217. Trees in the Forest

United States, Original Airdate, March 30, 1998.
Written by: David E. Kelley and Frank Renzulli
Directed by: Dwight Little


-------------------- Disclaimer --------------------

We do not own the characters or storylines of "The Practice." They belong to David E. Kelley and Twentieth Century Fox Productions. This a cut and dry transcript of "Trees in the Forest" and is for entertainment purposes only.

(Inside Helen Gamble's office, at night. Helen is working, and ADA Virgil Johnson walks in)

Johnson: Helen. Don't hate me.

Helen: What?

Johnson: Liz Fernal just got hit with appendicitis, she has a manslaughter, hit and run- -

Helen: Oh no you don't.

Johnson: We've already bought six continuances, the judge said if we're not ready he dismisses.

Helen: When?

Johnson: Tomorrow.

Helen: Virgil!

Johnson: The file is paper thin,- -

Helen: I'm not starting a murder trial with ten hours notice, . .

Johnson: Two witnesses- -

Helen: And who takes the heat with the N.G.? Me.

Johnson: There's no heat on this, I promise. The victim's a John Doe, homeless guy. It doesn't matter if we lose, but we can't dismiss, the defendant's wealthy, it would look bad. Just put on a case, it's a two day trial- -

Helen: No.

Johnson: Helen. (Sweetly) I didn't ask. (He drops the file on her desk and leaves.)


(Eugene is visiting his client, nineteen year old Raymond Burnette)

Eugene: Okay, Raymond. Tomorrow we go. I took one last flier with the D.A., he'll give us voluntary, four years, it ain't bad.

Raymond: That's manslaughter?

Eugene: Yeah.

Raymond: You think that's good?

Eugene: Look . . .murder two you get life. Manslaughter, you could be out in four.

Raymond: So we should take it? (He is willing to be steered.)

Eugene: Well. Here's my problem. You say you didn't mean to kill him which may be so. But the only way we get your story in is to put you on the stand. I do that, that means all your priors come in which includes two assaults, plus the three drug convictions. If a jury hears all that, I don't like our chances. So . . .

Raymond: So you think I should take it? (The pair stares at each other.)

Eugene: Tell me again. When you hit him . . .

Raymond: He was just jumpin' in, it's part of initiation. I never meant nothin' bad to happen. He was my friend.

Eugene: Look me in the eye. (Ray does so.) It was an accident?

Raymond: I swear.

Eugene: Look me deeper in the eye. (Ray does.) Okay. Let's try it.


MAIN TITLES, THEN COMMERCIALS -----------------------------------

(Helen, Detective McGuire, and Bobby Show, a crazy homeless man in his forties are in Helen's office)

Show: Right outta nowhere, I seen it happen. It was . . . he was walkin' on the side of the street, not the sidewalk but the side, on the street, not in the middle but the side, on a highway they'd call it a shoulder maybe but this was a regular street, not a highway you see and . . . he was walkin' there and the car was comin' along and, as it came he . . . (Show motions for Helen to lean close to him.) BOOM! (It practically shatters her eardrum.) Flat as a pancake.

McGuire: Alright, Bob. Could you excuse us a minute?

Show: Walkin' right on the side. (Show leaves) Boom!

Helen: That's my eyewitness?

McGuire: Sorry.

Helen: I have to plead this out.

McGuire: I thought your office said "no".

Helen: I'll try to get involuntary.

McGuire: Suspect fled the scene, Helen.

Helen: Why me?


(Staff meeting with Bobby, Lindsay, Ellenor, Jimmy, Eugene, and Rebecca.)

Bobby: Straight "not guilty"? On the elements?

Ellenor: There were witnesses.

Eugene: There was no specific intent to kill.

Ellenor: So go manslaughter, they'll easily make reckless homicide. He beat a kid to death.

Eugene: It was initiation, there was no intent to kill.

Bobby: Okay. Rebecca's lunch Wednesday, everybody's in?

Rebecca: (embarrassed) You don't have to.

Jimmy: What do you mean, we don't have to? This is like the highest dog lover honor, isn't it?

Rebecca: It's animal rights, and it's not a big deal.

Jimmy: Not that big a deal, you saved two shelters.

Ellenor: We'll all be there.

Bobby: Great. Anything else, I'm late for a settlement- -

Lindsay: One other thing. Actually. (Nothing trivial.) I'd like some equity in this firm.

