Classic ADA Makes Surprise Return in R. Kelly-Inspired Case

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Law & Order returned on Thursday night, and it was almost as if no time had passed between Seasons 20 and 21. There were red herrings during the police half and plenty of legal gymnastics during the legal half. The episode, titled “The Right Thing,” even brought back a surprise guest star for a pivotal role.

The foundation for the crime was clearly inspired by the R. Kelly case. Musician Henry King accused of being a sexual predator was gunned down outside his apartment. At first, Detectives Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson) and Frank Cosgrove (Jeffrey Donovan) suspected that the musician’s wife might have something to do with it, but they soon discovered one of the musician’s victims, Nicole, was the real murderer. Cosgrove got the woman to admit to the murder, but only by tricking her into thinking that she could get away with it because everyone hates King’s guts.

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(Photo: Eric Liebowitz/NBC)

During their investigation, Bernard and Cosgrove questioned A.D.A. Jamie Ross (Carey Lowell) who met with Nicole the day of the murder! Longtime L&O fans will remember Ross as McCoy’s partner in Seasons 7-11. It’s not explained why she’s an A.D.A. now after previously being a trial judge in Law & Order: Trial By Jury.

It’s important to remember how that confession came about, because it would prove to be a nightmare for Executive Assistant District Attorney Nolan Price (Hugh Dancy) and A.D.A. Samantha Maroun (Odelya Halevi). Although D.A. Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) reminded Price that police are allowed to lie during their interrogations, Price decided Cosgrove got it in an unethical way. Price was convinced he could win the case without the confession, and McCoy gave him the green light to do so.

Of course, when Cosgrove was on the stand, he couldn’t resist bringing up the confession anyway. The judge surprisingly refused to declare a mistrial, and the jury just had to pretend they didn’t hear Cosgrove mention the confession. Then, the trial took another turn because Nicole claimed self-defense. King’s wife – who told Cosgrove and Bernard early on that she was nowhere near the scene of the crime – was prepared to commit perjury on the stand to help Nicole get off. All of this, combined with Nicole’s testimony, seemed to make it clear that Price was going to lose the case.

At this point, Price tried one more thing. He called Ross to the stand, but she refused to answer questions because the answers could incriminate herself. She pleaded the fifth every time Price asked her a question. Since that didn’t work, it was beginning to look like Price’s decision to not use the confession was blowing up in his face. McCoy agreed with Maroun that the jury was close to acquitting Nicole. Since the jury hated him, Maroun delivered the closing argument and brought up the fact that her sister’s rapist and murder was never arrested. She could understand why Nicole killed King, but that does not justify murder. Maroun also made the argument that the jury could feel sorry for Nicole, but they could still convict her for intentionally killing King. Maroun’s argument worked and the episode ended with a conviction.

Maroun didn’t really feel great in the end though. “If you try a good case… if you do it the right way, whatever the jury decides is right, whether or not it feels good,” Price said. “That’s the only way I know how to do it. The only way it lets me sleep at night.” Maroun said the only way she could sleep is if Prince recommends a light sentence. The next Law & Order case airs on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.