HBO’s The Night Of – Episode 7: Ordinary Death

Just one episode remains of the hit HBO Limited Series – The Night Of. The case and trial haven’t been decided yet, but (SPOILERS TO FOLLOW) in this, the penultimate episode there was enough info brought out in the trial to make the jurors decision quite tricky. Ours too for that matter.

Especially since the episode had begun with Detective Box and another detective at a crime scene. A woman had been stabbed to death with multiple wounds. Box would say, This looks just like the Andrea Cornish murder. The response from the other detective: Yeah another uptown misdemeanor murder.

Nice opening – makes you immediately consider that while Naz Khan is on trial, the real murderer is still out there doing his thing. This also made think of a similar set  of circumstances in The Shawshank Redemption when Tommy was told by another con how he did the crime that some banker (Andy Dufresne) had gotten sent to prison for.

Weiss did a fine job in getting Dr. Chester, and his previously ‘coached’ testimony into the proceedings. This was the testimony that the wound of Naz’s palm was caused by his hand slipping onto the blade during the thrusting of the knife into the victim repeatedly.

But Defense Attorney Chandra Kapoor went straight to work on the ME. She subtly poked a hole in his credentials if not his testimony by bringing up another case that this ME’s testimony was in part a responsible element resulting in a conviction. However that conviction (the Arthur Metz case) was later overturned in an appellate court appeal. The ME called it an interpretative judgement – the appellate court had not agreed with Chester’s interpretation. Chester would say it wasn’t a mistake – it was a different interpretation.. But Chandra had won the point. ME’s can and do make mistakes.

Weiss also had the High School coach who testified that not only did Naz throw a student down a flight of steps, but he also referenced a second instance of Naz over-reacting physically. Upon his return from a two-week suspension, Naz had thrown a full can of Coke at another student , creating a wound that required 12 stitches on the boy’s face. Kapoor had been unaware of this event, as Naz had not told his attorney about it.

Weiss closed the State’s case with Detective Box who would say that he’d been a homicide detective for 13 years, and had been a NYC Police Officer for 33 years. He would go on to say that he would take evidence over a confession and day of the week. 

After the state had rested their prosecution, Box would be dismissed from the trial. He was a prosecution witness. Stone would have to get a Judicial Summons to get Box back on the stand. Which he did.

Chandra then took on Detective Box in direct and led him into a couple of traps. He had to admit that he knowingly broke a chain of custody rule by taking Nasir Khan’s asthma inhaler out of evidence/custody and giving it to Naz to alleviate his trouble breathing.

What’s more, Box stated in direct that he had interviewed only one suspect, Nasir Khan. Kapoor sprung the trap by showing the video footage of Box interviewing the young black man called Trevor. When Kapoor asked Box if he had interviewed either Duane Reade who had been with Trevor on W.87th Street that night, the hearse driver who had been parked at the gas station where Naz refueled the taxi, or the witness from across the street from where Andrea lived, Box could only say that he didn’t interview witnesses when he had enough evidence already in hand. Box would go on to say that he couldn’t interview someone he wasn’t aware of.

Kapoor then played the video of the hearse driver at the gas station which Detective Box had scrupulously collected. Since there could be nothing Box could say about that – Box again reiterated that evidence is always preferable to a confession.

Chandra pounced on that by stating the Nasir Khan had never confessed during his interrogation in the precinct, had not confessed during his subsequent booking and bail hearings, and finally, Naz had not confessed when a 15 year sentence plea bargain deal was offered to him rather than losing in a trial and getting a life sentence or a death sentence.

Definitely a bad day for Detective Box on the stand.

Meanwhile Stone had asked some questions, interviewed some people, taken it upon himself to follow Taylor around, all for the purpose of finding out more about Don Taylor, Andrea’s stepfather. Stone’s connections supplied the following – all of Taylor’s credit cards had been maxed out, and that Taylor, if he would declare bankruptcy again – it would be for the third time. Taylor, would be called a trapeze artist by his ex-wife. When Stone asked, she said – You know, a trapeze artist, swinging from one old bag to another. A joke she said. But she also told Stone that she had paid Taylor $200K to go away rather than fight through a contested divorce settlement.

Stone’s cat had somehow managed to get out of the extra bedroom and found his way onto Stone’s bed. This would send Stone back to Dr. Yee, the Chinese apothecary who was a master of brews and concoctions that had cured Stone’s eczema. Get rid of your cat, Yee reiterated twice.

But there was even more to go on the plus side of Chandra’s ledger. And that would be the Forensic Pathologist Dr. Katz who had been brought in by John Stone. Under Kapoor’s questioning the follow were brought out:

  1. the outer gate at the W.87th St building could not be fully closed. Dr. Katz pointed at the rust around the lock as proof.
  2. The inner basement door had not been locked either.
  3. There was a third access route – the second story bedroom window which was also unlocked. Dr. Katz stated that he had tested this route by scaling the tree himself (and he was pressing or nearing 70 years of age).