(Everyone stares at her.)

Bobby: Excuse me?

Lindsay: If you run the numbers, I've probably generated half our revenues. I've been getting feelers from headhunters, I really don't want to leave, I like it here, . . but I want some equity.

Bobby: What . . . like partner?

Lindsay: Not equal but . . . yes. (Everyone glares at her.)


(Bobby and Lindsay in Bobby's office)

Bobby: (fuming) The issue aside, don't you think that's something you should have addressed one-on-one?

Lindsay: There's no one-on-one in this firm, everything comes out so I wanted to be up front- -

Bobby: And exactly how am I supposed to react- -

Lindsay: Bobby.

Bobby: (escalating) That was an ultimatum, Lindsay. I don't handle ultimatums well.

Lindsay: I make a third of what I'm worth, and it's not like I'm trading in salary for prestige, this place doesn't leave you with much of a pedigree- -

Bobby: I'm so sick of you complaining about- -

Lindsay: I didn't make a complaint in there I made a demand! There's a difference.

Bobby: You want to go?

Lindsay: I want to stay. And I'm willing to make less. But I won't be an idiot. (She leaves.)


(Eugene with Mrs. Burnette, client's mother, forties, in court corridor)

Mrs. Burnette: Mr. Young, I'm Raymond's mother.

Eugene: Hello.

Mrs. Burnette: You don't know my boy. You probably don't like him. Are you going to save him?

Eugene: I'm going to try to keep him out of jail. (They stare at each other.)


(In court. Judge Joseph Camp presides, Detective James Horne on the stand, ADA Curtis Simmons prosecuting and currently conducting direct, with Eugene sitting next to Raymond.)

Simmons: When you arrived on the scene, was Mr. Johnson still alive?

Horne: He still had a pulse. But he was unconscious. He died en route to the hospital.

Simmons: And did you talk to anybody, Detective?

Horne: Yes. The officers had detained several gang member involved, one being the defendant.

Simmons: Did you question Mr. Burnette?

Horne: Yes.

Simmons: What, if anything, did he tell you?

Horne: He said they had been in a fight. He'd hit the victim. But he never meant to kill him. (Simmons sits down and Eugene gets up.)

Eugene: How long have you been connected with the Gang Unit?

Horne: Going on fifteen years.

Eugene: Would you say that you are an expert on street gangs?

Horne: With regard to this city, yes, I would.

Eugene: Have you ever heard the term "jumpin' in"?

Horne: Yes.

Eugene: Would you explain it for us, Detective Horne?

Horne: It's a gang initiation ritual. Different gangs do it differently, in this case they used playing cards.

Eugene: Playing cards?

Horne: Yes. The prospective gang member picks a card. The number of the card will decide how many existing gang members he has to walk through, allowing himself to be punched by.

Eugene: And did the victim draw a card, to your knowledge?

Horne: He drew the ace of spades.

Eugene: Did that have any special significance?

Horne: Yes. In this particular gang, drawing the ace means the one being initiated has to go against the gang member considered to be the toughest.

Eugene: Do you know who that member would be?

Horne: It was the defendant.

Eugene: So by drawing the ace, the victim, Mr. Charles Johnson, . . he was to fight the defendant?

Horne: Yes.

Eugene: And to your knowledge, it was in that fight that Mr. Johnson suffered the injury which caused his death?

Horne: That's correct.

Eugene: And Detective . . . when you detained my client and talked to him . . . could you describe his demeanor?

Horne: He was crying.

Eugene: Thank you.


(Rebecca and Lindsay in Bobby's office)

Rebecca: It was an ambush, Lindsay.

Lindsay: Why?

Rebecca: To just spring it at a staff meeting like that.

(Lindsay closes the door.)

Lindsay: Eugene told me that you know.

Rebecca: Know what?

Lindsay: That Bobby and I used to sleep together. (She says it like it's no big deal.) There. It's been said. Now. Suppose I went to Bobby privately and made my request. And suppose he granted it. And then suppose it got out that he used to suck my elbows through the night. (She and Rebecca are smiling and giggling quietly.) There'd be a mutiny. This way, out in the open . . . Bobby doesn't get accused of special favors, does he? It's better for everybody I did it this way.

(Lindsay leaves first, and bumps into Ellenor. Rebecca screams and rushes out.)

Ellenor & Lindsay: What's wrong?

Rebecca: Rat!!

Ellenor: What?

