Law & Order recap: A single word sets off a deadly chain of events

Odelya Halevi as Samantha Maroun on Law & Order. Pic credit: NBC

Sometimes, all it takes is one comment to ruin many lives. 

After a case where Cosgrove worried a good friend had crossed the line to get a murderer, Shaw had to face his own broken pedestal in a new Law & Order.

The murder of a law student led to a respected law professor whose foolish videotaped insult could have ruined him.

The case became complex for Price when the critical piece of evidence was suppressed, making his job more challenging.

That was complicated more by an unexpected confession before the true killer could be revealed.

This made 12 Seconds a compelling case to show how easily a stray word can affect so many people. 

A morning row turns into murder

A young man was finishing a rowing trip at a dock by the river when he heard someone behind him. He turned just in time to be hit by a pipe.

Cosgrove and Shaw arrived at the scene to learn the victim was James Pell, with signs someone had stolen his phone. Maintenance worker Larry Brand told them he didn’t see anything unusual. 

There were no cameras around, and Pell’s parents said he’d been focused on his studies at Hudson University. They got a trace on his phone to find Alice Meade (Barbara Linton), who seemed bemused. When her grandson Sebastian (David Manuele) arrived, he took one look at the cops and ran off. 

Cosgrove and Shaw chased Sebastian to a nearby building, Cosgrove tackling him and showing Sebastian’s bag was filled with cell phones.

Sebastian won no points in interrogation claiming to be a victim and even telling Shaw, “You know what it’s like.” He knew nothing of a murder and just bought the phones from Brand.

The alibis for both Sebastian and Brand checked out, leaving the cops back at square one. Yee found records Pell had been rowing with Jordan Tyler (Bryan Eng), another Hudson student. Tyler said Pell had taken a dark turn, including threatening to release photos of an old girlfriend.

They talked to the woman, April Parks (Caylie Filipa), who admitted to breaking into Pell’s apartment to try and get the photos back. She had an alibi but told them to talk to another student, Jeremy Moore (Sammy Pignalosa). 

Moore admitted attacking Pell because Pell had been named to the Law Review when he didn’t deserve it. He somehow got professor Ezra Nichols to vouch for him and even suspected an affair between them.

Shaw didn’t believe it as Nichols was a legend fighting for civil rights and a personal hero to Shaw. Cosgrove replied that didn’t make him innocent. 

They talked to Nichols (Charles Parnell), who praised Pell as a great student. He brushed off talk of an affair as Shaw pressed on why Nichols would recommend a student from the bottom half of his class to a major position. Nichols shut the interview down until he got a lawyer.

Which blackmailed party was the killer?

Yee found security footage of the pair at the office but no other evidence of an affair. But there was evidence Pell was threatening Nichols with the leverage of a video clip of Nichols and his wife Michele (Hilary Ward) at a dinner where Nichols threw a slur at the first openly gay nominee for the Supreme Court. 

As such a clip would ruin Nichols’ reputation, that was a serious motive. The cops all but openly accused Nichols to his face of killing Pell to end the blackmail, but he denied it and sent them out. 

Shaw was shaken, realizing his idol could be like this even as Cosgrove defended Nichols on just having a bad day. They found evidence of blood in Nichols’ garbage, but that wasn’t enough for an arrest. 

They quickly realized that the Nichols house had a nanny, Magda Chezlak (Ivana Grahovac), who was nervous about talking. She revealed Ezra had been asleep all night, but Michelle wasn’t there. The cops pressed her to tell what she knew.

Nichols and Michelle were leaving a restaurant when Cosgrove and Shaw arrived to arrest Michelle for the murder. She took her husband’s advice to call out for a lawyer. 

Michelle pleaded not guilty with Seaver citing her charity work, but the judge still ordered her to surrender her passport. Her lawyer, Dave Seaver (Michael Boatman), then pressed to exclude the clip of Nichols’ insult as it was a private talk between him and his wife and fell under spousal privilege. The judge agreed to take out the key motive for the murder.

Finding the bitter truth

Needing a new way in, Maroun realized there had to be a waiter serving the pair at the dinner. The waitress, Molly Zinkow (Anya Miller), testified to hearing Nichols’ insult and told Pell about it.

After citing Nichols’ work for the LGBT community, Seaver pressed on how Molly could have misheard Nichols in the crowded room.

Price called on Magda only for her to be absent. It appeared she’d fled town, and why they suspected Seaver was behind it, there was no way of proving it. 

Maroun said that Magda was the only witness, but Price had Crosgrove testify to what Magda said. Seaver argued it was hearsay, but the judge allowed it.

Seaver then played the race card on how many Black people Cosgrove had testified against. Cosgrove snapped this wasn’t about race, just a murderer. 

Price then got a turn he could never have seen coming as Nichols took the stand only to confess to killing Pell himself. 

Price argued this was a desperate attempt to mess up the case with a false confession. McCoy wondered if it could be true, and Price was tempted to accept the confession but plowed ahead with the case against Michelle. 

Nichols testified on the blackmail and “There are no second chances” for saying the wrong thing, as “Who can we cancel next?” The breaking point was Pell wanting to clerk for the Supreme Court, which he was totally unqualified for. They argued, and Nichols finally snapped to kill him. 

Price began pressing on the details that came from the crime scene report. He was in the ironic position of arguing a confessed killer wasn’t guilty, only to be struck by Nichols saying his children were home when he returned, which meant someone was lying.

Their son Cyrus (Isaiah Nicholas Pierce) was clearly nervous testifying with Price accusing him of having been coached to lie about his father coming home later. 

Yee couldn’t find much but did get a ping on Cyrus’ cell phone calling the Nichols home with the signal coming from the murder scene. They also found a video of Cyrus walking from the scene and throwing away the pipe.

It was thus clear both Ezra and Michelle were covering for their son. Cryus had heard his parents arguing about Pell, worried how this would ruin his father and that this was the only way to help. 

The charges against Michelle were dropped as Cyrus pled guilty in family court for the record to be sealed. Cyrus understood he’d be sentenced to murder but took responsibility even as Michelle sobbed about her son’s life being over. 

Price and Maroun were shaken at how one good man spitting out one hateful word could have caused so much pain. 

It was a complicated case that only proved how speaking out today can cause a lot of damage.

Law & Order Season 22 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.

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