The Unusual Suspect is one of the most memorable episodes of
the popular television drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It
is the 135th episode and the 18th episode of the show's sixth season.
It originally aired on March 30, 2006.
for this series, the episode begins in a courtroom as the district
attorney is calling Hannah, the sister of Marlon, a teenaged boy
charged with the murder of a classmate, to the stand. There seems to be
a great deal of controversy regarding the young girl, but the judge
allows her to be called as a witness. The DA asks a few questions about
her brother, which the girl answers but pleads to be allowed to explain
something. The DA refuses, allowing the teenager's defence attorney to
cross-examine her (sort of), inviting her to share what she had been
prevented from saying.
To the surprise of everyone in the
courtroom, Hannah confesses to the murder and opens her overshirt to
reveal an undershirt stained with blood. This causes quite a stir and
the judge gives the prosecution three days to re-evaluate its case
before both sides make their final pitches to the jury.
Sidle and Nick Stokes, the two CSIs who initially investigated the
case, are enlisted to re-examine the evidence and are confused by it
from the get-go. Hannah is extremely gifted and is already in high
school, having skipped several grades. Marlon is not terribly
intelligent at all. The nature of the crime -- a popular, pretty high
schooler falls down a flight of stairs to her death after being blinded
by sodium placed in a gym showerhead. Sara, herself having skipped
several grades and was an identified gifted child, argues that while
the circumstances seem sketchy, the intellectual nature of the crime
points to someone with high intelligence. Nick, on the other hand,
argues that this was a crime of brawn, not brains, and that Hannah is
trying to cover up for her brother. The situation is made even more
difficult by the fact that both siblings are now claiming to be guilty
of the crime.
When a sample of the victim's blood is found in her
boyfriend's car, the boyfriend is also brought in for questioning.
While he refuses to elaborate in the presence of his father, a
deacon, he tells detective Sofia Curtis that the blood was caused
when he and the victim had sex in his backseat. It was her first time,
he explained, and there was a little bit of blood. The trace lab
confirms that the blood contains traces of spermicide and lubricant,
which supports the teen's story.
Both Marlon and Hannah are
interrogated repeatedly throughout the course of the episode. Sara asks
the young girl why she would want to kill one of her brother's
classmates; she reveals that, because she has skipped several grades,
the victim was one of her classmates as well. Hannah claims to have
been tutoring the victim's boyfriend, on whom she had a crush, and
the victim played a practical joke on Hannah at the school dance: she
wrote "flat" on her dress in glow-in-the-dark marker, and it was
revealed to Hannah's horror at the dance. Hannah claims that she
decided to get revenge on the girl by putting sodium in the showerhead,
but that she didn't intend for her to fall down the stairs to her
death. Marlon, on the other hand, claims that everything up until the
revenge point of the story is accurate. The victim, he claims, did play
a prank on his sister that he felt crossed the line. The decision to
exact revenge, however, was made by him. It was him and him alone, he
insists, who blinded the girl by placing sodium in the showerhead,
causing her to run through the school hallways and down a flight of
stairs to her death, then buried her in the football field. Hannah
continues to insist that she acted alone and that her brother is trying
to protect her.
As the evidence suggests that either of these
accounts might be accurate, the team begins to suspect that the two
siblings were in on the crime together and are each claiming sole
responsibility so as to increase their chances of getting off. CSI
Warrick Brown helps by enlisting his wife's niece, who's about the
same age and height as Hannah, to try to drag weights weighing roughly
the same as the victim across the football field. They conclude that
Hannah could not possibly have dragged a dead teenaged girl across the
entire length of a football field by herself. When Sara confronts
Hannah with this, the girl agrees that she couldn't possibly have
dragged the body -- that's why she used the cart. Warrick confirms
that there is indeed a cart near the field.
By the end of their
allotted time limit, Sara and Nick can't agree on who committed the
crime. Sara, by now, sincerely believes that Hannah could have
committed murder, while Nick and supervisor Conrad Ecklie believe it
was Marlon. When Nick tells the district attorney that the decision is
"two out of three," he responds with "in my world we call that an
acquittal." Nonetheless, the prosecution proceeds with Marlon and
makes a last pitch to the jury during the closing statements. The
attorney reminds everyone in the jury that high school was not even
easy for the most popular students, and tells them to imagine what it
must have been like for a lacklustre guy like Marlon. He says that
Marlon resented the fact that the victim made it look so easy to be
popular and smart, of which Marlon wasn't really either. And
when she pulled a mean-spirited prank on his little sister, he went on,
he snapped and started a chain of events that led to her death. He asks
the jury to find that he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
The defence attorney, however, tells jurors that the prosecution's case consists entirely of reasonable
doubt. She questions how someone like Marlon could orchestrate a
chemistry-based crime when he's not terribly bright. To pull off a
crime like this one, she says, you'd have to be -- pause for effect --
a genius. Marlon is not a genius. Therefore, she concludes, he musn't
be guilty and it's better to let 100 guilty men go free than to imprison even one innocent man.
Nick and Sara are later called back to court when the jury announces that it has reached a verdict.
Conclusion (there are spoilers here. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED)
The jury delivers its verdict.
runs into the family at the police station afterwards. She informs
Hannah that the district attorney is more than willing to file murder
charges against a 12-year-old and that they'll be seeing a lot of each
other in the future. Hannah's mother expresses her disappointment in
this news, but Hannah asks to speak to Sara alone. Sara tells her that
she could have done anything she wanted with her gifts, but she
wasted them on murder. Hannah seems bemused by this, reminding Sara
that she'll be out of jail within years and will have a degree. She
also says that she's free to write a book about her life and notes that
"freaks are good box office." Sara tells her that she's a smart
girl, but that no one is smart enough to get away with murder.
smiles, leans in and lets Sara in on a secret: she's not the murderer.
Marlon is. She walks away, leaving Sara to contemplate what just
happened. And because Marlon has just been found not guilty by a jury,
he cannot be tried for the murder a second time.
Sara got pwned.
the character of Gil Grissom would famously go on sabbatical in
season 7 (due to actor William Petersen's four-week sojourn to
perform with a community theatre group), he's not in this episode at
all. Neither is police captain Jim Brass (Paul Guilefoyle) or DNA
tech-turned CSI Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda). No explanation is
given as to why.
Most CSI episodes contain two investigations:
the main plot and the subplot. This one has only a main plot. The main
characters that do appear in the show (Sara, Nick, Warrick, Sofia and
Catherine Willows) are all involved in this investigation.
is the second CSI episode (in the main series anyway) where the team
has to re-evaluate an entire case from the very beginning because
something came up in court that went against their initial findings.
The first such occurrence was in the season 4 episode Invisible
Evidence, wherein Warrick was testifying on the stand when the defence
attorney revealed that he hadn't followed proper procedure.