(They all scream and jump on top of desks.)

Rebecca: Where'd it go?

Ellenor: I saw it over there.

Lindsay: Where?

Ellenor: I don't know. Get it.

Lindsay: You get it.

Ellenor: Rebecca- -

Rebecca: I'm not getting it. (They all scream "help".)


(Gamble has Show on the stand, with Attorney Nick Jamison defending Ronald Feldman, and Judge Winter presides.)

Show: It was one of them big Mercedes. Tinted windows. We see a car like that, that time of night we think they're trollin' for pretty smellin' hookers.

Helen: Yes, Mr. Show, could you describe- -

Show: Little bitty hooker girls climb into those big back seats, car starts shakin' all so. Itty-bitty little hooker girls- -

Helen: Mr. Show, I'd like to just stay focused on the actual events of that night.

Show: Some of them girls are really men, y'know, but nobody ever finds out- -

Helen: Mr. Show- -

Show: ‘Cause the john's just looking for a quick slurpy.

Helen: Mr. Show. Just the accident. Could you describe it please?

Show: I seen this guy walking near the side of the road. This black Mercedes comes speeding along. Boom. Hits him.

Helen: How far away were you?

Show: Ten feet. Boom. And then it just speeds away. He doesn't stop. He just speeds off.

Helen: Did you get the license plate number of the car?

Show: Just "TD". The first letters, they were "TD" like "touchdown".

Helen: Had you ever seen the victim before?

Show: (sadly) Nope. He's a homeless man, bigger bum then me.

(Helen sits down and Jamison gets up to cross-examine.)

Jamison: Had you been drinking that night, Mr. Show?

Show: Yes. But I saw what I saw, Mr. Jamison. The car hit him. And he never stopped.

Jamison: Objection, non-responsive.

Judge Winter: Sustained, just answer the questions asked, Sir.

Show: I am, Your Honor. We both saw it.

Jamison: Both? Somebody else was with you?

Show: Yes. So there you go.

Jamison: Who else witnessed this accident?

Show: Mr. Penis. And his big pink eye was lookin' right at it. Saw the whole damned thing.

Jamison: (smiling) Ah. The two of you saw this.

Show: Me and the cyclops. Boom. (Helen is shown, trying not to laugh.)


COMMERCIALS ---------------------------------

(Law office, women are still on the desks)

Ellenor: How long are we gonna stay like this?

Rebecca: Till she gets it.

Lindsay: I'm not getting it.

Rebecca: You speak his language, Lindsay. Fellow rat.

Lindsay: (annoyed) What I did was good for the firm, Rebecca. (Jimmy enters.)

Ellenor: There's a rat running around.

Jimmy: In here?

Rebecca: No, in Washington, that's why we're all up on our desks, Big Head.

Jimmy: Don't you be rude with me, Rebecca.

Lindsay: Just get the rat.

Jimmy: (He pulls out his hockey stick.) Where is it?

Lindsay: We think he's under my desk.

Jimmy: (He sweeps the stick under the desk, nothing.)

(From the rat's point of view, Jimmy is seen looking under the desk. The rat runs for him, and Jimmy looks horrified.)

Ellenor: There he goes!

Lindsay: Where?

Rebecca: You almost knocked me off!

Jimmy: He's the size of a beaver!

(Ellenor opens the her desk drawer.) Rebecca: What are you doing? (Ellenor takes out a pistol.) You have a gun?

Ellenor: It's just a starter pistol.

Lindsay: What are you gonna do, race him?

Ellenor: I'll scare him.

Jimmy: That's not gonna scare him.

Ellenor: Then go get him, Big Head!

Jimmy: (yelling) It's normal size!


(Simmons has Rachel Johnson, mother of the victim on the stand. )

Simmons: You began to date to keep your son out of a gang?

Rachel: I thought if I could bring some male leadership into his life . . .

Simmons: What gang was your son trying to join, Mrs. Johnson?

Rachel: The one he (Raymond) was in. They call themselves the Bangers.

Simmons: Your son had a relationship with the defendant?

Rachel: Goin' back five years. To when he was eleven. He started sellin' drugs for him.

Simmons: Charlie started selling drugs for the defendant? Rachel: Yes.

Simmons: When he was eleven years old?

Rachel: Yes.

Simmons: Did you know this at the time?

Rachel: Yes. I did everything I could to . . . but Charlie looked up to him. Wanted to be like him. ‘Stead, . . he was killed by him.

