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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Miscarriage Of Justice'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 25, 2009 - 2:06 AM GMT

See Also: 'Miscarriage of Justice' Episode Guide

Synopsis:

Ray Langston is testifying in the murder trial of Congressman Edward Griffin, who stands accused of murdering his mistress, Amber Jones. Amber was found shot three times in her house. The Congressman owned a Beretta 92, which he claims he discovered missing when the CSIs came to his apartment with a warrant for the gun. The proceedings are interrupted when a gunshot sounds outside the courtroom. The body of Dominick Humphreys lies just outside the doors, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot would--a Beretta 92 lying beside him. Griffin identifies Humphreys as his chief of staff--and his friend. David Phillips discovers a bloody piece of paper in Dominick's pocket. The CSIs review Dominick's taped testimony in which he claimed that the Congressman called him over to Amber's house, saying that he'd gone over to apologize and found her dead. Dominick had promised to clean up for him. Judge Himmel agrees to give Catherine until the next morning to find out if Dominick's suicide sheds new light on the case against Griffin. Back at the lab, Hodges examines the gun Dominick killed himself with and finds blue-black dyed wool cashmere fibers on the bottom of the gun. Dominick's wife, Melissa, tells Brass that her husband feared he'd die in jail. She tells him she's certain Dominick didn't have a gun in the house; she would have known if he had. Greg confirms that the gun Dominick had was registered to Griffin, while Nick confirms it was the murder weapon by matching the bullets from it to the shots that killed Amber. Riley is able to recover the writing from the bloody note in Dominick's jacket and finds a confession from Dominick that he killed Amber "because she was going to ruin our dreams." Langston goes back to court and testifies that Amber had advanced Chlamydia--and that the Congressman tested positive for the same strain of the disease. Nick and Brass go over the timeline for the window in which Amber may have been killed and compare it to Dominick's schedule, discovering an overlap in which he did indeed have time to kill her.

Catherine sends Greg and Riley out to the Congressman and Dominick's houses, respectively, hoping one of them will uncover the fibers found on the gun. The Congressman's wife protests yet another search, while Dominick's wife asks Riley about the suicide note her husband left. In court, the defense points out that only one print of the Congressman's was recovered at the house, on the window tilt rod of the screen door. Langston points out that the print proves Griffin was in the home--something he's denied all along. The CSIs continue to go over the case, noting that Dominick helped Amber file a restraining order against an ex-boyfriend named Tommy Ruby who drives a limo. Brass notes that the Congressman keeps two apartments in the same building; one as a living quarters and the other for romantic assignations. The night before Amber's murder, she visited Griffin in his second apartment. He claims he passed out and woke to find her lifting his wallet, so he hit her. Dominick took her to the hospital, and the Congressman went to apologize the next day--and claims he found her dead. In court, the defense attorney asks Langston if, in light of the note Dominick Humphreys left, he can still stand by his conclusion that Griffin is the most likely suspect and Langston admits that he can't. On a break from the trial, Langston approaches Amber's teenage daughter, Matty, who was chagrined to lose her mother and then discover she was a stripper. Langston notices an odd rash on Matty's arms and has her taken to the hospital. Brass questions Tommy, who admits to hovering outside Amber's house the day she was killed. He noticed a deliveryman dropping off a package at 4:01pm at the tail end of the 10am-5pm window of time the CSIs determined Amber was killed in. Because Dominick had an alibi from 4-5pm, the CSIs determine he couldn't have killed Amber.

