Case #4.16: "2245"

Nope, that isn't a typo. It's really the episode title. In a prison cell, a young white man with long black hair stuffs a rolled-up towel in his mouth,gets a knife from his bunk, and stabs his leg deep enough to draw blood. He bites down on the towel so he won't scream. He rubs the blood on his wrists.

The inmate's moans attract the attention of a guard. The guard gestures for someone to open the cell, thinking the prisoner has slit his wrists. The inmate surprises the guard with an uppercut, then rams his head into the wall. The guard manning the control room sees nothing until the inmate leaps through the glass at him.

The inmate creeps through some sort of utility corridor in the prison. He overpowers a guard who's armed with a rifle, then leaps off the cellhouse roof. He falls in slow motion. We see him land on his back in a hotel bed. There's a woman in black lingerie lying next to him. "I knew you'd be here," the inmate says. Lingerie Girl replies, "I'm always with you."

Before anything else can happen, the inmate is woken by someone tapping on the bars of his cell. "You got a visitor," says a guard. The inmate rolls over and sees Tom. Theme song.

"Why me?" the inmate asks Tom. In fake ghetto-patois, he adds, "There's plenty of other nasty criminals around to make fools of theyselves." Tom explains that other teens in the inmate's former neighborhood of Piedmont idolize him; half will die of drug overdoses and the other half will end up in prison. Tom hopes he can save other kids. "By making a videotape?" the inmate scoffs.

Inmate wonders how he's supposed to explain a sudden change of heart, "that I found Jesus." He gets angry and throws a roll of toilet paper at Tom. It bounces harmlessly off the bars. "It probably just warms your heart, the thought of them pumping me fulla poison," says Inmate. Tom leaves.

Through a flashback, we learn the inmate's name is Ronnie, a teenage crack dealer who was last seen in the two-part episode "Besieged." Ronnie is having a party. Judy watches from the corner as Ronnie threatens another young dealer trying to muscle in on his turf. When guns come out, Judy suggests Ronnie deal with business during business hours. Ronnie threatens to kill his rival and offers up a weasel-like grin.

Ronnie sits on a porch waiting for someone. A car pulls up. A feisty Hispanic girl gets out and yells at the driver that she'll kick him in personal places if he touches her again. Ronnie smiles admiringly. The girl asks Ronnie what he's looking at. "The stars," Ronnie lies. The Spanish girl tells him it's smog.

"So you had a bad date," Ronnie guesses. The girl corrects him that it wasn't a date; "it was me getting mauled by some slime named Vic." Ronnie tells her Vic is a creep. Spanish Girl (IMDB tells me her name is Rosie) sits next to Ronnie and asks if he's really looking at stars. "Yeah, I do that," says Ronnie. Rosie smiles, "Me too." I suddenly realize why she sounds so familiar; she voiced Chel in the DreamWorks animated classic The Road to El Dorado. Ronnie introduces himself to Rosie and kisses the back of her hand. "Oh God, just what I need, a Romeo," she chuckles.

At the Chapel, Judy talks to Ronnie's rival Darry, who is actually another undercover cop. She scolds him for being too aggressive and warns him that he could get his head blown off. Darry promises to pull back a little. Tom asks how the case is going. Darry says that Ronnie is now his supplier. Tom tells Darry, a recent academy graduate, that it's okay to be scared and he has to be careful. Ronnie has a lot to lose. "Not for long," says Darry confidently.

Ronnie, wearing a blue towel around his shoulders, stands while Rosie combs his hair. He says it looks like she cut off an inch-and-a-half and he only wanted an inch. He's picky about his hair. "It's nice," says Rosie. Ronnie counters, "You're nice" and kisses the back of her hand again.

Darry enters, greeting, "What's up, homies?" "Didn't anyone ever teach you peasants to knock?" Ronnie sniffs disdainfully. Darry asks to buy a few ounces. Ronnie tells him it's after business hours. Darry insists he needs it that night and he won't go until he gets some. He won't go until he gets some, so bring it right here!

"This is my house and you deal with me on my time," says Ronnie. He takes off the towel, revealing a gun tucked in his waistband. Darry reaches under his coat for his own gun, but Ronnie is quicker and shoots Darry in the chest. Cut to a hospital room where a nurse turns off the flat-lining heart monitor, disconnects Darry's ventilator, and pulls the sheet over his head. And now we know how Ronnie ended up facing the death penalty. 

Cap'n Rufus looks down at the bed and promises his fallen officer, "We're gonna sweep the Piedmont. Double shifts, inch by inch. We'll find him." "Then what?" Tom asks. Rufus gives him a hard look. 

