Law & Order
Episode 16.3 - Oct. 5, 2005
Lee Tergesen played a defense attorney named Mr. Heller in this
episode of the long-running original version of the "Law &
When Lee mentioned this guest spot in a TVGuide.com
interview Aug. 31, he said, "I'm ... playing a lawyer. I'm not cutting my hair, but I'm
wearing great suits."
That sums up his role pretty well. Mr. Heller enters about
half-way through the episode, defending a man who made a
"deathbed confession" a little prematurely.
The criminal, Johnny Zona, had been shot by police following a
robbery. As he awaits last rites, Detectives Green and Fontana
(series regulars Jesse L. Martin and Dennis Farina) get Zona to
admit to the armed robbery, but then he also confesses to a murder
of a girl 10 years previously.
It was a case originally handled by Fontana, who had
(erroneously, it turns out) identified the girl's father as the
Zona doesn't die, however, and lives to face prosecution. Mr.
Heller is his lawyer.
It appears that Zona had also told two other people about the
killing -- his brother and his prison lover.
Lee's first appearance is in a snarky exchange that has echoes of
"Oz." Heller and Assistant D.A. Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston)
face a judge over Heller's motion to suppress the jailhouse
confession because Zona made the confession to Kenny Muhammad, who
is a Muslim cleric and thus protected on religious grounds.
HELLER: He is an ordained cleric.
McCOY: From an Internet ministry...
HELLER: Mr. Muhammad is serving a life sentence. Attending Yale
divinity school was not an option. ... The applicable legal test
[is]: Was the relevant communication made in confidence for the
purpose of spiritual guidance?
McCOY: Let's call this what it is -- a prison girlfriend telling
a prison boyfriend about a past crime. I'm fairly certain, your
honor, that's not what the courts had in mind when carving out
this particular privilege.
HELLER: Mr. Zona confided in Mr. Muhammad in an attempt to
elicit guidance and absolution.
McCOY: Their relationship was based on protection and homosexual
Mr. Heller won suppression of the confession, and things continue
to go his way during the trial as Zona's brother becomes a little
loose with the truth.
Mr. Heller is also strong in his cross-examination of the dead
girl's father -- the original prime suspect. The father identifies
Zona as a man he saw on the day his daughter was killed. Heller
challenges this ID -- scoffing that it happened 10 years ago and
over a matter of seconds. He snaps his fingers to count off how
quickly the seconds go by. It's effective and he seems to do a good
job of bringing doubt to the father's identification as well as his
motives for shifting the suspicion to someone other than himself.
In the end, though, McCoy wins and Zona is found guilty. Because
Zona is guilty, and it's McCoy's show, after all.