It’s time for Jacob’s trial. Loguidice is confident he’ll get a conviction, and Joanna has faith the jury will see Jacob as an innocent scapegoat to this heinous crime — who will win?
The episode opens far in the past, during Neal Loguidice’s early days as a prosecutor after one of his first cases. Andy and Neal are out for a drink at the bar, getting along quite well with one another — their relationship the polar opposite to what we’ve seen from the series so far. Andy gives a very receptive and eager Neal some pointers on improving his tactics in the courtroom to win the conviction. Tips we’ll see come back and bite Andy here in the very near future.
Commonwealth versus Jacob Owen Barber, a single count of murder in the first degree. For the defendant, Joanna Klein, for the Commonwealth, Assistant District Attorney Neal Loguidice. At the start of the trial, Joanna requests a few preliminary motions. Andrew Barber would like to make an appearance in the case, he will second chair, as well as ensuring that no mention of William Barber, Andy’s father, will not be allowed to the jury. They will also be adding two witnesses: Matt McGrath and Leonard Patz. The judge approves.
In Neal’s opening statement, he brings up Andy’s career and Jacob’s exposure to “murder” from hearing about cases from his father, insinuating murder is the “family business”, and Andy, Joanna, and the judge take note of Neal’s comments, already pushing the boundary of bringing up Jacob’s family’s history in this case. He continues by detailing Ben’s teasing of Jacob in school, leading that that was the motivation for Jacob murdering him.
Now it’s Joanna’s turn, who plays on the importance of finding the guilty party in this heinous crime, but that this conviction was “a rush to judgement” and that another young boy’s life doesn’t need to be ruined to get justice for a murder he didn’t commit.
Boys make mistakes. But we’re adults, with a grave responsibility before us. A child is dead, don’t destroy another child’s life to make up for it. That isn’t justice, that’s just another tragedy. – Joanna Klein
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As they’re leaving the courtroom later that day, Andy spots the driver of the blue Lincoln across the street and immediately calls Duffy. She finds him in the car, and requests identification. He puts up a fight, but in the end hands over his license. His name is James O’Leary, aka Father O’Leary, and he’s an old gangster. He’s got a record, a history as a gang “muscle”, and now hires himself out to do small things for people who pay him. Nothing can be done unless he expressly threatens them, but Duffy is keeping an eye.
Jacob’s trial day two. The first two witnesses were pedestrians in the park, retelling what they heard and saw the day Ben was murdered. Next is Detective Peterson, one of the detectives who had worked with Andy in the early days of the case before Jacob’s arrest. Neal asks if it’s normal for the Assistant District Attorney to work a murder. Joanna calls an objection, and the judge reminds Loguidice that Andy Barber is not on trial here, and to tread lightly in using him or his career in his argument to convince Jacob’s guilt. Peterson speaks highly of Andy, and that his involvement was not unusual. Joanna asks him if there was any substantial evidence recovered the initial day, and if at the beginning of the investigation there were any signs pointing to Jacob being involved, again solidifying that Andy’s involvement has no relevance to this case. She also has Peterson name Leonard Patz as the initial suspect, and that Patz was in the park that very morning. Neal questions Peterson again, saying that Patz was accused by Andy, and cleared when Jacob was arrested. Joanna recrosses, asking if they were certain Patz was innocent when he was cleared, and Peterson says no and that he agreed with the decision to investigate Patz, and that Barber is the “best they got.”
Day two is over. Andy gets a call from his father again and he’s curious how the trial is going. He begs Andy to keep Jacob out of prison. He brings up Patz, asking if Andy still think he did it, and Andy says yeah.
Trial day three. They go over the scientific evidence and details about the knife used. Loguidice pulls out a knife, and it isn’t a knife recovered from the crime scene, but a new knife in the same model Jacob owned (and Andy disposed of). Joanna quickly objects, and the judge does not allow the knife to be used in any capacity. Joanna asks if any form of physical or genetic evidence was found linking Jacob to the murder, and she says no, only the fingerprint, and confirms that Jacob’s defense of having lifted Ben by his collar to see if he was okay could very well be exactly how that print got there. She also confirms that almost 500 different models of knives could have been used in this murder. Loguidice’s tactic had backfired greatly.
Next, the court is on recess, and Ben’s parents are furious in the hallway as Laurie walks by. They’re confident Jacob is going to walk, and they’re blaming Loguidice and his theatrics.
