The Practice
Life Sentence

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Life Sentence

Ellenor and Jimmy are walking through a corridor when they run into Richard the Runt. Ellenor says, "Richard," to which Richard replies, "Never mind." Um, what? Ellenor's annoyed too, and says, "What do you mean, never mind? I called your name." Richard whines, "With a tone." This little jerk has a lot to learn about professionalism. Anyway, they discuss making a deal on a case; he offers voluntary manslaughter. Ellenor says she'll make a deal for involuntary manslaughter. Richard says he can't, that he has marching orders. He reminds her that the crime is on tape, and that there's a "public outcry." Ellenor argues that public sympathy is with her client. Richard says that he's giving her voluntary manslaughter for a premeditated murder. He asks, "Why can't you ever take a gift and smile?" He scuttles off, leaving Jimmy looking helplessly at Ellenor.

The next scene is a woman (Marlee Matlin) in a prison uniform, signing. Ellenor is signing and speaking to her. For those who don't know, Camryn Manheim is a skilled ASL interpreter who supported herself for many years with it. You can read all about it in her excellent autobiography, Wake Up, I'm Fat! I was wondering if they'd get around to using this fact on the show. ["She appeared on a Law & Order episode as an attorney versed in ASL a few years ago." -- Sars]) Ellenor is telling the woman, whose name is Sally, that the DA's offer is a good deal, and that their only possible defence is temporary insanity. Jimmy watches and listens quietly. Sally insists that she wasn't insane and doesn't want to say that; Ellenor tries to persuade her that they should jump at the deal. Sally asks how much time she would have to serve; Ellenor says that it would probably be a sentence of about eight years, and that she might only have to serve three or four of those years. Jimmy says, with Ellenor interpreting for him, that the problem is that she shot an unarmed man. He admits that if someone had raped and killed his daughter he might have done the same thing. He adds, "But the problem is, you planned it. If we go for a 'not guilty' on the elements, you could be going to prison for life. Take the manslaughter." She considers it but refuses. Ellenor tells her the trial will start tomorrow, and that they'll see her at the courthouse. Sally shows little emotion and has a resolute look on her face. Credits.

All the lawyers except for Lindsay are meeting in the conference room. They're arguing about Sally's case; Bobby can't understand why she wouldn't accept the deal. Eugene asks if Ellenor told Sally the odds of beating this rap; Ellenor says she knows. Rebecca asks if they're arguing insanity; Ellenor indicates Sally won't do that either. Bobby blusters, "Who's in charge here?" Ellenor reminds him that the client is the one in charge. ["And then she requests that Bobby step down from his massive ego trip; she'll even loan him a ladder. Okay, maybe that's just me screaming, 'Get over yourself!' at the television set from my plaid couch." -- ragdoll] Bobby starts to harangue Ellenor but she just cuts him off, saying, "Bobby, don't lecture me!" Bobby points out that they're trying the case in front of Judge Hiller, and that she won't let them argue nullification. Bobby asks if they have a psychiatrist who'll testify that Sally was insane. Eugene says he's got a Dr. Tippett on standby; Ellenor re-asserts that Sally will not agree to that defence. Bobby complains that the case is all over the news, and that if Sally gets convicted on murder one, they'll be the ones played for idiots. Ellenor inquires sarcastically, "Oh, so this is about our ego?" Well, actually, it's about Bobby's ego. As usual. Bobby says, "Partly, yes. But it goes with her best interests." Bobby orders Ellenor to go back to the client and try to get her to accept the temporary insanity defence; and if she won't, then to file a motion withdrawing as counsel. Ellenor looks pissed. Jimmy says that it's just like their rabbi case, and that maybe they could argue moral duress again. Bobby insists they can't, because of Hiller. He lays down the law: either she accepts the deal, pleads insanity, or they withdraw. What a humanitarian.

Back at the courthouse, Sally waits in a meeting room. I can't help but wonder if they've padded Marlee Matlin's clothing, since she looks much heavier than she does on The West Wing, and her appearances on that show couldn't have been filmed all that long ago. (As I finished the recap, I just remembered hearing a rumour that she's pregnant; if so, that would explain it.) Ellenor and Jimmy come in, and without any fanfare, give her the ultimatum. If they're going to trial, they have to plead insanity. Sally refuses again. Ellenor explains that they will not get anywhere arguing jury nullification, but if they win on temporary insanity, Sally could avoid prison altogether. Sally's getting upset and is signing her views to Ellenor; Ellenor keeps talking about how this is her best chance and she has to let them do their job. Suddenly Ellenor stops talking and signing and slams her hands down on the table, looking angry. Jimmy asks what Sally said; Ellenor tells him that Sally called her a bitch. Hey, Sally, if you think Ellenor's a bitch I can't wait for you to meet Lindsay and Helen. Ellenor tells Sally, "Look, I don't need you and I don't need this case! You could get life, I don't really care!" Then Ellenor stops talking but she and Sally continue signing furiously at each other, while Jimmy watches a little nervously, with no idea of what they are saying. Finally Sally stands up and leans toward Ellenor and says, "He killed my baby!" Ellenor continues signing, and Sally listens for the most part until making a gesture of disgust and frustration and turning away from Ellenor. Still signing, Ellenor whispers clearly enough for us to understand, "Let me do my job! Let me do my job." Ellenor makes a final plea and Sally looks somewhat resigned. She makes a last gesture which causes Ellenor to exhale. Jimmy asks what's going on. Ellenor explains that they're pleading temporary insanity, and looks at Sally somewhat sympathetically. Sally just looks pissed. ["This scene was so moving; you know why? Because for once the friggin' music wasn't playing. Do you think they're finally listening to us, deborah?" -- ragdoll]

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The Practice

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