in absentia (7/22)

The second series of the compelling US legal drama continues. In this instalment, a young fashion designer and close friend to Raina is murdered in a subway station. The investigation leads to a married man who was having an affair with the victim, but the suspect flees to Mexico before the trial concludes.

This week’s episode sees Stark and his team face a tough case as a close friend of Raina’s is murdered. Hanna Hartnell, a successful designer, was fatally stabbed shortly after a fashion show at which Raina and Isaac were guests. “We need to find who did this,” says Raina. “We will,” promises Stark.

A press photograph taken at the after-party reveals that Hanna had been arguing with a man after the show. At Hanna’s place of work, her colleague identifies the man as Louis Menashi – a textile supplier with a reputation as a lowlife. Menashi is duly brought in for questioning but denies any wrongdoing. He claims that the quarrel was about textile prices, and asserts that he was in flagrante with an unidentified blond man in an alley at the time of the murder.

When it emerges that Hanna was due to testify against Menashi at a civil fraud hearing, Stark is sure he has his man and convinces a local drug dealer to act as an eyewitness. However, when the case arrives in court, the defence reveals that the eyewitness suffers from myopia and was offered legal consideration in another case in exchange for his testimony. “So you’ve got a visually impaired ex-con looking to make a deal,” says the incredulous judge. “Well, it sounds bad when you put it that way,” responds Stark.

The case against Menashi takes another knock when Raina tracks down the blond man from the alley and he corroborates the suspect’s story. But it is at this point that startling new evidence emerges and changes the direction of the prosecution. The ME’s report reveals that Hanna was pregnant when she was killed. “When a pregnant woman dies violently,” says Stark, “we’re looking for the dad.”

Reyes manages to get hold of CCTV recordings from a hotel where Hanna was staying at the approximate time of her baby’s conception. The footage shows that she had been having an affair with a married man called Eli Weber – an investor in her clothing company. Meanwhile, Raina learns from Hanna’s doctor that she had intended to keep her baby, despite pressure from the unidentified father to terminate the pregnancy. With a new suspect complete with a motive for murder, Stark and his team release Menashi and pay Weber a visit at his home.

Weber eventually admits privately to Stark that he had an affair with Hanna, but claims to have known nothing of the pregnancy and denies killing her. In order to eliminate himself from the enquiry and keep the affair from his wife, he agrees to provide a DNA sample. However, a subsequent appeal to the judge from Weber’s newly appointed lawyer deems the DNA evidence inadmissible.

The prosecution attorneys turn back to forensic evidence to build their case and order a search of the subway tunnel where Hanna was killed. It is not long before a jacket covered in blood is found. “Now all we have to do is prove that this is Eli Weber’s jacket,” says Isaac. “And Hanna’s blood,” adds Raina. Weber is arrested and charged, and the judge allows Stark to take DNA from the suspect. However, during a recess at the court, the suspect flees and flies to Mexico in a light aircraft.

Determined to bring Weber to justice, Stark takes Reyes and follows his man to Mexico, ordering Devlin to continue the trial in absentia. He intends to use an old contact to track Weber down, but Reyes’s smart mouth gets him in trouble with a local policeman, and he and Stark are locked up. With Weber still missing and the chief prosecutor now languishing in a Mexican jail, is the case about to be thrown out of court?

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