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Steven Culp on "Law & Order: Los Angeles"

Episode: Carthay Circle

LAW & ORDER: LOS ANGELES - "Carthay Circle" 06/18/2011 (10:00PM - 11:00PM) DETECTIVES WINTERS (SKEET ULRICH) AND JARUSZALSKI (COREY STOLL) INVESTIGATE THE MURDERS OF A POLITICAL OPERATIVE AND HIS GIRLFRIEND -- ISAIAH WASHINGTON AND CHARLES DUTTON GUEST STAR -- When Kim Ho Lee (guest star Elizabeth Anweis) is found dead by a neighbor, the detectives suspect her live-in boyfriend of murder until they stumble upon his dead body. As Winters and Jazuszalski begin digging into Joyner's past, they learn that he was hired to collect voter signatures in order to put a controversial proposition back on the ballot. However, when surprising details are uncovered, DDA's Morales (Alfred Molina) and Price (Regina Hall) find their case in jeopardy and justice hanging in the balance. Rachel Ticotin also stars.


Detailed summary:

Kim Ho Lee (Elizabeth Anweis) is found dead by a neighbor, Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) and "TJ" Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) are called to the scene. Lee lives with her boyfriend Derek Joyner who is not home. She had been stabbed. Derek is a project manager at Corrigan Strategy Group. They see a receipt which places Derek in the home earlier in the day. A phone call comes in and Rex sees it is from Lee's father. He asks to meet with him in person.

Rex and TJ speak with Mr. & Mrs. Lee and her sister, in an attempt to find Derek. They speak separately with Lee's sister who says her parents have a problem with Derek because he is black. The car was leased through her father's practice and they think he took Kim's car.

At Union Station, the car is located outside the station, and they later find Derek got a ticket and left the station. They find calls on his cell records to a branch office in San Diego to his employer.

They speak with Derek's boss Ben Corrigan (Steven Culp) at Corrigan Strategy Group and find Derek was project manager on Prop. 128, the California Marriage Protection Act. Derek was working out of the Crenshaw field office. Derek had a rep with the ladies.

Later, while Rex and TJ talk about Prop. 128 they hear the police arrested someone using Derek's card. At the Garden Grove Police Department, they speak with the guy who used Derek's card who tells them he found it – and the whole wallet cash and all - in a dumpster. He denies ever seeing Derek.

Back at RHD, the detectives discuss this development with Lt. Arlene Gonzales (Rachel Ticotin). They think something is not right with this. They found evidence at the scene that indicates someone may have been in the house crawl space. They head back to the home where crime scene people find Derek's body wrapped in black plastic.

Back at RHD, they discuss that Derek was beaten and strangled and it appears he was killed first. The fugitive routine was staged, and it appears Derek was the target. There was a taxi receipt in Derek's pocket.

They speak with the taxi driver who said he got a call to pick up Derek at his office. While he waited his car was hit by a sprinkler and his windows were open. There was a black guy who was parked near the house and he saw him go up to the house but not go in. They think Derek left work early and maybe someone tipped him off – maybe someone at Derek's work.

At Prop 128 headquarters, a woman said Derek wanted to work from home and everyone knew as she had to reschedule meetings. She asks the detectives to sign the petition and Rex says he will think about it. She said one of the meetings had been canceled at the last minute. The person running the meeting, Roland Davidson, who had a family emergency. Roland is co-sponsor of Prop 128 and his father is Reverend Davidson. TJ asks if father and son got along, and she indicates they yelled sometimes.

The detectives speak with Roland Davidson (Isaiah Washington) who worked closely with Derek over the last year. He was at the office that morning and they did yell but they smoothed things out. He tells them he was at a fundraising dinner for the Promise Women's Shelter and got there around 7 in time to hear his father give the blessing and he left at 9:30. Derek told him he was having problems with monogamy and he had an eye for the ladies.

Afterwards, they see that there is a car in the parking lot that looks like it has been hit by a sprinkler. They decide to check out Roland's alibi and head to the Promise Women's Shelter. They find Roland was late for the dinner as he was stuck in traffic. TJ sees a nice poster and asks who designed it and she tells them Roland got someone to do it for free. TJ notices the poster signature is Kim Lee's.

They speak again with Kim's sister who said she met Roland through Derek. They tell her they found calls from Kim to Derek. She indicates Kim only shared religion with Roland. She always wore a cross and Rex asks where she kept it when she wasn't wearing it. She kept it in a box on her dresser that she got from her parents.