Back in prison, Ronnie's cell door opens. Three guards are standing on the other side. He asks if he's getting a better TV because "MTV sucks in black and white." Ronnie gathers up his few belongings: a toothbrush, toothpaste, a couple of paperbacks, and an orange ball. The guards escort Ronnie to his new cell on Death Row. 

"So how much time do I got, anyway?" asks Ronnie. The guard checks his watch and replies, "18 hours, more or less." Ronnie sits down on his bed, runs his thumb over the teeth of his comb, and hums tunelessly to himself.

The principal from Kidz in the Wood, playing some sort of prison official, asks if Ronnie wants a spiritual advisor. "You mean like a psychic?" says Ronnie. The prison official means a priest or minister. Ronnie doesn't want a clergyman and asks where his TV is. The prison official asks if Ronnie wants anything special for his last meal. Ronnie orders fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and a beer.

"Your mother's passed away," the prison official solemnly intones, "You'll have to decide on the arrangements." Ronnie wants Sean Penn to play him if they ever make a movie about his life. The prison official asks where Ronnie wants to be buried.

Flashback to Ronnie and Rosie walking through the cemetery in the rain. Ronnie doesn't seem to feel bad about killing Darry. Rosie notices a headstone with a name and LOVING HUSBAND AND FATHER on one half and the other half left blank. She wonders what it's all about. Ronnie explains the wife is probably still alive and wants to be buried next to him. Rosie thinks it's beautiful: "they made a plan and they stuck to it."

"Unless she changes her mind before she dies," Ronnie says cynically. Rosie wants to get out of the rain. Ronnie knows of a place they can go, but doesn't want Rosie to get the wrong idea. "Don't act like you don't do it all the time with other girls," says Rosie. Ronnie says, "Maybe you're different."

In a hotel room, a shirtless Ronnie drinks a glass of water by the window. Rosie talks about the problems in Piedmont: "If it isn't somebody getting killed, then it's some stupid bitch getting pregnant by someone else's husband." Ronnie joins Rosie in bed and tells her it's like that everywhere. 

Rosie cuddles up to him, asking when they'll go back to Ronnie's place. Ronnie wants to give things a few days to cool off. Rosie is tired but afraid that Darry's crew will find them if they both fall asleep. Ronnie tells her that he can stay awake for days by tapping his thumb to a song in his head. Rosie falls asleep.

The next morning, Ronnie brings a box of donuts and a jug of orange juice into the room. Rosie looks at the newspaper; the front page headline is OFFICER SLAIN IN THE LINE OF DUTY. "Oh my God," she says, realizing it's Darry. Ronnie says they don't have to worry about vengeful homies because Darry's a cop and he's used to hiding from cops. Rosie suggests they not go back to the 'hood.

Ronnie explains that all his money is tied up in drug deals back in Piedmont. Rosie tells him they can get money other ways. Ronnie mocks the idea of working at Burger Village. "We can get money," Rosie repeats, "It's not like we're gonna hurt anybody." She wants to be with Ronnie.

"So we're just gonna do one thing and never go back?" asks Ronnie. Rosie nods. That night, Ronnie parks his car in an alley. He and Rosie get out. He hands her a gun, telling her to flash it when he gives the signal: "I'm the guy, so they'll think I have one too."

Rosie is scared. Ronnie tells her it'll be easy. They cross the street and enter a small grocery store. The clerk spots the couple via a wall-mounted mirror and hits the silent alarm. Ronnie stuffs his hand in his jacket pocket so it looks like a gun. Ironically, his T-shirt reads SOMETHING TO PROVE.

"You don't make this any tougher than it has to be and you help us out. Give us all the money in the register," Ronnie tells the clerk. Rosie draws her gun. The clerk freezes in fear. Ronnie goes behind the counter but can't get the register open. The clerk reaches under the counter for the register key, but Rosie thinks he's going for a gun. She shoots the clerk.

"Oh my God, oh my God," Rosie whimpers, horrified by what she's done. Police sirens can be heard in the distance. Ronnie hops the counter and grabs the gun from Rosie. He takes her hand and they try to run out the back of the store. A police officer kicks open the back door while another comes in through the front. Ronnie and Rosie are trapped.

Back in prison, a guard takes measurements for Ronnie's funeral suit, which he wants to be Italian-cut sharkskin. "Blue or brown?" asks the prison official. Ronnie jokes that he wouldn't be caught dead in those colors. 

Ronnie checks the clock; it's almost 6:00 PM. He tells a guard who could be Jerry Orbach's stunt double that he wants to write a letter. The guard offers to write it for him. "I spent 2 years in this dump learning how to write. I wanna write it myself," says Ronnie. The guard can't allow that because a pencil is considered a sharp object.

