July 20 2024

CSI Files

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Review: CSI: New York–‘Justified’

8 min read

Mac suspects Chief Carver is responsible for the murder of his sister a decade and a half ago.

Synopsis:

The badly beaten body of a woman is discovered in the Hudson. Mac notices she’s also been shot in the chest. The woman has an ID belonging to Roni Parker, the sister of Chief Ted Carver, who was murdered in 1995 and whose body was recently discovered by Mac being dug up by a man in Central Park. Mac’s suspicions of the Chief’s involvement are heightened when the bullet pulled from the body proves to be a match to a gun owned by Carver. Carver claims that the gun was lost years ago, and takes Mac to see the area his sister used to live in. Carver tells Mac that his sister was a prostitute and a drug addict and that shortly before her disappearance she visited him at his apartment. He noticed the gun missing a few weeks after that. Carver took her three children in after her disappearance and didn’t report either her or the gun missing for fear she’d come back to claim them. Jo IDs the dead woman as Marcella Gomez, who came to New York fifteen years ago on a visa from Columbia to marry a man named Mitchell Barrett, who has a history of domestic violence. Flack and Danny get a taste of the man’s violent side when they go to question him. After firing several shots at the door, Mitchell attacks the two detectives. With the help of other officers, Flack and Danny manage to subdue him. Paint from Marcella’s ear has linked her to Mitchell, and the man readily confesses to murdering her, saying he vowed to do just that if she ever left him. He found out she was at the Parker Hotel and went there to kill her, but he claims the gun he used to shoot her was her own.

Lindsay is able to corroborate Mitchell’s claim when she finds his prints over Marcella’s own on the gun. Mac is certain Carver is lying to him about the gun, and is certain Carver knew Marcella. Jo urges him to wait before accusing the Chief of Detectives of murder. Jo consults with the team and learns that Danny has found nothing to link Marcella to Carver. Adam has pulled DNA from a wad of chewing gum found with Roni Parker’s body, but got no hits in CODIS from the DNA. Lindsay traced the jacket used to cover Roni’s face to a man named Richard Hudson, but when she and Hawkes questioned Richard, he said he used to “date” Roni. He gave her his jacket on one of their dates, but left when he caught sight of her arguing with a cop. Danny is able to match prints on a knife found in the grave to a man named Jimmy Valdez, who was fifteen at the time of Roni’s murder. Danny questions Jimmy, who tells the CSI that he got the knife as a present from his brother, but that it was taken from him by a cop. Flack shows him pictures of cops, but Jimmy doesn’t recognize any of them, until Mac suggests they show him a picture of Carver. Jimmy immediately picks out the chief. Mac goes to confront Carver, but the chief puts him off, saying he doesn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest.

Mac has Adam run the gum against Roni Parker’s DNA, while Jo confers with Sid about Roni’s wounds, concluding that it’s unlikely they were made by a man of Carver’s height and strength. Sid notes the wounds were likely made by someone smaller than Roni. Adam gets a DNA hit on the gum, sending Mac back to Carver—to arrest his nephew Jay, not Carver. Jay admits to Jo that at the age of fourteen, he got the knife as a gift from his uncle and used it to stab his mother to death. He tells Jo of the horrible abuse he suffered at Roni’s hands, and confesses that when his mother started abusing his younger siblings, he couldn’t stand by idly. After learning of plans for a new bike path in Central Park, Jay went to dig his mother up… and was interrupted by Mac. Though Jay knows his actions were wrong, he doesn’t regret them. Carver tells Mac that Jay came to him after the murder and that Carver helped him clean up and covered it up. Carver’s connection to Marcella was one of chance: he found her crying after being brutalized by Mitchell. He gave her Roni’s identity—and his gun to protect herself. Carver is stripped of his job and pension, though no charges are filed against him after Mac recommends leniency. Jay pleads guilty to manslaughter, but is given no jail time. Though he’s lost the job he loved, Carver is able to give away his niece Julie at her wedding, while Jay stands by as the best man.

