In episode 1 of Defending Jacob, Ben Rifkin, a 14-year-old boy, was stabbed and murdered in the park. One possible suspect has been identified, Leonard Patz, but no condemning evidence has been found. Andy Barber is in charge of the case, his son Jacob from the same school class as the victim. After a long night of coming up short, Andy is emailed a link to a Facebook page where fellow students of Archer Middle School accuse Jacob of murdering Ben and owning a knife. Immediately, Andy searches Jacob’s room as he sleeps, finding the knife wrapped in a sock in his son’s nightstand drawer.
Episode 2, “Everything is Cool,” opens with Laurie’s alarm sounding at 6 a.m., and Andy lying awake beside her, telling her they need to talk. Jacob comes downstairs to his parents dressed for work and an unsuspecting questioning as Andy and Laurie stand in the kitchen with Jacob’s knife on display on the counter. He plays it off, stating he bought it a few months ago at an Army/Navy store, and that he brought it to school one time to “show some people,” his friend Derek being one of them. Jake knows his father has seen the Facebook posts. He’s heartbroken that his parents had even considered he could be a murderer. Andy gets frustrated that Jacob isn’t seeing the severity of him being accused of murder in a public forum. After Jacob leaves, Andy assures Laurie he’ll take care of the knife.
Leonard Patz is brought into custody. At the same time, Andy is dropping Jacob’s knife into a trash bin on the sidewalk, not the one in front of his own home, while a garbage truck makes its rounds on the neighborhood street. Laurie calls Andy as he’s on his way into the Newton Police Department, she’s unable to get past the comments on Facebook and wants to get in contact with Derek’s mother. Andy advises against it before having to hop off the call to head in and participate in the questioning of Leonard.
Patz was in the park that morning, but so far that’s the only link to him and the case. The team is feeling the heat, the town wants a suspect, and Patz is all they have. Patz’s lawyer, Joanna Klein (Cherry Jones) arrives and ends the grasping at straws questioning, jesting with Andy in the process.
Jacob can feel his classmates’ eyes on him at school. Sarah, the student from the last episode, runs into Jacob at her locker and she tells him Derek is saying other things about him, beyond what he wrote online.
The community and the police are heading into the 65-acre park to search for the murder weapon, and then we cut back to present time with Loguidice questioning Andy in the courtroom. He asks if Andy had aided in the search for the weapon that day, and Andy confirms he did not, because the prosecutor never assists in procedures like that, they’d become a witness in their own case, and Neal knows that. But Neal spins it that Andy didn’t search because he knew he had found the weapon in his son’s nightstand drawer the night before. Jacob’s knife was never found, and Andy admits to throwing it away to protect his son from his own stupidity. Andy maintains Jacob’s innocence — he knew that wasn’t the knife that killed Ben Rifkin, he knows his son.
Back at the park 10 months ago, Dan Rifkin comes rushing to Andy as he watches the search for the weapon. Dan has had Andy removed from the case, he thinks Andy isn’t doing enough to find his son’s killer.
On his walk back from school, Jacob turns when he sees the police outside his home, and Andy is escorted when he arrives back to talk to Lynn about the case. Andy assumes he’s about to be fired, but instead gets much worse news. Jacob’s print was found on the victim’s sweatshirt. This was the only print found on the scene. Andy is frantic, pressing Lynn if she’ll be arresting Jacob, and she tells him they have to. He pleads with her to not arrest him, but she has no choice, it’s her job.
“You’re ruining his life, you know that? You’re gonna destroy it.” -Andy Barber
Andy is put on paid leave, his world going black as the reality sets in, and then the news gets worse. Neal is now on the case.
He’s in a panic, speeding through the streets as he tries to reach Laurie, who is busy at work. When he finally gets through, he tells her to get home immediately, Duffy is coming with a warrant. Meanwhile, as the community search for a weapon was ending, a knife was found in the park.
Jacob is still missing, and Laurie and Andy are reeling from the events of the day as the search of their home by law enforcement is ending. Andy confesses he threw Jacob’s knife away, and Laurie accuses him of knowing that Jacob would be a suspect. Duffy emerges, letting the Barbers know the search is complete, and she tells them that a knife was found in the park, Andy ensuring her that Jacob didn’t do this.
Jacob is found by an officer at an elementary school playground, sitting despondent on the swings. He is arrested and he tells the officer he didn’t kill Ben, he just found him lying on the ground. He thought he was hurt and he went to help him, but then he saw the blood and knew Ben was dead. He got scared and ran. When asked why he didn’t tell anyone, he burst into tears, asking for his father.
Andy and Laurie meet Jacob at the police station, wrapping him into a hug when he’s brought into the room. Andy tells Jacob the procedure — his arraignment is tomorrow, they’ll post the bail, and he’ll be home by dinner. Andy assures him that they believe him, they know he didn’t do it. Jake tells his parents he didn’t tell anyone that he’d found Ben’s body because he was afraid he’d be blamed. Andy and Laurie have to leave Jacob in police holding overnight, promising they’d be at the courthouse when he arrived the next morning with a lawyer. Jacob is upset that his dad can’t represent him.
The community, including the Rifkins, are alerted to Jacob’s arrest as the Barbers step into their home, destroyed from the police search.
We can see the rift forming now between Andy and Laurie as she cleans Jacob’s room, before the scene switches to Leonard Patz at a restaurant, his phone album filled with photos of Ben Rifkin.