Just Cause (1995) Script


Come on, man. Got you.

Hey. Heh.

You want my money, you best start throwing some elbow into that, boy.

Dollar-fifty. That's two bits shy a car wash.

A $1.50 each.

No, ha, ha, man.

No, you must have got me confused with some other idiot.

Hell, the rain's doing half the work for you.

Well, lookie here.

Bobby Earl, the cultured pearl. What's up, Gomer?

You boys wanna take a break?

Bobby Earl, we gotta talk.

I said quit! Talk about what?

Take a ride.

A ride. Please?

Yeah, this is Wilcox. I need a tech team down at Ferguson's place.

Do a makeover on a-- What kind of car is that anyway? Ow!

Leave him be, you cracker son of a bitch!

I ought to lock you up! Grandma, go inside.

Why can't you leave him be? I'm all right, Grandma.

Listen. Hey. It's all right. It's all right.

All right? I'll be back before supper.

Grandma, why are they taking Bobby Earl?

Now, give me that head! That's it!

Let's shake up that cage a little bit, son!

You're not getting that meat tenderized enough?

Now, you sit down and let's see what else we got to start with.

Look here, Bobby Earl. Unh! Ugh.

Get the fuck up. Ugh.

Now, I'm gonna ask you nicely, son.

Did you fuck her before or after you filleted her?

Ha-ha-ha. Huh?

Country-ass motherfucker.

Oh, "asshole," is it? "Asshole"?

I'll show you fucking-- Unh!

"At the first official electrocution in 1890...

...the victim had the electrodes removed from his head after 15 seconds.

Suddenly he opened his eyes and began gasping for air...

...apparently unaware that he was supposed to be dead.

The warden and all present completely lost their wits...

...before calling for the current to be turned back on.

Witnesses describe a blue flame playing about the base of the spine.

This time the electricity flowed for four minutes.

Over the years, other witnesses to electrocutions...

...have described the prisoner catching fire...

...the electricity so powerful...

...that the eyeballs pop out onto the cheeks...

...a sound like bacon frying.

And during the autopsy, the liver is so hot that it can't be touched by human hands.

Despite its best efforts, this justice system has killed...

...at least 23 innocent men...

...and sentences blacks who kill whites...

...seven times more than whites who kill blacks."

Eh, 1890...

...to the 1990s.

Over a hundred years of progress.

You paint a grim picture indeed, professor.

I wish you had been as vivid describing the victims.

They were people who suffered far more cruel and unusual punishment...

...than any our penal system could even imagine.

No, no. I refuse to believe-- Let me finish.

Let me finish. Very well.

I submit to you, the issue is revenge.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, if you will.

No, I refuse to believe in any god or government...

...which is willing to trade torture for torture...

...or death for death.

In closing, professor...

...if your wife or child were murdered...

...how do you think you'd feel about that last statement of yours?

How would I feel? Heh.

Very much the same as yourself.

But I would not want their deaths avenged...

...by a system as cruel and capricious as this.

Ha, ha. Well, you changed my mind. Well, I thought I had you.

They're gonna kill my boy. Excuse me?

My grandson. They got him down south in a Florida prison on death row...

...for something he didn't do. Paul, heh. Good luck.

I'll see you in Washington.

Look, I'm sorry. I no longer practice law.

He said to me, "Go up to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Find Mr. Paul Armstrong...

...and give him this."

Well, thank you. I'll, uh-- I'll read it and get back to you.

No, you read it now.

Come on.

Come far? Ochopee, Florida.

Mm. This is a long way.

"Victim was white. I am black. Held without food or water."


By Mr. Tanny Brown, the black-hatingest police in Everglade County.

Mm. "Murder one.

Death penalty."

That white judge, he was 87 years old.

He called Bobby Earl an animal, ought to be take out and shot.

Listen, it's 25 years since I practiced law.

He said, if you turn me down...

...I was to go to Princeton, New Jersey and find Mr. Harry Gilyard.

He's a good man. But he said to come to you first.

I'm sorry, I can't.

Eh, I....

Where can I drive you? Where are you staying?

I ain't staying nowhere.

There a 2 a.m. bus leaving for Princeton from the Trailways station.

I can get there by myself.

Thank you for your time.

No, no, you keep it. It's got your name on it.

Sick in bed Momma called the doctor And the doctor said

Ding dong Let's get the rhythm of the head Daddy!

Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Armstrong.

Wonderful, wonderful.

Carry on dancing.

There you go.

Where's your mommy?

Sick in bed Momma called the doctor And the doctor said Let's the the rhythm of the head Ding dong

Oh, hi. What happened to you?

Oh, um....

I was working in juvenile detention center this morning with this kid, Carlos.

He was in for dealing. misdemeanors, history of drug use.

Mm-hm. Half-hour in, I ask about his mother.

And, bam, he goes berserk. I'm on my back seeing stars.

Another day at the office.

Yeah, well, then an hour later, I'm standing in front of the judge...

...trying to convince her he's perfect for the Crossroads program instead of jail.

How did you explain the eye?

Oh, I told her my husband was a wife beater.

Well, thank you very much.

Why don't you go back to being a lawyer?

It is safer.

Yeah, for who? Me or the bad guys?

Can we have some more popcorn, please.

Yeah, Daddy will bring it out. Thank you.

Paul, how did the debate go?

Eh, little old lady showed up tonight.

Tells me her grandson's on death row down in Florida.

He's a black kid. Went to Cornell.

Can I see it? Mm.

Back to the salt mines.

Oh, no. Oh, no, no. Paul, I--

He needs a lawyer...

...not a teacher. And I need a drink.

Paul, did you really read this?