(Simmons sits down and Eugene gets up.)

Eugene: You talked about trying to steer your son away from gangs. He didn't have a father, did he?

Rachel: No.

Eugene: You work at a gas station as an attendant. And uh, your hours are three p.m. to midnight?

Rachel: Yes.

Eugene: Mrs. Johnson. How often did you see Charlie during any given week?

Rachel: I know I couldn't be there for him as much as I wanted.

Eugene: I understand that. Mrs. Johnson . . . was there anybody who looked out for your son?

Rachel: (She knows where he is going.) You call getting him to sell drugs "looking out for him"?

Eugene: On the Columbus block where you live, what percentage of boys end up joining gangs?

Rachel: Most. Eugene: Most. You testified your son looked up to my client. In fact, you often thought my client helped keep your son alive, didn't you? (She stares at him.) I'd ask you respond to my question, Ma'am.

Rachel: (low, intense) I'll answer your question, Sir. Did I often appreciate him lookin' out for my boy? Yes. And I know they was friends. But he got him into drugs, he got him into gang business. And with his own hands he killed him. Don't you dare be sayin' I should be sittin' here, lookin' at him grateful. (Her power resonates, she has won the room.)


(Helen, in car, on phone.)

Helen: I'm putting up the detective, I won't do more than ten minutes. I just need to get in the condition of the car plus the statement of the defendant.

(A homeless man taps on the window.)

Homeless Man: Wash your windows, Ma'am?

(Helen waves him off without a look, but he washes the window anyway.)

Helen: We should rest by the end of the day. (About the dirty window) Great.


(Law offices, with everyone still on the desks. Jimmy is holding a very large book.)

Ellenor: Somebody's gotta get down and flush him out.

Rebecca: Why, you gonna blow his ears out with that?

Ellenor: Rebecca, I'm an animal rights activist myself, there's a waiver for rats.

Jimmy: We're gonna have to flush him again.

Rebecca: Then get down there, be a man.

(Bobby enters.)

Jimmy: Hey, Bobby. How's it going?

Bobby: "How's it going?"

Lindsay: (screaming) There he goes!!

(Everyone screams, Ellenor fires the pistol three times, and Jimmy hurls the book.)

Bobby: What in G-d's name?

Jimmy: I think I got him!

Bobby: Got who? What?

Lindsay: This law firm has rats. What a surprise.

Bobby: Hey, you know something Lindsay,- -

Jimmy: Where is it?

Ellenor: Its in the corner. Right there.

Jimmy: Nothing's moving. I think I got him.

( The rat runs right up Rebecca's leg. She screams, hurls a book, and knocks it off. She stomps on it five or six times.)

Ellenor: Yes!

Jimmy: That is one dead rat.


Eugene: I just don't like the feel of it. I thought we had a shot. But right now, my gut says take the manslaughter.

Mrs. Burnette: But even the doctors say it was a fluke, the way the boy died.

Eugene: Mrs. Burnette, he died from getting punched to the head. If Raymond had no record, I'd say let's roll the dice. But now . . . I think we should take manslaughter.

Mrs. Burnette: How long will he go to jail for that?

Eugene: With the priors . . . he could do six, I'd be hopin' for four.

(Mrs. Burnette is quite saddened by this.)


(Eugene and Curtis Simmons in the corridor.)

Eugene: What do you mean "no"?

Simmons: I want him for murder two.

Eugene: C'mon, Curtis, yesterday you offered manslaughter, why- -

Simmons: That was yesterday, - -

Eugene: So what's changed?

Simmons: What's changed is I was lookin' at that boy's mother on the stand and I just got sick of hearing "didn't mean it" from the gangs, it's time- -

Eugene: C'mon, Curtis, you- -

Simmons: (escalating) And I took offense at you, I didn't like what I heard from you.

Eugene: Which was?

Simmons: Which was, "these kids got nowhere else to turn but gangs, there's nobody there for them but gangs"- -

Eugene: You don't think that's the truth?

Simmons: I don't think it's an excuse! Now. Look. I was raised by a single parent, I grew up in those neighborhoods, I got out, Eugene, kids do make other choices,- -

Eugene: So you got out, I'm happy for you, that still doesn't mean my guy should get murder two- -

Simmons: A kid is dead because of your guy!

Eugene: Try the case, Curtis!

Simmons: I'm trying my case! You try yours.