Next up is Duffy, who speaks highly of Andy and his work ethic. Neal’s skills as a prosecutor are on full display when he questions Duffy, trying to get her to admit that Andy knew of Jacob’s, but of course he didn’t know a thing, so nothing comes of it. However, she is now forced to admit that parts of the investigation went on behind Andy’s back, when they got word about Jacob and Ben’s feud, and that Jacob owned a knife consistent with the murder weapon. Andy is taken aback. She also tells the court that they seized Jacob’s computer, which had recently been wiped with a program called “disc scraper” and that they found violent pornography consistent with the type that Derek had told Andy about weeks before — “cutter porn.”
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Joanna confirms that Duffy was in fact the first person to accuse Patz, not Andy, refuting Loguidice’s claims that Patz’s accusation was a cover by Andy for Jacob’s crime. Neal questions her again, this time giving Andy a look before standing. He asks if Andy has ever been violent, to which Duffy replies never, but the true motivation behind his comments to Andy in the hallway in episode 6 reveals itself now. He asks Duffy if she’s ever seen Andy grab someone by the jacket and push him up against a wall, referring to his and Andy’s scuffle, and Duffy lets it slip that Andy’s father is in prison for murder as she tries to defend Andy’s actions that day.
Joanna screams objection, and the counselors head up to the bench, where the judge is furious at Loguidice’s stunt. He warns that one more toe out of line and he’ll call a mistrial. Loguidice smirks at Andy on his way back to his seat, knowing he just got the upper hand.
Day four of the trial had the Commonwealth’s final witness, Derek Yoo. It starts with a huge problem for the defense, Matt McGrath has fled to Florida and he won’t be able to take the stand tomorrow. Derek details the awful teasing Jacob endured at the hands of Ben, and that Jake hated Ben, but kept it to himself or between them. Derek said that three days after the murder was when he suspected Jacob, both because of the knife and because of a story he had posted on the internet on that third day. Joanna and Andy are completely thrown off guard when Derek brings up a story written and posted by Jacob — under the screen name Job — on a site called “The Cut Up Room” practically retelling the murder of Ben Rifkin in explicit detail.
Joanna can’t do a thing, they know it’s from Jacob due to the IP address, and there’s no possible defense for this. Derek reads it to the courtroom, horrifying the jury, Ben’s parents, and the Barbers alike. Perhaps Andy and Laurie didn’t know Jacob as well as they thought they did.
Andy and Laurie are furious as they leave the courtroom. And for the first time, Andy asks Jacob if he killed Ben Rifkin, even his unwavering faith in his son’s innocence has wavered. Jacob maintains it was just a story, nothing more.
Andy and Joanna are working on their intentions for the next day, resigning to the fact that McGrath is out, and that pushing the blame onto Derek may be better than continuing in on Patz. They plan to call Sarah to the stand to retell what Ben had done to her, and Ben’s reaction to it. Jacob says he doesn’t want Sarah involved, but Andy says he no longer has a say, not after today.
Andy and Laurie are in the kitchen later that night, Laurie finally getting to the bottom of what Andy had been hiding from her. He didn’t know about the story, but he did know about the site. Andy says he didn’t tell her because she was already half convinced Jacob was guilty, and she lets it out that now she thinks he is guilty. She doesn’t believe anything Jacob has said anymore. Andy pleads with her to not let this change anything, that he probably fantasized about hurting his bully, that this was his imagination running wild, that maybe he got some sick thrill out of thinking about his antagonizer being killed. Every detail written in the story had previously been reported by the news, he was fantasizing. Laurie says he was confessing. Andy insists that he’s innocent, no one can maintain that level of deception. And Laurie says of course he could, you of all people should know that, referring to the years and years Andy had kept his father and his crimes a secret. Andy replies, “of course, he learned it from me,” and Laurie defends maybe he learned it from both of them.
What do you want me to say, Laurie? You’re right? Our marriage is a lie. Our whole f*cking family is based on a fairytale, built on nothing. And our son’s a murderer. Is that what you want to hear?” – Andy Barber
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Across town, at Patz’s apartment, a visibly distraught and sobbing Leonard Patz is writing a letter to Ben’s parents on the back of his subpoena to appear in court. The final line: “I killed Ben.”
The eighth and final episode of Defending Jacob will be available to stream on Friday, May 29 exclusively on Apple TV+.