I mean, maybe this one is worth checking out.

Why don't you check it out? Everglade County was your neck of woods.

Mom, can we sleep outside tonight?

No way.

I'd sooner go to hell than into another courtroom.

You know, I think this would be really good for you.

Put you in the real world.

Why is every fucking thing the real world except teaching? Hmm?

That's the real world?

A guy's on death row. He's asking you to put your money where your mouth is.

Paul, all I'm saying is that...

...every once in a while you gotta get a little bloody.

It's good for the soul.


Oh, I see them. There they are.


Hi, Grandma. Ha, ha.

Hey, Laurie. Dad.

What's that on your face?

Hi, sweetness.


Hi, Grandpa. Mom.

It's not a bad paper as papers go...

...but of course that's not saying a hell of a lot.

Delores, sweetheart. Ha-ha-ha.

Hey, Mr. Phil.

It's been a long time. Ha, ha.

This is Paul Armstrong. My son-in-law. Delores.

Delores Rodriguez, keeper of archives, news-trivia expert.

Buried three husbands.

Were it not for Libby, I could well be photo op number four.

And how is Libby's health these days?

It's very good.



Paul needs to see what you've got on the Joanie Shriver murder trial.

That poor kid from Ochopee? Mm-hm.

Watch your back in here.

So far, we are online back to 1985.

Everything before that is still on microfiche.

I can dig around the back and see what else I can find.

How long will that take?

Oh, that depends, sweetheart. You'll be amazed at what I can do with a little help.

Mr. Armstrong.

Sergeant Rogers?

Raise your arms, please.

Tape recorder.

There you go.

Your first time, Mr. Armstrong?

Give this to my sister. My man.

She take care of my kids, man. They don't let me make phone calls.

Come on, talk to me, baby.

Hey. Hey. Sweet thing.

Hey, come here, honey. I'll talk to you....

Buzz when you want out.

If you're unable to buzz, don't worry about it.

Sweet Jesus.

The old girl said you was gonna be coming up in here.

And I said, "No.

No, Grandma, he too busy a man...

...to come all the way from Harvard just to give me his time."

But praise God...

...here you is.


Now, if I really talked with that kind of verbal buck-and-shuffle...

...I'd be free today.

What's your game?

Sir, it's no game. It's....

It's a funny thing about small-town Florida people, professor.

Like crabs in a bucket, black or white.

One tries to climb out and the others hop on his back and pull him back down.

Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois.

I've read it.

All right? I'm impressed.


Well, I've always been that climb-out crab.

See, my mother OD'd on heroin when I was 13 up in Newark.

And it was Grandma that came and got me and brought me here.

I was high school valedictorian.

Got a full scholarship to Cornell University...

...but they never treated me like nothing but an outsider.

So how do you like Grandma, huh?

She's something else, coming up on that bus like that.

Yes, she's a very determined lady. But why did you send her up to see me?

Because, Mr. Armstrong, you are from a small town, like me.

Fife, Scotland. First in your family to attend a university.

Magna from Cambridge. Columbia Law.

Youngest assistant DA, 1960-69.

Joined Jackson, Boll & Manheim, 1970. 1980 to the present...

...Harvard professor of law...

...author of Process and Law, and six books since.

Okay, okay. All of which I've read.


Let's start.

Joanie Shriver. The victim.

Eleven years old. White girl.

Snatched from the front of the Ochopee Elementary School, March 4, 1986.

Found a day later, raped and cut up in the Glades.

A teacher ID'd the car as looking somewhat like mine.

And Officer Tanny Brown come and lock me up.

I read the transcript. Well, let me tell you this:

Down here, if the chief head-banger takes a dislike to you...

...your ass is his.

See, Tanny's a nigga who likes being a big fish--

He's black?

Oh, yes.

Yes, sir. See, this is the new South.

Now, they've got black cops to torment your black ass.

It's called affirmative action.

Ah, hmm.

Tell me about your confession.

My confession? I was slapped. I was punched.

Beaten with a phone book.

Made to piss myself, kicked.

And then Officer Tanny Brown walked in.

Hey, Tanny, no, wait.

Come on, now, J.T., I need you to back me up on this one here.

Pretty Robert Earl.

I want to ask you....

Last time. It's like I told you. It's like I told you.

I don't know this girl.

I have no reason to lie to you. I don't know this girl.

Hey. Come on, Robbie Earl, talk to me.

Come on, stop. Stop fucking arou--

What did you say to her? How'd you get her in the car?

Mm-- Say, "Ah." "Ah."

Talk to me, Bobby Earl.

Talk to me.

I hate pretty motherfuckers like you.

Listen, I don't know no Joanie Shriver.

Come on, you pretty motherfucker, talk to me.

Ain't so pretty now, are you?

They had me in there at least 22 hours.

No food, no water, no sleep. No bathroom.

--at which point you drove her to an isolated section of the Everglades...

...approximately two and a half miles southeast of her home.


And did you drive her to that location...

...with the full intent to kidnap, rape...

...sodomize and kill her?

Speak into the microphone, Robert Earl.


You feel much better now, don't you?

You a strange fruit, Robert Earl.

Strange fruit, indeed.

I would've confessed to anything and they just spoon-fed me to the row.

It's your word against theirs.

I didn't do it.

She's a pretty thing.

You wouldn't have known when they brought her in.

He was a very angry boy, that Bobby Earl.

Parts of her chest and abdomen were so badly damaged...

...hard to tell how many times she'd been stabbed.

The cuts were...

...long, sort of shallow at each end, deep in the middle.

The nature of the wounds curved upward.

Kind of in a half-moon shape. Like a scimitar?

Yeah. But miniature.