The detectives head to the church where Roland and the Reverend (Charles S. Dutton) are watching the choir practice. Roland says he has never been to Derek's home but they tell him that they found his fingerprints on a jewelry box there. They arrest him.

The Reverend is at the DA's office with DA Jerry Hardin (Peter Coyote) and DDA Ricardo Morales (Alfred Molina) and DDA Evelyn Price (Regina Hall). The Reverend says Roland is the pillar of his church. They argue about justice and politics and the Reverend gets upset when Morales quotes Dr. King to him. When the Reverend storms off, Hardin tells Morales that was unnecessary, but Morales comments that Hardin enjoyed it. Morales thinks the Reverend is using the church to oppress but Price tells him gay marriage is a huge issue in black churches. Morales thinks it is a great way to get people to open their checkbooks. Hardin thinks the case is thin and that when the Reverend speaks, their parishioners vote.

In Superior Court, Morales thinks they have probable cause to proceed, but Roland's attorney Mr. Miller (Rick Hoffman ) says Roland was only having an affair with Kim Lee and says the evidence is inconclusive. Judge Avery Staynor (John De Lancie) agrees with Miller. Morales decides to withdraw the charges and reserves the right to refile later and the judge agrees. Afterwards, Morales tells price there are many ways to attack the case and is perplexed as to why they offered one that gave them motive. Maybe the murder was about something else.

Back at RHD,  Hall goes over any other motives with the detectives. They wonder if it involves money and decide to go back and look at the fancy car. Later, the detectives check out the car and TJ finds a signature sheet for Prop 128 with names highlighted.

At the home listed as Trevor Watkins, there is no one living at that home with that name. They later find there are 11 phony names on the list and asks someone at the county clerks' office to check some of the names. They find all 11 names are also on the voter rolls. Later, Rex and TJ tell Morales and Price that someone messed with the petitions and also the voter rolls. They think Corrigan has a scam going to get money for each signature. They think Derek found out. They also wonder how many other initiatives Corrigan has scammed. Morales tells them to get a warrant for Corrigan's office and the Prop 128 office. Morales says he has to give Jerry a heads up as it will give his favorite reverend a coronary.

With warrant in hand, the detectives and the DDAs arrive at Corrigan's office, who is holding a press conference to say he performed and audit and found that Derek was involved in fraud. He says they will get rid of the fake signatures and start over. The Reverend also says the work that will go on, and says Morales is there to help clear up the mess and to clear a path for them so they can start their important work. Morales looks a little trapped and then plays along to the crowd.

Back at the office, Price and Hall give Hardin the bad news on the scope of this fraud, and two of the laws Hardin campaigned for. Hardin is worried about a constitutional crisis but Morales is worried about the little picture – the murders. They think the fraud is why they were killed and they are still sorting it out. Morales wants to take another run at Roland Davidson.

The outline what their theory with Roland and his attorney and tells them they want Corrigan and they will deal for him. They offer 30 to life with no death penalty. Roland tells them he did not know about the phony signatures until Corrigan called him telling him that Derek was going to report them. His father staked his whole reputation on Prop 128 and the scandal would ruin him. Corrigan said it was up to Roland to stop Derek. He said he went to Derek's and everything went sideways. He lost his temper and killed him and then Kim walked in and he knocked her out. He called Corrigan and he came over to decide what to do and Corrigan stuck a knife in her. Corrigan killed her.

Later, with Corrigan in custody with his attorney Max Hern (Currie Graham) present, Hern tells Morales and Hall that Corrigan had nothing to do with it. Morales then gets information from Hardin that Corrigan is off limits, Corrigan reached out so someone in Sacramento. The investigation of the initiatives has been taken over by the attorney general's office. Morales thinks Hardin and the AG just gave Davidson his defense on a silver platter. When Hardin tells him he is overreacting, Morales says, "You watch."

In Superior Court, Roland is on the stand. He talks about what happened at Derek's house and what happened with Derek and Kim. He says he called Corrigan and he came over and killed Kim and then told him to hide Derek's body and then make it look like Derek was on the run. Before he left, he saw Kim did not have her cross on and he found it in her room and put it on her neck. He took the train, threw away the wallet, and met his father at the charity dinner. Hern cross examines him and tries to poke holes in his story and brings up Roland wanting to take over the church and that for Roland it was about the money and power. Roland denies making a deal with Derek and it was not about money. Roland insists he is not lying. Hern brings up Roland lying about the affair and Roland apologizes for lying about that.