Ronnie agrees to dictate it, but tells CO Not-Orbach not to pay attention because the letter is personal. Not-Orbach grabs a pad of paper. "Hey, Rosie, what up?" Ronnie begins, "I know you got out a couple months ago and I figured you haven't come by because some lawyer told you not to. It's okay. I'm waiting for a stay and it's getting pretty tight this time. If those dogs do this to me, would you please be there if that happens? Anyway, I miss you. Stay out of trouble. Ronnie." 

In a visitors' room at the women's prison, Rosie tells Judy that she won't flip on Ronnie. Judy asks if Rosie wants to go down with him. Tom asks if Ronnie is worth spending the rest of her life in jail. Judy wants to know what happened when Darry was killed. Tom inquires about the convenience store clerk, if Ronnie shot him too.

Judy tells Rosie that Ronnie would turn her in to save his own ass. Rosie won't talk because Ronnie is trying to save her ass. "Save your ass from what?" says Tom, "Did you kill that guy?" Even though she pulled the trigger, Ronnie is still guilty. It's called the felony murder rule; if death occurs during the commission of a felony, any accomplice present is automatically charged with first-degree murder.

Rosie admits that she shot the clerk. She insists they didn't plan on actually using the gun for anything other than a scare tactic. Rosie panicked when the clerk put his hand under the counter: "I didn't mean to hurt nobody."

The DA tells Tom and Doug that he can probably get Ronnie and Rosie tried as adults. Rosie doesn't have a criminal record, so she'll be out of prison in 3 years or so. Ronnie is screwed because they have him on special circumstances felony murder. He will get the death penalty for the store clerk, but the evidence in Darry's death is all circumstantial. Justice will be served.

Tom thinks it's possible that Ronnie shot Darry in self-defense. The DA says that's unlikely. Doug reminds his partner that they've been trying to lock up Ronnie for years; the kid has about a dozen arrests but no convictions.

Flashback to the trial. The judge sentences Ronnie to death. Ronnie calmly puts on a pair of what are probably expensive sunglasses. Rosie goes back to Ronnie's place and finds a new pack of dealers has moved in. She learns that Ronnie is "on The Row now."

In prison, Ronnie is upset because the TV they gave him only shows static. He flips a few channels and gets a picture. It's a documentary about the Galileo space project. "You like this stuff?" Not-Orbach is surprised. Ronnie tells Not-Orbach that he looks at stars; so does Not-Orbach's grandson, who wants to be an astronaut.

The documentary narrator says Galileo won't reach Jupiter until 1995, 5 years from now. Not-Orbach's grandson will be 12 then and will "probably be into cars. Girls too, the way kids are today." Ronnie blinks away a tear.

Not-Orbach opens the door to Death Row. Tom greets Ronnie. Ronnie still refuses to do the tape. "Is there any way I can change your mind?" asks Tom. There isn't. He's fine with kids in Piedmont thinking of him as a hero. Ronnie asks Tom to witness his execution. Tom agrees and Ronnie thanks him.

Rosie comes home to her mother and a houseful of much-younger siblings. In Spanish, Rosie's mother tells the girl that an important letter came for her. She doesn't know what it's about because Rosie is the only one in the family who can read. Rosie reads the letter from Ronnie, folds it up, and stuffs it into her purse.

Back on Death Row, Ronnie tells Not-Orbach things he learned from astronomy documentaries. Not-Orbach asks if Ronnie is sure he doesn't want to see a chaplain. The balding prison official brings a tray with Ronnie's last meal on it. Ronnie nervously asks if the lethal injection will make him throw up. The prison official tells him no.

Outside the prison, Tom checks his watch. Cut to Rosie's apartment. She packs a bag and tenderly runs her fingers over a framed photo of her and Ronnie. She checks her watch. 

Tom watches a hearse pull through the prison gates. Orderlies file through the back door. Tom hesitantly follows. The orderlies hang 3 bags of fluid, which compose the lethal injection cocktail. Ronnie sits in his cell with his head in his hands. It's close to midnight.

Not-Orbach opens the cell door. The prison official tells Ronnie that a phone line has been opened in case the state decides to stay the execution. "We have to go into the other room now," he says as gently as possible. Two guards lead Ronnie to the gurney and restrain him. 

A different prison official opens a different door. Tom and the rest of the witnesses file in. A guard pulls back the curtain. A tech clad all in white starts IVs in both of Ronnie's arms. The balding prison official reads Ronnie's death warrant and asks if he would like to say any last words. Ronnie doesn't. The lethal injection is started. Tom can hardly bear to watch.

At home, Rosie cries and walks out her front door. Back at the prison, Ronnie is pronounced dead and wheeled away. Tom looks shell-shocked. Cut to Rosie walking down the street with her suitcase. End of episode.

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