Law & Order’s willingness to take on social issues is one of its trademarks. But sometimes, this show gives us too much of a good thing.
Law & Order Season 22 Episode 11 made that mistake, throwing in questions about how ex-convicts are treated, marijuana dispensaries, and whether wealthy white people are held as accountable for crimes as their poor Black peers into one episode.
And all of that got lost once Maroun became determined to win an unwinnable case. No wonder this episode felt like it was all over the place with all this going on!
All the issues this case brought up were important, but none got an in-depth enough treatment to make an impression on viewers.
The most interesting aspect of this story — Sandra’s upset at her father’s death and how the defense painted him as the villain rather than the victim — got lost in the shuffle, which was a shame. That helped humanize her father and the issue of ex-convicts, particularly Black men, being treated as less worthy of life than other people.
Maroun promised Sandra that she would honor her father’s memory, but what happened to that? It seemed quickly forgotten in favor of Maroun’s determination being displaced anger about her sister’s murder.
Sandra: They’re making him out to be a monster.
Maroun: It’s just a legal tactic. It doesn’t mean anything.
Sandra: It does to me! My dad was the victim. They called him a criminal.
While that injustice undoubtedly fuels Maroun’s desire to do better for people of color than was done for her family, it wasn’t the only reason she wanted to secure a murder conviction. She’d promised a victim’s daughter justice; didn’t that count for anything?
It didn’t feel fair that Jesse could brutally beat a man to death and claim it was self-defense, then, as soon as that defense failed, turn around and say that drugs made him do it.
The prosecution’s angle here was obvious, and Maroun only partially took it. Yes, Jesse was making excuses for his behavior, but why did he change his plea the second he was losing?
The optics of that choice were that he was throwing defenses at the wall to see what stuck. Why did no one pursue it?
Price was the only one who seemed to think the jury needed a strong motive for murder to believe this kid intentionally committed it. No one was disputing that he manipulated his friend into getting him weed illegally, refused to go home after getting the weed, and spent his evening throwing rocks at passers-by.
Was it that much of a stretch to believe he killed Stanton because Stanton tried to stop his mindlessly violent behavior?
Being a top student or athlete doesn’t prove that someone is incapable of murder. Many psychopaths are intelligent and successful in other areas of their life. The prosecution could have lined up expert witnesses to testify as to this point and counter the nonsensical “cannabis made me do it” claims that way.
Instead, it seemed like everything else went out the window once Price and Maroun disagreed, so her resistance to pleading this one out could be attributed solely to her inability to separate this case from her sister’s murder. How disappointing!
This was a compelling case that got watered down into nothing. I’d have loved for the DA’s office to try proving that Jesse was a spoiled rich kid with a psychopathic streak while the defense claimed that cannabis was to blame.
THAT would have been riveting drama.
Instead, everyone agreed that the cannabis defense that came out of nowhere when self-defense was no longer viable was the only explanation for Jesse’s behavior.
A 2015 study did show that modern marijuana is more potent than the weed people smoked in the 1960s, which could increase the risk of psychosis or paranoia when smoking weed. But that’s one study that didn’t link the increase to the legalization of the drug.
More importantly, Jesse admitted on the stand that he had smoked before without these ill effects, so it’s not likely that the potency of the marijuana was to blame here. If anything, his tolerance should have increased since he’d smoked before, making him less likely to have a psychotic episode while smoking.
Even if weed affected him that way, did that absolve him of responsibility for his actions? This is always a tricky aspect of intoxication; in one sense, the intoxicated person doesn’t know what they are doing, but they are often culpable in another.
For example, drunk drivers don’t get a pass for killing people on the road because they aren’t sober. That’s the whole point of laws against driving while intoxicated — it’s dangerous to others.
Most psychotic people are not violent, despite what the media would have us believe. And in Jesse’s case, even if he was paranoid from smoking weed, he still chose to obtain it illegally and use it, which is what caused his alleged psychosis.
He also brutally beat a man to death. Stanton’s injuries were so horrific that his daughter could not bear to be in the room when they were described.
That shouldn’t all go away because the perpetrator sobers up and says he is sorry.
These are the arguments Maroun should have been making, but she wasn’t allowed to make them. Instead, her passion was labeled as displaced anger, and she made the “right” decision not to proceed with the case.
McCoy seemed to think Maroun was right to pursue Murder 2, but he was conspicuously absent from her decision to plead this out. I’d have liked to have heard his thoughts on this abrupt about-face.
Maroun’s back story was interesting, and I liked her conversation with her mother, but did it have to overshadow the entire case like that?
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Law & Order airs on NBC on Thursdays at 8 PM EST / PST.