At the office, Price preps Reverend Davidson about his upcoming testimony. He is worried about Corrigan's lawyer. The Reverend says his one son made a plea bargain to save his life and worries what would happen if Roland was lying. She tells him the deal would be off and Roland would face the death penalty.

Back in court, the Reverend testifies about his contract with Corrigan to pay him for valid signatures. Hern cross examines him and only asks if Roland ever told him there was a problem with signatures or to keep an eye on Corrigan and he says no. Dutton is slow to step down and then tells the judge he would like to change his answer. A month before Roland committed the crimes he noticed an error in the petition. There was an address that he knew 6 blocks from the church. Lucy Meriwether lived there her whole life but that was not the name on the petition. He told Roland and he said he would look into it.  A few days later Roland told him he straightened it out with Derek and it was just a clerical error. Hern says they cooked up a lie to cover the fraud. Morales asks for time to prepare a redirect and the judge adjourns until Monday.

Later, Morales and Price speak with Roland who says his father is lying. He insists he did not find about the fraud until later. Morales asks why his father would chose Corrigan over him and wonders if the Reverend was in on the fraud with Corrigan. His father said all summer the money was flowing in like a great faucet.

Back in court, Morales has the Reverend on the stand who says he was just trying to protect his son but his son lied. Morales brings up the fact that the Reverend asked what would happen to Roland if it was discovered that Roland lied. The Reverend said he had to do the right thing. Morales brings up the other projects from the church and some of the donations, and that a large one was made by a person who was listed as a phony name on the petition. There are others just like that – over 1,000 made to his projects from phony names totaling a million dollars – the same amount that Corrigan is accused of defrauding from the Prop 128 campaign. Morales says the Reverend knew what Corrigan was doing and then squeezed him for money and now Corrigan is squeezing him so he made up the story about Roland and Derek. The Reverend accuses Morales of being cynical, and Morales brings up all the things the Reverend has done for the cause of human dignity and brings up Prop 128. Morales thinks the Reverend is sacrificing his own son to save his own skin. The Reverend again says he misspoke and now says he is not sure when or if he spoke to his son about the mistakes on the petitions or that he said anything to him about Derek. At his age, evens become confused an apologize for wasting the jury's time.

At a later time in court, Corrigan is found guilty of one count of murder in the first degree. As the courtroom clears, the Lee family glares at the Reverend who walks off alone. As Morales and Price leave the courtroom, we fade to black. (c)

Detailed summary:

Carthay Circle resident Ted Mullin is working in his yard when neighbor Kim Ho Lee drives up. Ted's annoyed that the raccoons have strewn Kim's garbage across their properties and says so. He's even more annoyed when the garbage is still there later that night. No one answers Kim's door, so he peeps through a window, to spy her lying in a pool of blood. Later a uniformed sergeant gives TJ and Winters the details. Kim has multiple stab wounds from a French chef's knife, still on the kitchen table. She lives with her boyfriend Derrick Joyner, who's nowhere to be found. TJ finds Derrick's briefcase, which contains his Corrigan Strategy Group ID and a receipt for his Audi, which is in the shop. TJ puts out a BOLO on Derrick just as Kim's cell phone rings. It's her father, so Winters picks up to deliver the bad news.

The detectives proceed to the Koreatown dental office of Mr. Lee, Kim's father, to speak with the family. Kim's parents immediately suspect Derrick, so Winters pulls Kim's sister Min aside. Min explains that her parents are very traditional and have a problem with Derrick because he's African American, but graphic designer Kim was very happy in the relationship. Min shows them a poster designed by Kim, featuring a distinctive chop, or signature, and explains that Kim leased her car through their father's practice. TJ and Winters find the car parked at Union Station, and the ticket confirms the car entered the lot at 6:14 on the night of the murder.

Back at RHD, TJ and Winters tell Gonzales what they know. Derrick paid for a one-way ticket on the 6:30 train to San Diego, and the conductor punched his ticket 20 minutes after the train left the station. A trace on his cell phone has revealed the only calls to the San Diego area are to a branch office of Corrigan Strategy - which will be their next destination. Political strategist Ben Corrigan explains that his company helps get political initiatives on the state ballot, and Derrick was working on Prop 128, the California Marriage Protection Act, out of the Crenshaw field office. Derrick's work includes a lot of travel, and he was known to have a thing for the ladies. On the way out, Winters gets an alert on his phone. The Garden Grove cops have arrested someone caught using Derrick's credit card.