I'd say six inches from hilt to tip.

Let me ask you, your autopsy report states that the girl was raped.

But there's no record of any semen here.

Well, there wasn't any.

There wasn't? No. No, she was penetrated.

If there was no semen, how did you establish the O-positive blood?

Yeah, we got that from the teeth and gums.


And you said here that you examined Bobby Earl's hand...

...and you found cuts that could be attributed to teeth marks.

That's right.

But you never matched the dental plate to the cuts.

Well, I didn't need to, once he confessed.

Did you know he was beaten for 22 hours before he gave his confession?

So he says.

So the cuts on his hand could have been from the beating. No?

Oh, how convenient.


Yes. I'm Detective Wilcox.

Spoke on the phone about hooking up with Tanny Brown?

Yes. J.T. Wilcox. That's right.

Tanny said he'd hook up with you this afternoon if you're still around.

Anything I can do?

Well, if you have time later, thank you.

Looks like you got a busy afternoon lined up, Mr. Armstrong.

Some people to see, yes.

You ever been here before?

No. Come on. It's a nice little town.

So how's old Bobby Earl doing?

Oh, he's, uh, holding it together.

Ha-ha-ha. "Holding it together."

Hey, J.T. Hey, Jimmy.

Yeah, I'd expect he would be holding it together.

Cold-hearted son of a bitch.

Stayed right frosty to the end.

Get that vehicle back in the street, Charlie. That's the last time I'm telling you.

Sorry, J.T.

Then he just started spitting it out, like a goddamn machine.

Scared me to death.

Scared you to death?

What did old Bobby Earl tell you?

About the bare-assed light bulb at 4 in the morning?

I beat on him with a rubber hose?

How about a phone book?

White pages or yellow pages?

Mr. Armstrong?

Now, you listen to me.

Do you think if I'd gotten physical with old Bobby Earl...

...he wouldn't be wearing my anger all over him at that arraignment?

What do you think, professor?

I'm impressed.

You have a nice day now.

Harvard University. Do tell.

I'm a graduate of Florida State myself.

Bobby Earl Ferguson.

Change of venue, denied.

Motion to suppress a confession, denied.

Objection to an all-white jury, overruled. Noted for the record.

I said, "You'll have to plead guilty, take a 25-year hit.

You'll have some life left when you come out."

He says, "But, sir, I didn't do it."

So he made you go to trial, hmm?

Tell me. This, uh, matching blood statement by Dr. Doliveau...

...why didn't you challenge it? Yes.

Even us backwoods Florida State Law School alumni know...

...that an O-positive match doesn't mean anything...

...unless you get genetic screening or an enzyme-base analysis.

You just narrowed it down to about 40 million suspects.

How did this testimony survive cross-examination?

About half the people in the courtroom were on a first-name basis with that woman.

She's known around here as a very fine physician.

And a doctor is a god. You know that.


Jury didn't care.

I'm gonna tell you something, worst thing in that courtroom was Bobby Earl himself.

He sat there, day after day, looking guilty as hell.

It's not a popularity contest.

I find that a naive statement, counselor.

Is that what you teach your law students up there? "The truth will prevail"?

When's the last time you tried a case?

It's been 25 years.

Does that make you feel better?

Ha, ha. Hell.

Hang dog, show dog, I don't think it'd make any difference...

...if Bobby Earl was a 6'4" golden-haired Caucasian...

...who just quarterbacked Florida State past Miami, 62-0 in the Cotton Bowl.

That jury is not gonna disregard the boy's own words.

His confession was coerced.

Now, why didn't you bring in an expert to analyze his voice on the tape?

I tried, sir. Truly, I tried.

I know my job, Mr. Armstrong.

But what you're not hearing is the fact...

...that people in this town were sick with grief over that poor little girl.

And they wanted their revenge.

The end.

Mr. McNair.

Many thanks for your time.

Mr. Armstrong, no matter what you may think of me as a lawyer...

...I defended that boy pro bono...

...because I believe everybody has a right to legal counsel.

I paid for it dearly. I've lost half my business because I defended that son of a bitch.

And he got the chair.

Can you imagine what it'd be like for me around here if I'd gotten him acquitted?

We always have a teacher out here at 3:00...

...make sure the boys don't horseplay or the girls while away the afternoon...

...gossiping and giggling on the corner.

Horseplay. Gossip. Sweet.

That day it was about 10 after 3.

Most everyone was gone.

And I saw her by the banyan tree.

She walked past the car, then turned...

...like someone in the car had called her.

She walked back...

...and before she got in she--

Oh, God.

I go to bed with this every night. Her waving.

The car was parked under that tree?

Right like that there.

Well, that far away?


When did the police show you the car for identification?

The police? No, they didn't. They just showed me a photo.

A photo? Mm-hm.


From what angle? Angle?

Mm, uh, front, rear, side?


But you couldn't see the side from here. Not if it was in that position.

It seemed like the car to me.

I was solid to myself when I said it.

I understand. No, you don't!

You're tearing open a wound, coming here. You know that?

I'm only trying to get at what happened.

And I am sorry for your grief.

Many thanks for your time.

Miss Conklin, may I ask you one last question?

What color is that car?

Midnight blue. Midnight blue.

Not dark blue? Black?

Midnight blue.

How can you be so sure?

Because that's Tanny Brown's car. Everyone knows that.

Thank you.

One, two, three, four, five.

Come on in.

Tanny Brown.

Paul Armstrong. Yeah.

So you're trying to get Robert Earl off the row, huh?


I'm just trying to get some information.

Information? Mm-hm.

Well, fair enough.

Let's see if we can get you some information.

Ah. Now...