At the hospital, the doctor assigned to Matty tells Langston she has been poisoned over the course of roughly eight weeks. Suspecting Amber was the primary target, the team has her body exhumed and Henry confirms the presence of Boric acid in her liver. In the morgue, Langston notices a bruise on Amber's body in the shape of a shoe. The jury finds the Congressman guilty of murder in the first degree, but the team returns to Amber's house where Nick finds a receipt from Dominick Humphreys for two prescriptions for Amber, as well as roach killer. Ray measures the shoe impression and discovers it's seven inches long, indicating it was made by a woman. Riley mentions that Mrs. Griffin was recovering from a miscarriage at the time of Amber's murder--a miscarriage that was likely caused by Chlamydia her husband got from Amber. Catherine and Brass question Mrs. Griffin--fibers from her cashmere gloves are a match to ones found on the gun that killed Amber. Her lawyer advises caution, but she says she can't go through another trial: she tells Catherine and Brass that it was she, not her husband, who hit Amber. She discovered him with the stripper and struck the woman. The next day, she went to Amber's house and got the woman to let her in by pretending she was there to apologize. When Amber let her in, she shot her--despite the fact that Amber begged for her life for the sake of her daughter. She left the gun at the scene. Her husband didn't realize she'd killed Amber until he found the gun was missing. Catherine tells Mrs. Griffin that she would have killed him, not Amber. The case closed, the CSIs celebrate over a drink. Ray tells his teammates that Matty is going to be fine, and the group puzzles over whether or not Mrs. Griffin left the gun behind intentionally, hoping the blame for the murder would be pinned on her husband. Catherine notes that Ray got it right, and Ray responds that he had a lot of help.

Analysis:

"Miscarriage of Justice" opens with a bang, literally, when Dominick Humphreys heads into the courthouse armed with a gun. Initially we worry that he's going to burst into the courtroom where Ray Langston is testifying and start firing, especially once he's stopped by a police officer. Instead, he dramatically shoots himself right outside the courtroom, leaving behind a suicide note that sheds new light on the case. Like CSI: Miami's recent "Presumed Guilty", the case appears open and shut, and indeed, just like in the Miami episode, the defendant is convicted. The mystery of Griffin's guilt or innocence is bandied about for a while, and the audience isn't sure he's innocent until he's found guilty by the jury. By that point, astute viewers of CSI have already started to suspect the killer might be Mrs. Griffin. Played by the wonderful Melinda McGraw (who also took a turn on CSI: Miami this season in "Wrecking Crew", following a stint on the second season of Mad Men), Mrs. Griffin is at once a sympathetic woman and a villainess. As Catherine pointed out, she took her rage over her miscarriage out on the wrong person.

It's been four episodes since Grissom left the lab, and the show is settling into a routine without him. In what has without a doubt been the quietest change on the show, Catherine has seamlessly transitioned into the role of team leader. It's not entirely unexpected--after all, back in season five, Catherine took on the role of swing shift supervisor, so this isn't her first position of leadership. It's not even her first time as the direct supervisor of some of the team members; Nick (along with Warrick) reported to her on the swing shift. Catherine's assumption of the leadership role hasn't been flashy or showy; she delegates tasks and monitors progress in a way that is neither showy nor overbearing. Though she's stepped into the leadership role, that doesn't mean she's in any way diluted as a character: my favorite line in the episode was Catherine's quip at the end after Mrs. Griffin has confessed: "I would have killed him." It's vintage Catherine, and it's nice to see that she hasn't lost her edge.

With two new CSIs on the job, it's not surprising that Catherine's new job isn't taking center stage. While I hope it will at some point, the main focus of the show right now is on establishing Ray and Riley. Riley is a little further along in the process; her storylines now are less about her proving herself as a CSI and more about fleshing out her character. There's a hardness to Riley that's clearly born out of suffering. Riley makes her feelings about Dominick known up front when she tells Greg that she wouldn't call "a suicide a vic." That comment alone makes it clear that Riley has personal experience with the suicide of a loved one, but it's built on later on when Riley reluctantly goes to the Humphreys' house and has a conversation with Dominick's widow, Melissa, who asks her about the note her husband left. Riley first tries to offer something that will make her feel better, telling her that her husband said he loved her, but when Melissa presses her, Riley sadly says she understands and that knowing what was in the note won't take away her doubts or questions. "Some people can't be saved," she offers sadly, leaving us to wonder who Riley lost.

