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The Practice airs Sunday at 10PM on ABC All times listed are for the Pacific time zone
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Ally McBeal

 

TP-511 "An Early Frost"

Doug Salvesen, a litigator at the Boston firm of Yurko & Perry, will tell you if the The Practice still makes perfect.

Archives of The Practice reviews, along with reviews for other legal shows, can be found at FindLaw's Insider Reviews.

January 7, 2001

Another episode of The Practice and - surprise - Scott Wallace is a defendant in another (his third) murder trial. A brief recap. After being found guilty of killing his wife, Wallace's first conviction was reversed on appeal, after which he was found not guilty in the second trial, after which Wallace was fired from his job, after which he fired (with a handgun) right back at his employer in the offices of Donnell, Young, Dole & Frutt, which is how he wound up at this latest trial. Ellenor and Jimmy witnessed the shooting and, in something of a clever reversal of roles, will be witnesses at this trial. The sole issue at the trial is whether Wallace was insane at the time he shot his employer.

Like all his other trials, Wallace is represented at this murder trial by Bobby Donnell. No Massachusetts court would ever, ever, ever allow a lawyer to defend a client where another lawyer from his firm is a witness for the prosecution. The writers of The Practice themselves acknowledged this. Jimmy - often the voice of common sense - says, "Of course I have a conflict. My boss is opposing counsel. I'll be testifying against a former client. In my life, I'll probably never know a bigger professional conflict." A television reporter commenting at the start of the trial notes, "the idea that a lawyer acts as defense counsel where two lawyers from his firm are primary witnesses? It's ludicrous." I agree.

The narrative reason to have Donnell represent Wallace is to set up the conflict between Donnell and Jimmy. Bay warns Jimmy that Donnell is going to try to twist him into a pretzel. Donnell himself warns Jimmy that his cross-examination is not going to be pretty ("Well, I will have to go after you... And I'll get you. I'll embarrass you"). I know that everyone will come to their own conclusion, but I did not think that Donnell's cross-examination of Jimmy lived up to its hype. Donnell insinuated that Jimmy froze when Wallace pulled out a gun and that he did not accurately observe what happened. Jimmy gave a fairly detailed and articulate account of what he saw, and he denied that he froze.

For the most part, jurors tend to identify with witnesses. For that reason, it is usually a bad idea to attack a witness, as Donnell attacked Jimmy. Unless the witness is obviously a liar or otherwise despicable human being, a vigorous attack is likely to leave the jurors feeling sympathetic towards the witness and angry towards the lawyer.

Although the jury ultimately finds that Wallace was temporarily insane, the testimony and the expert testimony on this issue were pretty one-sided towards the other direction. Wallace admits that he puts the gun in his briefcase with the purpose of shooting a stranger on the street - a somewhat criminal intent. Wallace was meeting with his employer to persuade him to give Wallace his job back. That's not exactly a scenario for suicide. It's more likely that the gun would be used to "persuade" the employer. Nevertheless, Wallace says that he decides to kill himself after his employer refuses to rehire him. Life is just too hard. Wallace's employer convinces Wallace that suicide is not the proper course - but this puts Wallace in his employer's debt, which Wallace cannot abide. So Wallace kills him. While this string of events may be unlikely, it is not irrational and the verdict simply did not seem credible.

I imagine that most fans tuned in on Sunday night to see "Bug-Eyed" Hinks - the wonderfully creepy serial killer who is out to get Lindsay. After Hinks does in his psychiatrist Jeanne Reynolds (by injecting her with liquid nicotine - yet another shot at the tobacco industry), Donnell decides he must be a little more pro-active. He recruits a former client, Alan Neel, to "put the fear of God" into Hinks. This is what is known as an assault.

Neel goes a tad overboard and cuts off Hinks's head. Unfortunately, Hinks will no longer be guest starring in future episodes. Neel puts the head in the freezer - hence the "early frost" reference - and calls it a day. The police find the body, and the head, and begin their investigation. While Lindsay's troubles are now over, I suspect that Donnell's are just beginning. He sent Neel to Hinks's home to commit a crime - assault - and Neel let things get out of hand.

My prediction is that next week Donnell will represent himself and Neel in yet another murder trial. The way things are going, he might find even himself playing the role of the prosecutor.

These articles originally appeared on FindLaw (www.findlaw.com)

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Sara Evans
Sara Evans

1. Legal Notice: "The Practice" TM and (or copyright) Fox and its related companies. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, duplication, or distribution in any form is expressly prohibited.; and

2. Disclaimer: This web site, its operators, and any content contained on this site relating to "The Practice" are not authorized by Fox.

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