...the girl got into the car right here where we are.

I know.

You might wanna fasten your seat belt now.

All right, now you, uh....

You watch carefully.

Robert Earl made this right here...

...heading towards the girl's house. Nothing for her to get excited about.

See that second house there with the blue trim?

That's hers.

She'd have wanted to go that way, but he took her this way.

We think that's where he popped her.

Yeah, he's a pretty son of a bitch, Robert Earl, but he's mean.

He's real mean.

Scream! Scream!

I can't breathe. Come on.

Oh, come on, big man like you. You can scream louder than that.

Come on. Stop!

What the fuck was all that nonsense about?

Heh. Trying to get you some information.

That is what you've came down here for, isn't it?

Now, you be careful. You're way beyond your perimeters.

You take a look around you, Mr. Armstrong. You take a look at where you are.

You smack dab in the middle of hell.

Didn't take you but five minutes to get here...

...and there ain't nobody that can hear you scream for help...

...let alone an 11-year-old girl.

Starting to get the picture, huh?

Starting to see it with Joanie Shriver's eyes?

I get the point. You get the point, huh?

They come through here. He was probably carrying her.

Weren't any defensive wounds on her hands.

We figure he knocked her out cold in that car...

...back there at the intersection near her house.

Did his killing while she was unconscious.

Otherwise, we'd have seen stab wounds on her hands...

...or some of his skin up underneath her nails.

Anyway, this is it.

This is the kill spot here.

They told us at the coroner's office...

...that the rape was pre-mortem, some of the cuts too.

But damn if he didn't do a lot of damage to her after she was dead.

It's like he just went stone crazy.

He pushed her body in the water down here...

...and tried to cover her up with some brush.

Want you to meet Joanie Shriver, Mr. Armstrong.

Go on. Take a look.

Hello. Katie?

Daddy! I'll go get Mommy.

No, no, don't get Mommy just yet.


I've been thinking about you all day today, sweetheart.

And I love you very much. I love you too, Daddy.

Can you come back to Miami tonight? No.

No, I can't come back tonight.

So I want you to sleep with Mommy.

Daddy, I'm too old for that. It's not for you, it's for her.

Do it for me.

Okay, I'll do it for you.

Good girl. I love you.

I love you too.



They just hate long stories about how you messed up their vehicles.

Heh. I hope you took out that insurance option.

Hey, I like them lightning bolts, though.

Hell, you might not even wanna paint this over.

I know I wouldn't.

What do we gotta do to get rid of you, Mr. Armstrong?

Convince me that Bobby Earl deserves to die.

Under the circumstances, that's not possible.

So I'm not gonna waste my time trying.

But, uh, I do have a question for you.

Are you aware that Robert Earl was picked up on kidnap charges...

...in Dade County a year prior to his arrest for Joanie Shriver's murder?

Case went all the way to trial. You aware of that?

Yeah, I bet Mr. Victim forgot to tell you about that.

And what was the result?

Prosecution's case collapsed, uh, on a technicality, I believe.

Acquitted or thrown out of court?

Look, Armstrong...

...I knew Robert Earl was bad news first time I ever laid eyes on him.

Used to see him hanging around the school when I'd pick up my girls.

Hanging around with his pretty-boy looks and his college-boy words.

And he just felt wrong.

Wasn't just me that felt that way. Every man in this department.

Everybody in town. I still don't hear any evidence.

We didn't need any.

We had a confession. If that's a confession...

...my ass is a banjo.

Damn arrogant Yankee son of a bitch!

He did it, goddamn it! Whoa! Come on, J.T. Leave him alone.

Damn it, that man is an asshole! J.T., just calm the hell down.


You tell me that man never laid a hand on Bobby Earl Ferguson in 22 hours?

He slapped him once or twice. Which was it?

Once, twice or what?

Look, Armstrong, you and I both know it wasn't a textbook confession, all right?

But it was enough to convict and close the case.

This is a case that hangs together by the thinnest of threads.

You come down here, you start picking at them threads, it's liable to fall apart.

I don't wanna see that happen.

I tell you something else.

I want to see Robert Earl go to the chair for what he did.


Tell me, what is your policy on taking guns into the interrogation room?

We don't.

May I see your left ankle?


You, uh--? You looking for this?

I checked it with the duty sergeant.

You didn't take it out? Point it at Bobby Earl?

No, sir.

You didn't stick it in his mouth and play some Russian roulette?

No, sir.

Then how did I know where to look for it?

You're back. Let's get started.

Why didn't you tell me about your run-ins?

What run-ins?

All those times Tanny Brown tried to bust me down?

Come on.

Tanny Brown had nothing to do with your arrest in Dade County.

Dade County? Yeah.

The charge was kidnapping.

That was bullshit.

That was bullshit. I took some white girl for a ride in my car.

It was just a ride. In fact, she asked me for that ride.

When it came out the arresting cracker happened to be a boyfriend...

...the judge should've just thrown it out of court.

My life was different after that.


How was your life different after that, if the case was thrown out?

They took away my scholarship.

Let me tell you what a scholarship is for someone like me.

It's a trade-off, pure and simple.

I get a free ride, they get a better image.

The minute I walked into court, I couldn't live up to my end of the bargain.

That's all the justification they needed.

It's the same way Tanny Brown felt justified looking for me when--

Wait. Wait. Wait a minute.

I don't follow you.


Imagine a man, a very bad man...

...driving a car heading south, driving off the turnpike into Ochopee.

He stops, takes a siesta under a banyan tree just outside a schoolyard.

Then he spots a little girl.

Pretty little girl.

And he talks her into his car because he's friendly when he needs to be.

And then he does it.

