Sometimes, even the best systems can have some terrible failures.
That had Shaw in a tricky position as he’d arrested the man before and tried to stop him from making things worse.
However, it took a turn with the revelation the man might truly be innocent of one crime but sadly not another.
This challenged both Shaw and Price’s faith in the justice system and wondered if they were doing the right thing.
This made The System an intense episode that reminded people why the scales of justice are often blindfolded.
A daring escape leads to a hostage situation
In a courthouse, Price was confronted by Leanne Booker (Catrina Ganey), who wanted to know about her son, Troy. She insisted he was innocent of the charges against him and pressed Price to look into the case. He walked off as she yelled at him.
Price and Maroun met with Booker’s lawyer, Fraizer (Milauna Jemai Jackson), who was trying to suppress some evidence. Maroun brought up Booker confessing to the murder, which Frazier said was coerced.
The judge agreed to hold an evidentiary hearing. Shaw testified that Booker kept changing his story in interrogation and, with the victim’s blood on his shirt, finally confessed to the murder.
Before they could go further, alarms rang as an officer said the courthouse was in lockdown because of an attempted escape. Shaw raced outside to find a wounded guard by a prison van who said Booker had shot him before escaping.
The detectives tried to figure out how Booker could have escaped with the warden saying he’d been close to Alana Murphy, a female corrections officer.
They scoped out her place to see a man inside. They broke in, but the man wasn’t Booker and Alana wasn’t there. Alana (Linda Manning) showed up and was happy to hear Booker had escaped.
Alana insisted Booker had been framed and hoped he’d get free. She admitted Booker had called her asking for money at his brother Steven’s (Jequery Slaton) apartment.
They raided the place with Steven there, playing dumb, but Shaw found a pretty big food order for one guy. They found bloody shoes with Steven still refusing to talk and being arrested.
Yee found a video of Booker (Chaundre Hall-Broomfield) heading down a street. The cops soon began chasing Booker, who rolled off a car and hit a biker.
He then grabbed a woman, using her as a hostage and firing a shot in the air. He dragged the woman into a nearby bookstore, with the customers becoming additional hostages.
The police had the place surrounded, with Shaw volunteering to talk to Booker, given their history. Yee showed a video of the escape that proved the gun had been in the guard’s hand and gone off in the struggle.
They tossed a phone inside for Shaw to talk to Booker, telling the man he was better off just giving up. Booker claimed he’d seen the real killer run from the scene and was trying to help the victim.
When Shaw said Booker had to “Believe in the system,” he snapped, “the system is trying to kill me!” Dixon ordered Cosgrove and a SWAT unit inside.
Booker ranted to Shaw about the system being broken as Shaw tried to talk him down. Cosgrove grabbed Booker, finally getting him to drop the gun and be arrested.
Was an innocent man arrested?
Price wanted to link Booker’s cases together, while Frazier wanted to dismiss the original murder trial. She claimed she now had evidence that would exonerate Booker.
Frazier talked to Price outside the courtroom to present a video she’d gotten just a few days earlier. It showed a man and the victim arguing, then the man shot him with Booker trying to help the victim, just as he’d been saying.
Shaw was rocked as he realized he’d sent an innocent man to jail for over a year. He insisted he hadn’t coerced a confession and had no idea Booker had been smoking pot that night.
While this meant the murder charge was dismissed, that still left the escape charges. Price and Shaw went to a hospital to meet the correctional officer’s wife, only to learn the man had died, which meant Price had to charge Booker with death after all.
Price felt as guilty as Shaw for ignoring Booker’s claims of innocence and now a man was dead. Maroun thought murder two was the best charge, while Price tried to point out that the bullet wound wasn’t the cause of death and manslaughter might be better.
McCoy thought that was irrelevant as Price argued that punishing a man for the system’s failure wasn’t fair. McCoy understood but still pushed Price to make the case.
Price made a good opening statement on the facts. Frazier hit back by saying if Price had done his job, Booker would never have felt the need to escape. “My client did not kill Randall Foster. The system killed Randall Foster.”
Shaw took the stand and had trouble watching the video of Booker shooting Foster. Frazier surprised them by not pressing Shaw and bringing up the hostage situation. Price couldn’t understand not undermining his case with McCoy dryly stating Price seemed to hope he’d lose.
McCoy admitted the case was troubling, but Price had to focus on the facts that this was felony murder. “Make peace with the past and get your head in the game,” McCoy ordered.
The system’s sad failures
Taking McCoy’s advice on playing on emotions, Price had Foster’s widow Mandy (Mandy Siegfried), talk about her husband as a good man who even saved a prisoner’s life once.
Frazier talked of how nasty Rikers prison was and that Foster was complicit in the mistreatment of prisoners. She started a speech on how the system was broken and it was poor medical care that killed Foster. The judge finally shut her down as Price rested his case.
Booker talked of never being in trouble before and was too high that night to realize he was confessing. The day before he broke out, he’d been beaten in jail by a white supremacist inmate, which drove him to escape or be killed in Rikers.
Booker asked the jury what they would have done to avoid certain death. Price could tell the jury was ready to let Booker go free and send him to Rikers in his place.
Price offered a manslaughter charge, with Booker snapping that this was all Price’s fault. He refused the deal as he’d rather take his chances than accept going to jail.
Shaw and Price argued on the case as Shaw admitted they’d failed Booker and owed him some protection in prison. The warden testified there was no evidence of the supposed beating Booker had received.
Frazier hinted that the warden was just covering for something. Price pointed out that Booker could have reached out to someone for help rather than escaping.
Price met Shaw at a bar as the pair talked on the case again. Shaw still felt they’d failed Booker and had thought he could do more good as a cop than a lawyer. “I became a cop to keep innocent black men out of prison, not put them in there.”
Price told Shaw that they had to believe the system worked more than it failed. “Nice speech,” Shaw scoffed. “Unless your name is Troy Booker.”
The jury found Booker guilty of murder in the second degree. He glared at Shaw as he was led out of the courtroom. Shaw and Price had a long staredown as each clearly wondered if they’d seen justice done after all.
It was a powerful episode that challenged both men and sadly showed the flaws the judicial system can have.
Law & Order Season 22 returns Thursday, January 5, 2023 at 8/7c on NBC.