Philip Rice, aka P-Dawg, wastes no time confessing he found a wallet containing Derrick's credit cards in a dumpster. Learning he may be implicated in murder, he offers more details about the wallet, which strangely included cash. TJ and Winters know this doesn't sound right. SID found a mix of rodent excrement, fiberglass and insulation in Kim's car. Thanks to a recent possum hunt, Winters knows the debris mix is consistent with what you'd find under a house. It's not long before Derrick's corpse is pulled from under the house he shared with Kim.

Back at RHD, the detectives confer with Gonzales. Derrick was beaten then strangled, and his blood was in the kitchen, overlaid with Kim's blood; so he was killed first. The perp must have staged the train trip to make Kim's murder look like a domestic and must have been waiting for Derrick when he got home. Since there was a cab receipt in Derrick's pocket, the detectives check with cabbie Milos, who parked on the street for a few minutes after dropping Derrick off at home, late in the afternoon on the day of the murder. Milos remembers that after some sprinklers turned on, a black guy parked down the street went to Derrick's door. Realizing that Derrick left work early, the detectives proceed to Prop 128 headquarters in Crenshaw to interview receptionist Helen.

Helen explains that everyone at work knew Derrick was leaving early. She rescheduled two of his meetings, and Roland Davison, co-sponsor of Prop 128, cancelled a third, claiming a family emergency. Roland is the son of the powerful Reverend Davison, who's shepherding the bill. The detectives move on to the church to meet with Roland, who explains that in the last year of working with Derrick, they collected 500,000 signatures, which are currently being certified by the county. Roland and Derrick did have a run-in on the morning of his disappearance, but Roland has an alibi: he was driving to Bellflower for a fundraising dinner at the Promise Women's Shelter, where he met his father about 7:00. Oh, and Derrick had come to him for counseling in the past, regarding his penchant for the ladies.

In the church parking lot, Winters notices that Roland's car is covered with water spots - perhaps it got hit by the sprinklers noticed by the cabbie? Deciding to investigate Roland's alibi, the guys drive to the Promise Women's Shelter to interview manager Patricia, who confirms that Reverend Davison and Roland were present for the fundraising dinner - but Roland showed up at 8:00. She's hesitant to answer more questions because the Davisons are the shelter's primary contributors. On the way out, TJ notices a poster for the fundraiser, signed with Kim's distinctive chop. Patricia explains that Roland found a high-end company to design the poster for free.

The detectives return to Koreatown for another meeting with Min, who explains that she and Kim went to Roland's gospel mass a few times. Although most people who wear crosses do it for fashion, Kim wore hers as a sign of devotion. Winters recalls that Kim was wearing it when she was found dead, which Min thinks is impossible. Kim went to the Korean spa that afternoon, and she always left her jewelry home, in a heart-shaped box on her dresser. After finding Roland's fingerprints on Kim's jewelry box, TJ and Winters arrest him for murder.

At the DA's office, Morales, Hardin and Price meet with Reverend Davison, who threatens Hardin not to pick a fight on such a thin case in an election year - his people can always stay home. Hardin points out that his people won't be able to vote for Prop 128 if they stay home, but the Reverend knows he'll have his cake and eat it too. Outraged by the Reverend's hypocritical support of Prop 128, Morales insults him, quoting Dr. King. Later, at the preliminary hearing, Roland's lawyer Garth Miller explains away the fingerprints on the heart-shaped box: Roland was having an affair with Kim. Ambushed without proper notice, Morales withdraws charges, but reserves the right to refile later, and Roland is released. Unable to believe there was an affair, Morales wonders why Roland would ruin his reputation - could the murder have been about something else entirely?

Price, TJ and Winters go through the case, searching for inspiring leads. Could it have something to do with the fact that over $80 million is being spent to get Prop 128 on the ballot, and a lot of it is coming through church groups like the Reverend's? That's when TJ realizes the one place they never looked was in Derrick's Audi, which is still at the repair shop. Hidden under the passenger seat, TJ finds a Prop 128 signature list with several Culver City-area residents' names highlighted. The detectives decide to go door-to-door, checking names, only to discover that 11 of them are phony. Then they check with County Clerk Bill Dougherty, who explains that signatures on ballot measures are cross-checked against voter rolls, and their phony names match up. Someone must have messed with the voter registration databank. There could be tens of thousands of phony signatures, and thus millions at stake. With over 20 ballot initiatives in the last eight years, Corrigan must be at the heart of the scam.