Right there in the Glades.

He drives on and never gives it another thought.

Yes. Go on.

That very bad man moves on down the line.

A waitress in the Keys...

...two tourists in Lakeland, a prostitute in Tampa, and finally...

...he gets sloppy.

Big-time sloppy.

That's murder one.

That's the row. Death row.

He's here? Yes.

And what does he find when he gets here?

A neighbor on the row who's in for killing a little girl.

Yeah, a little blond girl down in Ochopee.

All cut up and thrown in the swamps. And he says:

"Well, boy, I know you didn't do it, because I did."

Then he starts laughing.

And he says, "You must be the sorriest fuck in this unit."

I can hear him, professor, I can hear him every night.

Bobby Earl!

Agh, Bobby Earl! Ha, ha!

Why won't you talk to me?

Shut up, you crazy fuck!

Shut up!

It's like a death sentence on top of a death sentence.

He calls me his last victim.

Who is he?

Blair Sullivan.

How are you? What can I do? I made a reservation....

Yeah, you really had me going.

I was starting to think to myself, "Maybe the man is onto something. Maybe."

What are you talking about?

Funny thing is, you almost pulled it off, brother, you almost got away with it.

Got away with what?

Your wife, slick.

"Prentiss," that is her maiden name, isn't it?

Yes. Was.

Was before she married you.

Laurie Prentiss, assistant DA.

What about her?

She was the prosecutor on Robert Earl's kidnap trial in Dade. Ring any bells?

What you think, man?

Small-town police don't do their homework?

Don't know how to access information?

I don't understand exactly what kind of hidden agenda...

...you've got stuffed up your sleeve...

...but I'm telling you...

...you stay the hell out of my town.

I'd been plea bargaining everything that came across my desk for six months.

I just wanted to show the good old boys how good I was.

I was hot for it. Thought I had the case locked tight.

My star witness, the arresting officer.

He said when he came up on the car, he found Bobby Earl on top of her...

...in the back seat and she was screaming bloody murder.

Two seconds into the cross-examination...

...the defense attorney produces a prom photo...

...with my star witness in a tuxedo with the victim.

Son of a bitch admits they were high school sweethearts.

I didn't wanna go out without a fight...

...so I got the judge to grant me a 24-hour recess so I could regroup.

I came back with nothing, he threw the case out.

Why the hell didn't you tell me?

I did. I told you when I met you.

I told you-- Bullshit.

You should've told me the night you read the letter.

I didn't-- I-- Why not?

I didn't know if it would influence you.

That you might not take the case and you might not help this kid.

He paid dearly with everything else that happened to him.

Why? Because he lost a scholarship and spent an extra night in prison?

No, Paul. lt was more than that.

Later, I found out that they beat him real bad that night.

He ended up in the hospital.

Listen to me. It was my fault.

I want you to help him get his life back.

I want you to make it right for him.

No, Laurie, you want me to make it right for you.

You're right.

But how does what I'm telling you change his situation on death row?


They called it "The Pilgrimage of Death." He sold a lot of papers.

The guy started out with his landlady in New Orleans...

...a prostitute in Mobile and a sailor in Pensacola.

And then he got real busy.

A body every 100 miles.

Pensacola, when was that?


Late April, early May.

You know, it was incredible.

APBs in three states, FBI flyers all over the place...

...and nobody spots him.

Painting and writing letters to the families of his victims...

...that's all the son of a bitch does.

Yeah, we got a whole other theme park for Mr. Sullivan.

Hey, are you here to see me, man? Hey.

I'm innocent. I'm innocent.

All right.

He's all yours.

They don't like me very much.


Why is that? Mm.

Creative differences.


Uh, tape recorder. May I?

Mm, be my guest.

You have quite an art gallery back there.

Thank you.

Idle hands are the devil's workshop.


Do you believe in Jesus?

Yes. Yes, I do.

That's good. That's very good.

I done killed so many goddamn people...

...I can't keep up with my correspondence, but my question is this:

Do you think any one of those people rolled out of bed...

...on the morning of their last day thinking, "Today's my day to die"?

You got to take Jesus into your heart right away, because you never know.

Even if you don't have a condition, you might have a situation.

You a killer too? Me?

No. You never been in a war?

No. Korea? Vietnam?

Never did a little hit-and-run with the BMW?

Never told the wifey to get an abortion?

Or that piece of chicken you got on the side, "Here's $300, get it taken care of."


Because you got that look.

You got ice in your eyes.

I can tell.

Well, you're wrong.

Am I now?

Mr. Armstrong...

...let's see whom we're talking to here.

Are you married?



No. Liar.

House or an apartment?

I have a house. Alarms on the windows?

No. Dogs?

No. You have trouble sleeping?

No. Liar.

You afraid to die?

I don't give it much thought. Liar!

That's three lies.

Same as Peter did to Jesus before the cock crowed.

You should be ashamed of yourself, lying to a condemned man.

Well, don't my lies tell you as much about me as my truths?


Heh. Oh.

Would you do me a favor? Mail this for me.

Thank you.

So, what do you want to talk to an old bad guy like me for?


Nice town.

What happened there?

You been talking to my old neighbor, Bobby Earl. Excitable boy.

Did you kill Joanie Shriver?

Did I?

There been so many.

Did you kill Joanie Shriver?

Hell, Armstrong, you're starting to get all frantic and excited, just like Bobby Earl did.

Did you? You're the visitor I've had in two years...

...since those behavioral-science boys come to see me.

Wanted to know about my childhood.

Did my folks beat me, abuse me, sex me up?

I tried telling them there ain't no formula for people like me.

What we're dealing with here is just a predisposition for an appetite.

