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If I Had a Hammer...
Hammer.jpg
Season 9
Number 21
Writer Daniel Steck,
Allen MacDonald,
Corinne Marinan
Director Brad Tanenbaum
Original Airdate April 23, 2009
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If I Had a Hammer... is the twenty-first episode in season nine of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

The crime lab re-investigates one of Catherine's earliest murder cases from the 1980s when the man who was found guilty motions for a retrial, claiming to have been wrongfully convicted.

Plot

Victim: Thomas Harrott (deceased)

On the case: entire team

Jeremy Kent sits in front of a parole board and explains his case. Eighteen years ago, he was convicted for a crime he claims he didn't commit - the murder of 91-year-old Thomas Harrott. His cellmate had gotten a reduced sentence because he testified against Jeremy, and Jeremy later found out that both men had the same lawyer. He asks the parole board for his day in court to tell his side of the story.

Catherine tells the team that Thomas' murder was her first solo case in 1991. Thomas was found dead in his living room, the victim of blunt force trauma to the head. A rock was used to break the front window, and it had Jeremy's print on it. A neighbor claims to have seen someone running from the house and identified Jeremy out of a lineup. There were two other robberies in the neighborhood, but there was no evidence of Jeremy at either scene. No murder weapon was recovered at the scene, but based on the depression fractures on Thomas' skull, Catherine figures it was a hammer. Because the house was dark and there was no car in front, the theory is that Jeremy figured it would be a good house to rob. She guesses he used the rock to break the window and was surprised to find Thomas inside, killing him with the hammer that Thomas was using in self-defense.

She leads Langston and Nick to an adjoining alleyway where she points out that she found a fresh shoe impression facing the fence. The neighboring house had its motion sensor light come on, so Catherine figured that Jeremy jumped the fence; however, there were no shoe impressions in the yard. Nick summarizes that the only evidence used to convict Jeremy was a fingerprint on a rock, testimony from Jeremy's ex-cellmate and a witness who wasn't in the vicinity. Catherine responds that, back then, that was enough evidence to convict someone. Ecklie arrives and gives Catherine an envelope - she's been subpoenaed by Jeremy, who is requesting a pretrial conference.

Greg and Archie listen to the original 9-1-1 call. In it, sirens can be heard on their way to a fire at the Rampart casino, which was the same night. Because of the fire, police took 25 minutes to respond to the call. When a different frequency is isolated, they hear an engine running right outside the bedroom. Archie says he'll try to compare it to the 1984 Pontiac 6000 Jeremy was driving at the time. Meanwhile, in the morgue, Langston goes over Thomas' x-rays with Doc Robbins. They read over the shoddily done coroner's report that listed fracture ribs on both sides of the body, which the coroner attributed to age. Langston quickly concludes that no matter how brittle someone's bones are, they can't fall on both sides of their body at the same time. Furthermore, hairline fractures to the femur and tibia were also written off as age-related. Based on the evidence, Thomas was beaten, then killed.

Catherine sits down with Jeremy, who has been doing his own legal research. He lays a foundation, asking Catherine about her ex-husband Eddie and her daughter, and wonders if Catherine was on drugs at the time (because Eddie was a user) or whether her judgment or work was affected by her pregnancy. Jeremy believes that the police deal in convictions and doesn't trust anyone in the department. Catherine tells him that he can exercise his right to hire someone to reexamine the evidence.

In the lab, Riley processes the carpet from Thomas' living room. She notes to Wendy that the lab didn't have ALS until 1995, which means that there could be an area of non-visible blood from the suspect on the carpet. They find a dark void that, when traced, is in the shape of hammer. Meanwhile, Jeremy tells Catherine that he was convicted based on a five-point minutia match on the rock, which is far from being conclusive based on current regulations. He tells her that he's filing a motion with the court to have the rock excluded from evidence.

Catherine runs the print from the rock using modern technology and finds that it does indeed match Jeremy's print. Langston, meanwhile, has been examining the footprint from the alleyway. He shows Catherine that the toe end of the impression is deeper than the heel end, which wouldn't be the case if Jeremy was just standing there. They head back to the scene, where Langston makes the same shoeprint impression by jumping. Because the motion sensor light went off, they figure that Jeremy threw something into the yard, but nothing was ever found. Catherine gets the idea to look up, and she and Langston search the neighbor's roof. She's amazed to find the hammer embedded in a tree, where it had been thrown 18 years before.

A piece of the tree is brought to the lab and the hammer is extracted from it. Catherine sees a bloody fingerprint on the handle leading Langston to figure that the bark from the tree encapsulated the print like a fossil. The team processes the hammer, with Riley finding that it matches the previously unseen blood spot on the carpet. Langston measures the knob of the hammer and finds that it's the same width as the indentations on Thomas' skull. Hodges tells Catherine that rust on the hammer confirms that it was in the tree for an extended period of time. Nick, however, is the bearer of bad news when he informs Catherine that neither of the two prints recovered from the hammer are a match to Jeremy.