I like the subtlety with which Riley's issues are touched upon in this episode; Riley clearly has strong feelings about suicide and its effect on the person's loved ones, but while she doesn't hide those feelings, she doesn't indulge them either. Lauren Lee Smith has a great handle on Riley after just a dozen episodes. Watching her performance, it's obvious that she has put a lot of thought into who her character is, and Smith deserves praise for being willing to give the audience a peek at her character's layers without putting it all out on the table. I suspect Riley isn't an easy person to get to know; though she can banter with the best of them, she's not a sensitive, confessional character looking to spill her heart out to anyone who will listen. Comforting Melissa isn't her first impulse; there's something reluctant about the way she moves away from the pat consolation she offers at first to a more personal revelation. The writers have done a great job slowly introducing her character and exploring who she is, and I'm looking forward to seeing where they'll take her.

Ray Langston is an equally compelling character, even if in the space of a few episodes he's gone from clueless newbie to something of a wunderkind. The problem with throwing a new person into a CSI show is that inevitably that person will have to prove how completely and utterly fantastic he/she is within a couple of episodes. In CSI: Miami, Ryan Wolfe got to the bottom of what really happened after Calleigh's father apparently killed someone while driving inebriated in "Under the Influence" while CSI: New York's Lindsay Monroe saw through a killer's fake bruise in "Dancing with the Fishes". Even Riley took center stage in her first case in "Art Imitates Life", performing life-saving CPR on a victim of a serial killer. Ray himself was allowed to bungle around for a bit longer: he unsuccessfully tried to trick serial killer Nathan Haskell into revealing the location of his protege's victim in "One to Go" and he struggled with applying fingerprint powder on his first official call as a CSI in "The Grave Shift". I suppose he was due for his "save the day" episode, and though he does indeed find the crucial piece of evidence--a latent shoe print on the chest of the victim that hadn't yet manifested during the initial autopsy--he has the grace and humility to admit that he "had a lot of help."

I rather like that Ray hasn't been too quick a study; he still feels very much the student in a lot of ways. Would a more seasoned CSI have admitted on the stand that he could no longer stand by his conclusions in the case? Possibly--I could definitely see Grissom being equally forthright. Grissom and Ray actually have a lot in common: both are quiet men, both have scientific minds, both are quite comfortable in the morgue. That's not to say they're too similar--I can't see Grissom clueing a wife in that her husband was cheating on her after he got away with filing a false police report, as Ray did in "The Grave Shift." But as leading men, William Petersen and Laurence Fishburne bring similar qualities to the show, a quiet, strong gravitas that is very different from, say, Marg Helgenberger's feisty, spirited Catherine or Liev Schreiber's troubled, unorthodox Michael Keppler from season seven. Ray seems most at home in the morgue, and obviously loves the way Doc Robbins includes him in the autopsy process. Fishburne and Robert David Hall share an especially enjoyable rapport and it's fitting that Ray's big discovery in this episode is made in the morgue.

We've seen quite a few team bonding scenes in the past few episodes. The team shared breakfast together at a diner in "The Grave Shift" and here they all gather for a round of drinks to toast Ray, who gets credit from Catherine, who notes, "Ray got it right." Ray graciously shares the credit, in a move that emphasizes his modesty. After all, Ray is the man who gratefully accepted the closet-sized office in the morgue that Doc Robbins found for him in "Deep Fried & Minty Fresh": he's clearly not a guy with a big ego or arrogant pretensions. Indeed, Ray seems grateful for the opportunities he has to share his knowledge, rather than looking for opportunities to bestow that knowledge on his colleagues and show them up. Ray is a true team player, which is perhaps why he's fitting in so well with the team only a few episodes in. All in all, he's a refreshing, enjoyable character and a worthy new leading man for the flagship show of the CSI franchise.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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