Morales orders a search warrant, but as he arrives at Prop 128's Crenshaw headquarters with TJ, Winters and Price, a press conference headed up by Corrigan and the Reverend is just getting started. The fraud is blamed wholly on Derrick, and Morales is hailed as the savior come to clean up the mess. Later the DAs report back to Hardin: after just scratching the service, it looks like of Corrigan's signatures are phony, with a potential total of over 150,000. And many of the signatures have appeared on Corrigan's seven other ballots, four of which are now California law. Smelling a Constitutional crisis, Hardin leaves to call the Attorney General, as Morales and Price haul Roland back to RHD. Morales promises Roland that he'll be tried for murder one way or another; what's at stake is whether he'll face the death penalty. Morales wants Corrigan, and he's willing to make a deal for him.

In exchange for 30 to life, Roland confesses. Corrigan told him that Derrick was threatening to report the phony signatures; thus, the Reverend and his church would be ruined. Roland tried talking to both Derrick and Kim; but everything went sideways, and he wound up killing Derrick. When Kim walked in, he panicked and knocked her out, then called Corrigan, who came over and stabbed her in the heart. It's not long before Morales and Price are at the county jail, meeting with Corrigan and his lawyer Barry Mooney, who claim it was all Derrick and Roland. When Morales points out that he can prove the fraud has been going on for years, Corrigan alludes to knowing something the DAs don't. Later, Hardin informs Morales that he can't present evidence against Corrigan from any of the past ballot initiatives - that investigation is being taken over the Attorney General's office - or as Morales puts it, buried.

Roland testifies at Corrigan's trial, explaining how Corrigan orchestrated not only the murders but also their cover-up and admitting that he put Kim's cross around her neck once she was dead. On cross, Mooney accuses Roland of orchestrating the voter fraud to fill church coffers, but Roland maintains his innocence. Prop 128 meant everything to his father, and he was simply and respectfully obeying him. Even though Roland swears he's telling the truth, Mooney accuses him of lying; after all, he lied once before. Later that night, Price goes over testimony with a weary Reverend Davison, coaching him to stick to specifics of his deal with Corrigan. When the Reverend asks what happens to Roland's plea bargain if it turns out he's lying, Price explains the deal would be off, and Roland would face the death penalty.

The next day in court, the Reverend tells Mooney that Roland never told him about a problem with Corrigan or the signatures - then he decides to recant. A month before the murders, the Reverend noticed errors on a petition and told Roland. A few days later, Roland said he straightened everything out; it was just a clerical error. In other words, Roland and Derrick cooked up a lie to cover their fraud. Corrigan and Mooney are delighted, but a furious Morales asks for time to prepare for re-direct. Afterwards, Morales visits Roland in jail to inform him that his father has betrayed him. When Roland's unable to figure why the Reverend would do such a thing, Morales fills in. Could the Reverend have been in on the fraud with Corrigan from the beginning? Roland can't accept this explanation. There was so much money flowing into the church, his father didn't need to cheat.

Back in the courtroom, Reverend Davison claims he was only trying to protect his son. Now he's got to do the right thing, even if it means the death penalty for Roland. Morales brings up the Promise Women's Shelter as an example of the Reverend's penchant for doing the right thing. One $20,000 donation came from one of the phony names on Corrigan's list. In fact, they've found over a thousand such donations totaling $1 million. Instead of reporting Corrigan's fraud and possibly sabotaging the Prop 128 campaign, the Reverend blackmailed him for the donation. When the Reverend accuses Morales of being cynical, Morales points to all the civil rights work the Reverend did in the 1960s and 1970s. How can he now work to deny an entire class of people their civil rights? And how could he sacrifice his own son to save his own skin?

The Reverend takes a deep breath and tells the judge that at his age, events become confused. He's not sure what the truth is anymore. Later the jury comes back with a verdict of guilty for Corrigan on one count of murder in the first degree, and Reverend Davison is forced to face the Lee family on the way out of the courtroom. (c)

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