You know, good parents, bad parents....

Ain't no cause and effect. It's just an appetite.

Fuck you.

Let me tell you a few things, Armstrong. One, I am filled with power.

You may think I'm an impotent prisoner, handcuffed...

...locked in a cell each night and day, but I am filled with a strength...

...that reaches way beyond these bars, sir!

I can touch anyone I want to!

Just as easy as dialing the telephone!

There's no one beyond my reach! You hear me? No one!

Did you kill her?

I ain't gonna tell you if killed that little girl or not.

Even if I did, how would you know to believe me?

Killing is easy for me. How hard do you think lying is?

Yeah. Go to hell.

Oh, I will. No doubt about that.

But say I could help you find something?

Something important.

Something interesting. Real important.

Like what?

Where is it?

Not far from where they found her. Where?

They just didn't read the signs. What signs?

You know your Bible? My Bible?

Ecclesiastes 11:1.

You can't miss it if you can just read the signs.

What signs? "Seek, and ye shall find."

Do you have a Bible here? That's one thing we got plenty of.

The Gideons love us.

How'd it go? Well, I wouldn't like him as a neighbor.

He asked me to mail this. Not again. Goddamn him.

Wilkinsons. Sick bastard.

These give me nightmares. I never let them out. Can't even read them.

Hey, Roz, what's up, baby?

Oh, you saw Tyrone?

Please. He is not telling you the truth. You know he's lying.

Because I saw him with her last night.

Anyway, girl, someone is here so I'll speak to you later. All right, then.

Hi. Hi.

Does Tanny Brown live here? He's at a soccer practice with my brother.

Hi. I'm Lena. Hi.

You must be Mr. Armstrong. Yeah? How do you know?

Well, everyone knows you're the guy my father was complaining about.

He'll be back in a few minutes. Would you care for some iced tea?

That would be very nice. All right, then. Come in.

You're the only one for me And I'm proud

You know, I'm gonna study law too.

I graduated first in my high school class.

Well, good for you.

I'm thinking about going to the University of Virginia.

They have a great school and my mom lives in Newport News.

That's Joanie and me.

Daddy used to call us his girls.

I remember how we used to talk about opening up a pet shop together.

I miss her.

There isn't a day that goes by that I still don't talk to her.

Talk to who?

Reese, I want you to wash up for supper. But, Daddy--

Go wash up for supper. Lena, is supper ready?

Yes, Daddy. Mm-hm. Take Mr. Armstrong's glass.

He was just leaving.

Get the hell out of my house, man. You should never have been in charge.

I'll have you locked up. Too close to the victim.

You got no right interrogating my children.

You got no right coming here... All right.

...telling me how to do my job!

How many times did she have dinner in this house, sleep over with your daughter?

That is-- Look, I got an office.

You want something here? What you come around here for?

I thought you might be interested in recovering the knife.

The knife. So now all of a sudden, you're Sherlock Holmes, huh?

You're obviously not.

Any luck?

"Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days."

Ecclesiastes 11:1.

Blair Sullivan's directions.

Blair Sullivan, huh?

"And if the tree fall toward the south or toward the north...

...in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be."

Oh, yeah, you're really onto something now, Armstrong.

Really onto something.

Look here...

...how you come to Blair Sullivan on this thing?

Well, it's a long story.

Well, take a look around you.

Look where you at.

You see where you are? Yes.

"Seek and ye shall find."

Man, Sullivan must have bust a gut the minute he seen you coming.

Talking about the Bible. Ha-ha-ha.

Look, we must've had 50, 60 volunteers...

...poking, digging and dragging through all you see here...

...trying to find that knife. And we know this place.

What's this?

That's a culvert. They run under the roads. Keep them from washing away.

What was that? Well, that's the local wildlife.

You know, there's a couple hundred of them here, if you want to keep looking.

Do people live in a place like that?

Hell, no. That's an old poacher's shack, what they call a hunting blind.

It's like a base camp for gator hunters.

Do, uh-- Do the skinning there, rest up in the evening.

It's kind of a nighttime thing.

Oh, what the hell is he doing now?

What now? one, one, one.

What about it? Sullivan said we have to read the signs.

Eleven-one. Chapter eleven, verse one.

You're a real hard case, Armstrong. You know that?

You're fishing, Armstrong. There's nothing out here.

You're fishing.

The man's an idiot.


Goddamn it.

Hey. How about this?

North, south. South, north.

That's a tree, no?

You wanna make your point?

Step down here, please, will you?

Well, I've just about run out of patience with you, Armstrong.

Just step down. I hope this is good, whatever it is.

Would you mind picking that up?

Is something wrong with your hands all of a sudden?

No, but, uh, if it is the murder weapon...

...technically it's better to be discovered by an officer of the law.

Mm. I see.

That way we won't jeopardize my legal position.

Thank you, professor.


Goddamn you, Armstrong. You got a lot of explaining to do.


...all but admitted that he killed the girl...

...without anyone sticking a gun in his mouth.

Fuck Blair Sullivan and fuck you too.

No. Rejoice.

For a great injustice is about to be undone!


What was Sullivan driving?

Three cars.

All stolen. What was he driving when he hit Florida?

Green Monarch. Damn.

We need a Ford Granada.

I see your Monarch...

...I raise you Bobby Earl's...


They're almost identical.

I'm no friend of capital punishment...

...but at least the letters will stop.

More of Sullivan's correspondence.

That's the lot?

So far.


"Dear Mr. and Mrs. Shriver...

...I've been wrong not to write to you before this...

...but I've been real busy getting ready to die.

I just wanted you to know what a real...

...sweet piece of business your little baby was.

