Review: CSI: New York–‘Criminal Justice’

A case gets complicated when the New York team uncovers an incident of evidence tampering at the crime scene.

Synopsis:

A judge is about to deny bail in the case of Antonio Reyes, who stands accused of the murder of eighteen-year-old Christine Reynolds when Stella bursts into the courtroom with evidence that sheds new light on the case. The ADA prosecuting the case, Craig Hansen, planted evidence at the scene: a cigarette lighter belonging to Rob Meyers, the man having an affair with his wife, Sarah. Hansen snuck into the scene and planted the lighter under a bed—not knowing the CSIs had already used a chemical to lift shoe impressions—thus leaving more of the chemical on the face-down side of the lighter and making it clear that it placed there after the murder. Though physical evidence puts Antonio Reyes at the scene—his prints are found in the bathroom—and the CSIs learn Christine’s boyfriend owed Reyes money, giving him motive—the planted lighter discredits all the physical evidence and hangs the case on a single eyewitness: a young neighbor named Karen Winston. Stella angrily confronts Hansen, who she’s known for fifteen years, accusing him of planting the evidence so that the lab would identify Sarah’s lover for him. After she faces off with Hansen, Christine Reynolds’ mother approaches Stella, furious that Reyes made bail—and might go on to murder again. In the locker room, Lindsay catches Danny putting a heating pad on his back and is concerned that he’s clearly in pain once again. Danny reassures her that he’s fine. A frantic Sarah Hansen comes to see Stella: Rob is missing, and she suspects Craig has something to do with it.

Stella and Lindsay go to Rob’s apartment and find no sign of the man, though a broken table leg indicates a recent struggle. Stella finds an alarm clock by the window–a possible murder weapon, but it’s been cleaned with peroxide and left out in the sun to degrade any DNA on it. Hawkes scours Hansen’s car and finds a flake of road salt in it. He’s able to recover the GPS’s memory log, which shows that Hansen made a trip up to the Catskills. Mac and Stella go to the address, hoping to find Rob’s body. The dogs lead them to a snowblower, but the blood Hawkes recovers off of it is canine, not human. Stella asks him to run it again. Danny visits an acupuncturist in the hopes of lessening his back pain, but when he finishes with his session, he finds his wallet–and his badge–have been stolen. He places a frantic call to Lindsay, who promises they’ll deal with it. Hawkes confirms the DNA is canine, and Stella wonders if the dog was Rob’s–she noticed a food bowl and a leash at the man’s apartment. Danny returns to work and gets a call from Flack: Reyes has slipped bail and is likely going after the eyewitness, Karen Winston. Reyes breaks into the young woman’s house, but instead of Karen, he finds Lindsay and a team of officers. He’s arrested again. Hawkes takes the snowblower apart and find a bone fragment, which the CSIs match to Rob. Stella confronts Craig, who continues to deny the murder–and even tries to pin it on his wife. The evidence, however, is overwhelming. He’s arrested, and Stella returns to court to watch Antonio Reyes’ trial.

Analysis:

A departure from the normal whodunit CSI formula, “Criminal Justice” is a thoroughly entertaining and refreshing entry despite the fact that by the end of the first act we know the identities of both perpetrators. We meet the first, Reyes, in the teaser, when Stella dramatically bursts into the courtroom to stop the proceedings–and, as we find out after the flashback—arrest the prosecuting ADA. All in all, Craig Hansen’s plan was rather inventive, if somewhat short-sighted: after all, the possibility that his wife’s lover might name her as his alibi should have at least crossed his mind. But Hansen was clearly desperate to discover the identity of his wife’s lover, so much so that he jeopardized a case and risked letting a killer walk free to get his identity. Couldn’t he have just called in a favor from Stella, who the episode establishes he’s known for fifteen years, instead? Of course, that would have put a major kink in his plan to murder the lover–if that was indeed his plan.