Then came the part about the knife. This borrowed from two other films a) 12 Angry Men when Juror Henry Fonda produced the exact same knife in the jury room that had been described as a one-of-a-kind unique knife, and b) that Katz was an expert on this particular knife was a lift from My Cousin Vinnie where Joe Pesci’s fiancée, played by Marisa Tomei, was an expert on certain automobile transmissions.

Now having said that, I must also add that ‘borrowing’ in one form or another is not a criminal activity for screenwriters. I am sure it is done far more often than I can tell you.

That said, according to Dr. Katz, this particular brand of knives were only sold in sets of four. You could not buy a single knife of this model, and production has ceased on this set of knives back in 2008 or thereabouts. Katz said – there were two knives in the drawer, and one found on Khan. So where was the fourth knife?

Katz said it might have been lost, chewed up in the garbage disposal, or simply thrown away. He said he had searched the house fully, and had not found a fourth knife.

Kapoor ran with this by saying that the blood on the knife could have come from the game of mumbly-peg, and the fact that the blood on the knife matched the victim’s (Andrea Cornish) blood was not conclusive that this was the knife that killed Andrea.

While this was a clever writers gambit – remember that Kapoor would only have to create some doubt in the minds of the jurors – I thought it was a little too perfect.

Meanwhile other things emerged:

  • Don Taylor was not unaware that Stone was poking around in his business. You think you’re invisible? The Invisible Man?
  • Naz Khan’s mother had fled from the courtroom unable to bear listening as the gruesome evidence came forth. Testimony – this was the work of an animal. Mrs. Khan (in the court toilets talking to Kapoor) – Did I raise an animal?

  • Detective Box fills out his retirement papers. He does not want to retire with a ‘lost case’ as final case. He stares at his retirement gift – a set of golf clubs – but his face screams at us that he is unsure of the case now.

  • The Khans are having it tough. They have to sell off their heirlooms and jewelry including precious rings. Their neighborhood has been spoiled by anti-Muslim graffiti. A brick was thrown threw their bedroom window. Mr. Khan has to sell off his share of the taxi medallion because his partners do not want any part of him. They called him ‘the father of a killer’. Mrs. Khan has had to take a job cleaning toilets.

Back at Rikers some meaningful events occurred. The prisoner whose mother was delivering drugs in the prison was found dead with his wrists slashed in the prison toilet. This would disrupt Freddy’s drug operation. Naz would have to get the drugs directly from this woman, and swallow them in the visitor’s room. Which would increase the risk.

Freddy asked Naz if he had anything that Naz had to tell him about Petey. Petey was the younger prisoner found dead in the toilets. Remember – Naz had witnessed the homosexual act between Petey and Victor and had then been threatened by Victor.

Soon after, Naz acts as a distraction by interacting with a corrections officer by ordering a replacement inhaler. It was during this time that Freddy had slashed Victor’s throat with a razor blade attached to a tooth-brush. Victor bled out in under a minute.

The takeaway from this is that Naz now seems infinitely more hardened and savage then when we had first met him. In this case he served as a distraction so Freddy could kill someone.

Last point – Chandra Kapoor visits Naz. He is despondent thinking now that no one believes him. Naz’s mother had refused to take his call. But Chandra says, I believe in you. Then she leans in and they kiss. This was shocking as it was unexpected.

Is Naz pulling out all the stops to insure that Kapoor does all that she can to save him? Or is Kapoor playing Naz to see if he will open up or seeing if he has some humanity in him. I’m not sure if this ‘kiss-test’ was necessary, or was it unprofessional on Kapoor’s part, or was it a full and total mistake by writers Price and Zaillian. And there’s one more angle – Naz could claim that his lawyer manipulated him sexually – an offense that would get her disbarred, and him a new trial.  Is he that smart, or that cynical if he is acting on the advice of someone like Freddy.

Or was it just a moment that got away from the level-headed but inexperienced Chandra Kapoor?

Is this what our system of justice does to some of the incoming flow of law-breakers, or supposed law-breakers. If they were not criminals before, they could very well be criminals after.

Okay what comes next? The last of the trial then the verdict. Or maybe another perp – (Don Taylor? Duane Reade? The hearse driver?) is arrested. There’s seems to be almost an infinite number of choices;

  • Naz did it, and was found guilty on all counts by the jury.
  • Naz didn’t do it, and was still found guilty.
  • Naz did it but was found innocent.
  • The jury cannot decide – a hung jury occurs.
  • Naz is killed in prison before the verdict.
  • Naz is found innocent and released but is killed by an anti-Muslim nut job in the streets of Queens.

I am looking forward to the finale. Or maybe we will get a cliff-hanger and have to wait for a second season. By the way – did you notice the origin of the Episode title, Ordinary Death? It was one of the options (upon his death) that were on Box’s retirement papers.

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