Catherine suspects that Jeremy had an accomplice, so she visits him to try to get him to give up the name of the person with him. She tells him she's reconfirmed that his prints are the ones on the rock, but all Jeremy will admit to is robbing the house and finding Thomas already dead when he got there. He adds that his lawyer advised him not to admit to being at the scene of the crime, and Catherine tells him that his story will have more credibility if he could identify the other suspect. With her assurance of Jeremy's guilt shaken, Catherine turns to Brass, who reminds her they had no doubts about Jeremy's guilt 18 years ago and shouldn't now.

Catherine calls on the team for help and they recap the evidence - the print on the rock is Jeremy's, but the prints on the hammer aren't his. There was only one sign of forced entry into Thomas' house, and Jeremy admits to breaking in. The unknown shoe impression next to the fence was not a match to any of Jeremy's shoes, and the engine noise heard outside of the house has yet to be isolated. They theorize that Jeremy may have killed Thomas and gotten his accomplice to toss the hammer over the fence. Langston lists several possibilities as to why Jeremy would choose prison over giving up his accomplice: family, love and fear. Jeremy had no family and no ties to any gangs, so the preliminary thought is that he's motivated by love.

Archie pages Greg and tells him that he's narrowed down the car engine to a 60's or 70's-era Dodge. Noise from the 9-1-1 tape indicates that the car was idling for a bit. The engine is then heard revving at the same time Thomas called the police and said someone was in his house. Finally, just before the car left the premises, two car doors are slammed, meaning that there were definitely two people at the scene. Meanwhile, Nick tells Catherine his reexamination of the hammer has led him to believe that the suspect gripped the base with the inside of his finger. A full set of prints, including the inside of Jeremy's fingers, will need to be taken.

Greg and Riley go through Jeremy's old high school year book and find a picture of him and a Sabrina Littee standing in front of a Dodge Super Bee. DMV records indicate that the car was owned by Sabrina's father up until 1993. Brass pays Sabrina a visit, and asks her about Jeremy. She initially says that she didn't know him very well, but Brass asks why her father's car was at the scene of the murder. Sabrina changes her story and says that she and Jeremy were dating in secret. She let Jeremy use the car the night of the murder and says she was at home at the time watching news coverage of the Rampart fire. Before leaving, Brass hands her a warrant for the Super Bee, which is now registered in her name.

The team processes the car and finds a bloody shard of glass behind one of the seats. Hodges confirms that it's the same glass from Thomas' shattered window - and the blood on it is Sabrina's. Brass questions Sabrina with her husband, a lawyer, present. She admits that Jeremy got her pregnant in high school and he had promised her they would go to Los Angeles together - but first they needed money. He committed several robberies that night while she waited in the car - until she heard a commotion in Thomas' house after Jeremy went in. She went inside and found Jeremy standing over Thomas' body. Jeremy then gave her the hammer to throw away. Her husband storms out in disgust while Brass tells her that the felony murder rule allows him to arrest her for a murder committed during a felony regardless of whether or not she struck the fatal blow.

In prison, Catherine tells Jeremy that one of the prints on the hammer is a match for his upper finger while the other matches Sabrina. He's shocked to learn that Sabrina made a statement confirming that he killed Thomas and says that he has never even met his child. Catherine asks him why he demanded a retrial despite knowing he was guilty. Jeremy replies that his hope is that if Sabrina testifies against him, that his son will be present and it may be the only chance he ever has to see him. Catherine reminds Jeremy that he had a choice years ago - and that Thomas Harrott didn't.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

Episode Title

  • "If I Had a Hammer" is a protest song popularized by both Peter, Paul and Mary (in 1962) and Trini Lopez (in 1963). Famed actor Leonard Nimoy also covered the song in 1968, but his version was derided by critics.

Goofs

  • When Riley types in the license number of the car into the Nevada State Police DMV database, she puts the car plate number into the driver's license field.
  • When Brass goes to Sabrina's house and Sabrina says the line "Can I help you?", Sabrina's hand goes from her hair to her side in between shots.
  • When Hodges holds the petri dish with the glass fragment in it out towards Catherine, the position of the petri dish in his hand changes positions in between shots
  • The tree in which the hammer is found is described as Quercus agrifolia and given the common name desert oak. Q. agrifolia is actually coast live oak and does not grow in Las Vegas. The tree shown in the show does not look like coast live oak.
  • After finding the hammer, they say that the tree grew around it and preserved the prints. However, this process would have taken months of years to occur. Until the hammer was encased by the tree it was exposed to bacteria, insects and all kinds of weather. This would have destroyed almost all traces of the fingerprints and made any kind of print match impossible. It would have also degraded any DNA in the blood and made any genetic match to the victim or suspect(s) impossible.
  • The blood on the piece of glass would have degraded after 18 years, making any kind of DNA match impossible.

Trivia

  • Henry Thomas played Jeremy Kent. His most famous role to date was way back in 1982, when he played Elliott in the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 9
For WarrickThe Happy PlaceArt Imitates LifeLet It BleedLeave Out All The RestSay UncleWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaYoung Man with a Horn19 Down...One to GoThe Grave ShiftDisarmed and DangerousDeep Fried and Minty FreshMiscarriage of JusticeKill Me If You CanTurn, Turn, TurnNo Way OutMascaraThe Descent of ManA Space OddityIf I Had a Hammer...The Gone Dead TrainHog HeavenAll In
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