go on is that an Italian couple had a row with the man who ran the shop.  The Italian couple are arrested and brought in for a talk.  They insist they didn't kill anyone but the woman does give them a tip about a crack head in an alley.

The investigation turns to the man in the alley and is bolstered when the only survivor awakens and identifies the sketch Brooks and Devlin have of him.  A woman from a chemist shop provides them with a tip that the "mystery man" was following one of her customers, Linda Bowers, who was also one of the victims. 

A local priest gives them a name, John, but he feels that the man certainly couldn't have killed anyone.  At Campbell St. Medical Centre, they learn "John Smith" is a schizophrenic but hasn't picked up his medication in nearly three months.  John has a Westminster library card and they find him in the ancient history section of the Soho Square Library.  John pulls the bayonet on Brooks when they try to take him but Devlin comes to the rescue, disarming him so he can be arrested.

The eyewitness identifies him and his prints bring back a prior charge for John Patrick Smith for stalking a woman 16 months prior.  The charge was amended and he was released.Smith wants to represent himself at the trial and Steel goes before the judge to prevent him from doing so.  Smith convinces the judge he is on his medications and stable and is more than qualified to defend himself as he has a legal education.  Smith is allowed to represent himself.  The judge also allows Smith to represent himself from Counsels Row rather than from the dock.

Castle wants Steel to accept Smith's appeal of insanity but Steel insists there must be a trial.  Castle backs down and Steel goes to speak with Smith.  Smith feels he actually has a chance to win his case and regain his freedom and doesn't want to end up in a mental institution. 

At trial, Smith is able to get the only survivor of the attack to admit she blames the CPS for what happened to her because they didn't put Smith away when they had him before.  Dr. Armitage (George Anton), the psychiatrist Steel hired to evaluate Smith admits that Smith knew his delusions would return when he stopped taking his medication.  However, he also admits Smith cannot predict future psychotic behavior.

Knowing they need someone who knows Smith very well, Steel wants to call his sister.  Presented with knowing John needs to be in a care facility and that he might not be able to be placed there without her help, she makes the choice to testify.  She breaks down on the stand and literally begs the judge and jury to help her brother.

Under questioning from Steel, Smith admits he can remember things about his delusional periods when he is on his medication.  Smith becomes confused and admits on the stand that he thought everyone wanted him dead and needed to stop people, no matter how. 

Smith changes his plea to guilty.  Before sentencing, he starts to read a statement, but stops when he suffers an episode.  He is placed on suicide watch.  Smith sends Steel a copy of his closing speech which turns out to be quite good.

Rupert Graves did a beautiful job in his role as John Smith.  The ending was almost heart wrenching watching him start to spiral out of control.  Smith's episode could have been much worse and I'm glad the producers chose to just show him entering it rather than a full-blown episode as that would have been difficult to watch.

I remember the original Law & Order episode this was based on.  The UK writers did a very good job re-working it to fit their series.  As with every other episode in this series, they maintained the integrity of the original show while making it their own.  I remember next week's episode very well, too.  I'm looking forward to see how the UK writers have handled it.

Law & Order:  UK airs on Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m. on ITV1 in the UK.
For more information:
Law & Order:  UK ITV1 Official Site:
Internet Movie Database:
TV Rage:

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