Doing her was like carving up...

...a ripe melon...

...like picking ripe cherries on a summer morning...

...like plowing a scented field, and plow her I did.

Although, I don't imagine anything's gonna come of that particular crop...

...come harvest time, do you?"

It's signed, "Your friend Blair Sullivan."


...he doesn't specifically say in this letter...

...that he killed Joanie Shriver.

Does he?


He said what I read.

That being with her was "like carving up a ripe melon."

Nothing further.

Bobby Earl, Bobby Earl. How does it feel being free?

Uh, I'd like to thank-- Your attorney.

My attorney, Mr. Lyle Morgan.

My grandma for never giving up hope, and Professor Paul Armstrong.

If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be standing here today.

Bobby Earl. Bobby Earl.

Do you have any plans to leave the city?

Where will you reside?

Bobby Earl.

How are you? I'm very happy for you.

I'm happy for both of us.

Professor. Bobby Earl.

Thank you so much.

Before we go back...

...we'd like you to come for drinks Friday.

Oh, I'd love to, but I can't. I made other plans.

But we'll meet again. I promise you.

One more shot. Got a second? Congratulations.

You have a safe trip. Bobby Earl.

Hey there, Mr. Ferguson. Congratulations.

Congratulations. Got them all fooled, don't you?

Judge, even that know-nothing Harvard fool, huh?

But not me.

No, sir. Not Tanny Brown.

I'm gonna be all over you like white on rice, boy. You hear?

Come on. Miss Evangeline.

They all disappear

Oh, I love you.

The firm's been much more successful...

...than I ever dreamed it would be when I started it.

So, Lyle, are you single at all? I've been married for eight years.

Oh, good. It's time for you to fool around.

All right. Champagne, anyone?

Yeah. Yes, I'd love some. Thank you, Phil. Thank you, Phil.

You ought to stay on a few days and we'll make it a real vacation.

No, we gotta get back. I'm behind on my caseload. Paul, you've got classes.

Yep. Paul, I think you missed your true calling.

You should've been a detective.

No, thanks. I'm quite happy to get out of the real world.

Ha-ha-ha. Here we go. A little refreshment.

Katie. Katie. Sweetie, get the phone.

Hello, hello. Hello.

I would like-- I would like to propose a toast.

To innocence revealed.

To death denied.

To the triumph of truth over appearance.

Hear, hear. Hear, hear.

Telephone for you, Daddy.

Don't finish it. What are you doing after?

What am I doing after the party? I have an appointment.

I'm afraid, in fact, I'm gonna have to leave now.

Hello. Well, well, well.

Congratulations, professor. Sullivan?

How'd you get this number?

I've got all your numbers.

It's been a big week for you.

Been a big week for me too.

Sure you know the governor signed my death warrant.

Hell, I got less time than it takes to play a round of golf.


...my letter done sewed it up tight for you.

We thought that might do the trick.


Who's "we"? I'll tell you when you get here.

Things worked out kind of perfect for you, didn't it?

Maybe a little too perfect.

You got a pen? Yes.

13 Tula Way.


My folks' place.

I want you to call on them.

I want you to say goodbye for me.

Tell them I love them...

...and that they are in my prayers...

...and then you come to me.

You do that for me and I'll tell you who "we" is.

You best run, Armstrong.



Anyone home?

Ha-ha-ha. Takes me back to my youth.

Now, I wanna remind you all of next Sunday's fish fry.

And now, from the bounty of the Lord...

..."Amazing Grace" on Everglade Christian Radio.

Amazing Grace How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost But now I'm found Was blind

"So the dead which he slew at his death...

...were more than they which he slew in his life."

Judges 16:30.

I told you I had power.

Not this time, Armstrong.

So tell me...

...what did you see?

What did you hear?

Well, give me all the details. Spare me nothing. Come on.

Come on, man, I want everything.

Come on. No.

When you called me to say:

"We thought the letter would do the trick"...

...who did you mean by "we"?

Come, on. Tell me what you saw down there.

Tell me about my folks. That was the deal.


Okay. Why not? Okay.

By "we," I meant me and the shining boy of the hour.

See, I pushed the buttons to make you do the dance...

...to spring our boy...

...who, in turn, did the deed.

"Did the deed"? You know what I'm talking about.

I had some unfinished business out there.

I gave Bobby Earl life...

...so he could give me death.

Joanie Shriver?

I never had the pleasure of making that sweet little girl's acquaintance.

Bobby Earl coached me a little bit on the details.

All I had to do to take his crime was tell you where the knife was...

...and write that letter.

You should see your face, Armstrong. Ha, ha.

What the hell's going on up there?

Why me? We needed us a legitimizer.

Who'd believe us? We're just psychopaths.

But why me? You were Bobby Earl's con.

He had his reasons. Reasons?

It's my turn now. What fucking reasons?

No, it's my turn now! Come on.

How did my folks look? Hmm?

How did they smell?

Tell me everything. Come on. Spare me nothing.


They said they forgive you and they'll remember you in their prayers.

No. Yeah.

I'm sure you're lying, cocksucker! No!

You inhuman bastard! You cannot cheat me of this!

I'm screwed! Come on!

We played you like a tune! It ain't over yet!

You got the trials of Job ahead of you!

The trials of Job! The sin is pride, you motherfucker...

...and the messenger is revenge!

We played you like a tune!

It ain't over yet! You got to--



I told you how fragile this was. You're right.

I said you were right. You know where I am?

I'm sitting at the Sullivan house and I wanna tell you...

...it's a good thing for you I just I put Wilcox on his tail.

"ln the name of the father, son... Shut up.

...and the Holy Spirit--" Shut up.

