The Practice
Life Sentence

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Life Sentence

In Richard's office, he and Helen talk over lunch. Helen thinks she should do the cross-examination of Sally. Richard's instantly touchy about it; Helen argues that she can come off more sympathetic than he can. Richard replies, "You? Sympathetic?" Well, she sure can fake it when it's necessary, anyway. Helen's thinking is that it's a woman on trial and that it will make more sense to have a woman cross-examine her, and also that she can "go softer" than Richard can, because that's not his strength. ["Pul-lease. She's about as soft as sandpaper, and not the fine, woodworking kind, the hard, scratchy, granular kind." -- ragdoll]Richard stares at Helen for a moment and asks how close he is to losing his job. Helen says she didn't say that, and asks him to forget about ego and concentrate on getting the conviction.

The camera grazes across the front of Boston City Hall. A pleasant-looking blonde bureaucrat has the distinctly unpleasant job of issuing Bobby and Lindsay their marriage license. Bobby and the Princess are very terse and snippy with the clerk. Princess is particularly so, slapping her blood test results down on the counter and snatching the obligatory AIDS pamphlet from the clerk's hand. When the clerk finds out Lindsay's middle name is Suzanne, she giggles a bit and points out that her initials are LSD. The Princess is not amused. Bobby says nothing but merely looks as if someone told him that a prostate exam he just had was unnecessary. The clerk asks for twenty-five dollars, which Bobby chucks on the counter. (Twenty-five bucks? What a deal. Our license was one hundred Canadian dollars , which is about fifty US bucks. And that was three years ago. God knows what it costs now.) Both of them take off, and the clerk has to call them back for their license. Bobby grabs it and leaves without a word. The clerk says quietly, "Have a wonderful marriage . . ." You know it, sister.

Back in the world that does not revolve around Bobby's and Lindsay's egos, Sally is testifying. She's calm but looks sad. She's describing the abduction of her daughter, explaining that she had been gone two days when the police called, saying they thought they had found her. They requested that she come to the coroner's office to make an identification. Sally indicates that she identified her daughter's body. In response to a question from Ellenor, she says that she has no other children, and that Jessica's father died three years ago. Ellenor asks about how she came to know that Mr. Whittier was a suspect; Sally explains that she saw it on the morning news. It was reported that Whittier had confessed to his psychiatrist and his psychiatrist turned him in, and that the police were planning to arrest him. I'm kind of under the impression that impending arrests of suspects who are not fleeing are not usually broadcast as news. Wouldn't it have been more convincing for her to have shot Whittier while he was being put in a vehicle after making his first court appearance? Whatever. Ellenor asks if Sally knew Mr. Whittier; becoming more emotional, Sally says that he was Jessica's soccer coach. Ellenor asks her to describe what she did the morning she shot Whittier. Sally says she took her gun, drove to Whittier's house, and parked two houses from it. She saw that the police were already there; she just waited for him to come out so she could kill him. Ellenor asks Sally to tell the court what she was thinking when she approached him. Now she's crying in earnest. Sally says, "I was thinking about . . . about Jessica. Her last minutes . . . how she probably couldn't understand why this was happening to her . . . what was going through her mind when his hands were around her throat . . . when he was . . . when he was inside of her . . . She was only seven. She was only seven!" Her agonized sobs fill the courtroom. Judge Hiller looks like she's going to cry. Helen looks vaguely uncomfortable. Some of the jurors are crying; all the male lawyers look very serious. Ellenor waits patiently, letting Sally's sobs cut through everyone. ["Insert ragdoll's heart breaking here." -- ragdoll] Very powerful effect for such a short, simple scene; Marlee Matlin was great. Camryn Manheim is great too: compelling without having to masticate the scenery.

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The Practice

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