Analysis:

It’s hard to over emphasize how nice it is to see that Mac is wrong about Chief Carver killing his sister. After Mac’s suspicions about Carver surfaced at the end of “Scared Stiff”, it seemed fairly likely that Carver was going to turn out to be yet another superior officer who clashes with Mac and turns out to be dirty. To some extent, Mac is right—Carver is hiding something from him—but even rigid Mac seems to have a hard time faulting Carver for his decision to hide his abused nephew’s murder of Roni Parker. Ever the disciplinarian, Mac doesn’t seem to sorry to see Carver lose his job and his pension—a fate that Mac suspects Carver will find worse than being presented with criminal charges—but Mac does argue for Carver to be treated leniently as far as the legal repercussions of his act. Rather than just telling Jo he did so, though, Mac leaves it up to her to bring it up. Mac doesn’t bend the rules easily, even when the circumstances dictate it’s the humane thing to do. The last time I recall him doing so was in the season five episode  “Greater Good” when he decided not to charge a grieving mother for hiring a hit man to kill the man she thought was responsible for her daughter’s death. Mac rarely forgives people illegal behavior, but it does happen now and then.

Mac sets his sights on Carver early on and stubbornly refuses to budge, though Jo is at least able to get him to stand down for a little while. In their first real clash since her arrival, Jo stops Mac when he’s ready to rush off and accuse Chief Carver of murdering his sister, reminding him that if he makes accusations and he’s wrong, there will be consequences. Mac, who has time and time again refused to play the political game, isn’t swayed by the argument; he’s certain that Carver recognized Marcella, and believes that he tipped her off when Mac went to her apartment in “Scared Stiff.” Apparently unaware of Danny’s gun mishap in “All in the Family”—Flack, indeed, must have covered for Danny pretty thoroughly—Mac wonders what cop would ever fail to report his own gun going missing. For Mac, the evidence against Carver is damning, but Jo reminds him that it’s all pretty circumstantial and asks Mac to give her time to come up with something more concrete. Surprisingly, Mac backs down and waits. It’s nice to see that Mac and Jo can butt heads without things getting ugly—and that he’s actually willing to listen to her.

As soon as Jimmy Valdez IDs Carver, Mac goes after the chief, but Carver dismisses Mac—until the DNA on the gum connects Carver’s nephew, Jay, to the murder. While Jo delicately questions Jay about the murder, Mac sits with Carver and hears his side of the story. John Laroquette makes Carver a sympathetic, appealing character: he’s a man who took in his sister’s kids to protect them and give them a good life, which Mac points out when Carver laments not doing more for them. Carver’s nephew, Jay, is similarly sympathetic—when he shows Jo the scars on his back from Roni’s abuse, it’s impossible not to feel for the young man, and when he tells her that it was Roni starting to abuse his siblings that finally drove him to murder his mother, it’s easy to see where the title of the episode comes from. Jay’s murder of his mother definitely feels justified given the circumstances.

One does have to wonder why Carver, who seemed pretty aware of his sister’s illegal activities, didn’t know she was abusing her children. Carver tells Mac that his sister was a prostitute and a drug addict, but it’s a bit puzzling that, if he knew this, he didn’t try to get custody of her kids before Jay came to him to confess to murdering his mother. As a cop, Carver certainly could have had his sister arrested for her illicit activities. Perhaps this is part of the regret he expresses to Mac in the precinct—that he didn’t act sooner, before Jay was driven to kill his mother.

Marcella’s murder is wrapped up relatively early in the episode, and her killer is memorable mostly because he actually fights back against Danny and Flack when they go to arrest him. After umpteen chase scenes that inevitably end with Danny or Flack tackling their suspect, it’s quite a surprise to see them encounter someone who actually fights back. Mitchell doesn’t just fight back: he greets the two detectives by firing at the door when they come to arrest him. It’s a bit convenient that Danny and Flack are wearing bulletproof vests. Certainly we’ve seen the two go to arrest potentially dangerous suspects numerous times sans vests.

The convenience of the vests is ultimately forgivable because once Danny and Flack get into the apartment, Mitchell doesn’t stand down or try to flee. Rather, he actually fights the detectives, something pretty rare for a suspect to do on a CSI show. After striking Danny, Mitchell throws Flack into a bookshelf. Danny comes back and literally pounces on Mitchell, and the killer easily throws him off. Flack steps in and gets head butted for his trouble. The detectives are a little worse for the wear by the time they get Mitchell—who is in chains—into the interrogation room, but they don’t look quite as roughed up as one would expect given the beatings they each took. Nonetheless, it’s quite an unexpected twist on the typical chase scenes Danny and Flack are usually involved in.

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