Craig Hansen, played with a smooth ruthlessness by D.B. Sweeney, is certainly a slick customer. Not only does he concoct a plan to find out the identity of his wife’s lover, but then he follows the guy from the police station, confronts and kills him (and his dog) and then drives the body all the way up to the Catskills, where he obliterates it with his snowblower… and then manages to make it back in time for court the next morning! Talk about cold. What’s more, once the game is finally up and Stella has presented all the damning evidence against him, Craig pauses to say he loves his wife… and then goes on to try to implicate her in the crime, suggesting that perhaps she killed Rob to cover up her affair! Stella—and the audience—is thoroughly disgusted. Given that he jeopardized the conviction of a man who killed an eighteen-year-old girl, it’s not altogether surprising to discover Hansen has no conscience, but it’s still startling to see him turn around and try to pin the crime on the wife he claims to love.

It’s fun to see Stella take the lead for this one. It’s quite the moral quandary she’s facing: she knows that in order to nab Hansen on evidence tampering, she’s basically invalidating all of the legitimate evidence found at the scene—evidence needed to convict Antonio Reyes. And indeed, after she questions Hansen for the first time, Stella is confronted by Christine Reynolds’ angry mother, who accuses her of letting a killer go free, possibly to kill again. Stella is between a rock and a hard place on the case: if she hadn’t come forward to alert the judge that Hansen had tampered with the evidence, she would have not only have been helping to cover up Hansen’s crime, but also putting into jeopardy Reyes’ eventual conviction if the evidence ever did come to light. Still, it’s also easy to empathize with Mrs. Reynolds’ understandable anger—from her point-of-view, Stella just helped the man who killed her daughter go free.

Antonio Reyes is definitely not a brilliant criminal; it’s a bit baffling as to why, if he’s planning to flee the country, he’d bother to risk getting caught and go after the one eyewitness in his case. The minute he gives the cops following him the slip, the CSIs hear about it, and—somewhat improbably—Lindsay is sent in to impersonate Karen Winston. I was under the impression that Lindsay going undercover in “Not What It Looks Like” was something of a special case, since time was of the essence, but if there were already cops on their way to Karen’s apartment, couldn’t an officer specializing in undercover work have joined them as well? It’s a minor quibble, and it’s nice to see the character of Lindsay has toughened up a bit since her first undercover venture, but it’s another instance where one has to wonder, “Why would they send a CSI to do this?” The eyewitness, Karen, is played by Gary Sinise‘s daughter Sophie, who acquits herself well in the small role. Sinise’s Steppenwolf Theater co-founder, Jeff Perry, also shows up as the judge who is none too happy to have his court proceedings interrupted by Stella.

It looks like Danny Messer’s speedy recovery from the shooting at the end of last season that left him in a wheelchair at the beginning of this one wasn’t a full one: in this episode, he finds himself grappling with back pain. He tells Lindsay that he twisted something as a result of the frantic pursuit he and Flack engaged in during “Manhattanhenge” when they thought they were chasing down the Compass Killer, but in typical Danny fashion, he brushes off her concern about him coming back to work too soon and reassures her that he’s fine. He’s clearly not, since later in the episode we see him trying acupuncture, something it’s easy to imagine Danny was probably initially skeptical about. Danny’s not really the type of character one imagines seeking out alternative medicine—and to see him do so underscores how desperate he must be to find some sort of pain relief. It is nice to see the writers are (at least thus far) avoiding the clichéd “addicted to painkiller” route that so many characters who are injured physically fall into.

But this is Danny, so naturally he does find himself in trouble before the episode ends: after his acupuncture session, he goes back to the locker where he put his belongings and finds his wallet and badge missing. Danny freaks out, but rather than keeping it to himself, he actually calls Lindsay and tells her what’s going on—major progress for a couple who have never communicated well to each other. Bafflingly, Lindsay doesn’t tell him he needs to report it, even after hearing that his badge is gone; she simply tells him to come back to the lab and they’ll figure it out. It was understandable that Danny didn’t report his gun stolen in “All in the Family”—he was trying to protect a distraught friend and wanted to get the gun back without having to file a report. But why on earth wouldn’t Lindsay counsel Danny to report the badge missing immediately? Rather than talking sense into Danny, Lindsay seems to be working on his level, and while it’s great to see she’s become a nicer character since her marriage to Danny, I’m not sure she’s a wiser one. Danny managed to escape the gun incident more or less unscathed thanks to Flack’s judicious interference, but I wonder if he’ll be as lucky this time.

Source: "Criminal Justice"

Kristine Huntley

Author

Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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