Shut up!

"As governor of the state of Florida...."

I have a confession from Sullivan on tape and it is evidence.

Armstrong, you're a goddamn fool.

First you had evidence this way, now you got evidence that way.

His confession don't mean shit unless he testifies in court.

Don't lecture me about confessions, not after the way you got Bobby Earl's.

"--to cause the sentence of death to be executed on Blair Sullivan."

Armstrong, you keep Sullivan alive.

Our father, who art in heaven...

...hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses.


Katie, are you packed?

Where are you, J.T.? I'm right on top of him, Tanny.

Collins and 50th. The Eden Roc.

I want you to stay on his tail. Don't jump that rabbit until I give you the green light.


You were Bobby Earl's con. And he had his reasons.

Reason? What reasons? It's my turn now.

No, it's my turn now!

I'm sorry, there's no answer.

What about messages? Did she leave anything for me?

Just one moment, sir.

We played you like a tune! It ain't over yet!

You got the trials of Job ahead, mister! The trials of Job! The sin is pride....

Sorry, sir, no messages.

--and the messenger is revenge!


On, no, I left him. Angus.

Who? The teddy bear Daddy gave me. I left him.

We already gave the key back. But we can't just leave him.

Come on, we'll find a maid.

Maybe she'll let us back in the room if you ask her nicely.

Don't let anyone touch that luggage. All right?

Yes, sir. I'll be right back.

I gotta call Mom and Dad.

Did I get the laundry? Yeah, I think so.


The maid wouldn't take Angus, would she?

I don't think so. You gotta take better care of your stuff.

I know. I'm sorry.

Laurie! Laurie!

We'll go in your car. Now get those keys out.

Mommy. Hey, hey. You better lock it up, girl.

Now, get the keys out. All right?

We're gonna have ourselves a little ride.

Come on, Wilcox, pick up the damn phone.

Just get in. Leave her here.

Move your hand or I'll cut her head off. Get in there.

Hurry up.

Let's go. Let's go. Hurry up.

Come on, pick it up.

Sweetie, come in, quick. Get in the car.

Mommy, where's Daddy?


That's Laurie's car. I think Bobby Earl has them.

Where the hell is Wilcox?

Mommy, where are we going?

It's a surprise.

Stop touching her.

Look, I'm way out of my jurisdiction here. I need to call for backup.

All right.

Why are you doing this? He saved your life.

Bitch, that don't make up for what you did to me, does it?

Let her go. She didn't do anything to you. No.

She's a part of you. Let her go.

She's a tiny version of you. She'll grow up and be a hero like Mommy.

It's okay. Shut up!

Get down. Get down, in case he sees you.


Pull over. Pull over to the left! Where? I can't.

To the left! I'll kill her!

They're going against the traffic.

Bitch, drive!

Take it! Punch it! Punch the gas! Punch it! No!

Punch it! Punch it! Bitch, you better drive! Punch it!

Punch it or I'll kill her! I'll take her now!

Oh, shit.

Professor? Listen up.

Daddy? Katie.

I got me a double date here, professor? Remember Joanie Shriver?

Well, that's nothing compared to what I'm gonna do to your little girl here.


Look, there's the car. It's about the only place he'd be.

Keep your eyes open, Armstrong. We're in his backyard now.

Now, we need to split up. I'm gonna go around back, all right?

Now, look here...

...you squeeze one off if you have to.

Don't try to hit nothing. Just point and squeeze.

Where is he? Hurry.

Get it off my mouth. He's out there.


He's out there somewhere. Get Katie out of here. Hurry, quick.

Everything's going to be all right.

He's out there. I don't know if he's gonna come back.

Fucking knot.

That was close. Paul. Paul.

Welcome to the party, professor. Unh!

Stop it!

Give me Tanny's gun.

He couldn't stand to see me free, living the good life, so I killed the fucker.

Let them go. You have me now.

Oh, it's not you that I want, professor. Is it, Laurie?

It's not you I've been waiting for and thinking about the last eight years.

But she dropped her case against you. Not soon enough.

You, little lady, had me held for just one night...

...so you could make a name for yourself off of me. Sullivan was right.

The sin is pride.

I'm sorry. You're sorry?

I had no idea they were gonna hurt you. Hurt me?

Do you want to see what those fuckers did to me?

No. They cut me.

They castrated me. You feel that?

You had me-- Aah!

Did you think those fuckers would give a shit about justice?

Sit your ass down.

Like that knife, Paul?

That's what put me on the row and eight years later, that's what made me free.

Please, let Katie go.

She's just a little girl.

I'm saving Katie for dessert.

Now I'm going to do me these two lovely ladies of yours.

Aah! No! Paul! Easy!

And then I'm gonna disappear. No.

Now, what I need to know from you is how do you want to die, first or last?

And Blair Sullivan?

Watch your fucking hands.

What about him, Bobby Earl?

Don't fuck with me, Armstrong. Sullivan is dead.

No. The governor gave him a stay of execution.

You're a desperate man, Armstrong.

I brought him the news.

What fucking news? That his parents were still alive and well.

No, it's my turn now!

How did my folks look? Hmm?

How did they smell?

They said they forgive you and will remember you in their prayers.

You're a fucking liar! Sullivan's gonna testify against you.

You inhuman bastard! Liar!

We played you like a tune!

It ain't over yet! You got the trials of Job ahead of you!

The trials of Job!


Get your ass out of the water, Armstrong.


You all right there, Armstrong?

Well, I'm in better shape than you are.

I loved Joanie Shriver like she was my own.

What about you? Are you going to be okay?

Yeah. I'm fine.

Least we'll be able to sleep at night.


We'll see.