The Unusual Suspect is one of the most memorable episodes of the popular television drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It is the 135th episode and the 18th episode of the show's sixth season. It originally aired on March 30, 2006.


Unconventionally for this series, the episode begins in a courtroom as the district attorney is calling Hannah, the sister of Marlon, a teenaged boy charged with the murder of a classmate, to the stand. There seems to be a great deal of controversy regarding the young girl, but the judge allows her to be called as a witness. The DA asks a few questions about her brother, which the girl answers but pleads to be allowed to explain something. The DA refuses, allowing the teenager's defence attorney to cross-examine her (sort of), inviting her to share what she had been prevented from saying.

To the surprise of everyone in the courtroom, Hannah confesses to the murder and opens her overshirt to reveal an undershirt stained with blood. This causes quite a stir and the judge gives the prosecution three days to re-evaluate its case before both sides make their final pitches to the jury.

Sara Sidle and Nick Stokes, the two CSIs who initially investigated the case, are enlisted to re-examine the evidence and are confused by it from the get-go. Hannah is extremely gifted and is already in high school, having skipped several grades. Marlon is not terribly intelligent at all. The nature of the crime -- a popular, pretty high schooler falls down a flight of stairs to her death after being blinded by sodium placed in a gym showerhead. Sara, herself having skipped several grades and was an identified gifted child, argues that while the circumstances seem sketchy, the intellectual nature of the crime points to someone with high intelligence. Nick, on the other hand, argues that this was a crime of brawn, not brains, and that Hannah is trying to cover up for her brother. The situation is made even more difficult by the fact that both siblings are now claiming to be guilty of the crime.

When a sample of the victim's blood is found in her boyfriend's car, the boyfriend is also brought in for questioning. While he refuses to elaborate in the presence of his father, a deacon, he tells detective Sofia Curtis that the blood was caused when he and the victim had sex in his backseat. It was her first time, he explained, and there was a little bit of blood. The trace lab confirms that the blood contains traces of spermicide and lubricant, which supports the teen's story. 

Both Marlon and Hannah are interrogated repeatedly throughout the course of the episode. Sara asks the young girl why she would want to kill one of her brother's classmates; she reveals that, because she has skipped several grades, the victim was one of her classmates as well. Hannah claims to have been tutoring the victim's boyfriend, on whom she had a crush, and the victim played a practical joke on Hannah at the school dance: she wrote "flat" on her dress in glow-in-the-dark marker, and it was revealed to Hannah's horror at the dance. Hannah claims that she decided to get revenge on the girl by putting sodium in the showerhead, but that she didn't intend for her to fall down the stairs to her death. Marlon, on the other hand, claims that everything up until the revenge point of the story is accurate. The victim, he claims, did play a prank on his sister that he felt crossed the line. The decision to exact revenge, however, was made by him. It was him and him alone, he insists, who blinded the girl by placing sodium in the showerhead, causing her to run through the school hallways and down a flight of stairs to her death, then buried her in the football field. Hannah continues to insist that she acted alone and that her brother is trying to protect her.

As the evidence suggests that either of these accounts might be accurate, the team begins to suspect that the two siblings were in on the crime together and are each claiming sole responsibility so as to increase their chances of getting off. CSI Warrick Brown helps by enlisting his wife's niece, who's about the same age and height as Hannah, to try to drag weights weighing roughly the same as the victim across the football field. They conclude that Hannah could not possibly have dragged a dead teenaged girl across the entire length of a football field by herself. When Sara confronts Hannah with this, the girl agrees that she couldn't possibly have dragged the body -- that's why she used the cart. Warrick confirms that there is indeed a cart near the field.

By the end of their allotted time limit, Sara and Nick can't agree on who committed the crime. Sara, by now, sincerely believes that Hannah could have committed murder, while Nick and supervisor Conrad Ecklie believe it was Marlon. When Nick tells the district attorney that the decision is "two out of three," he responds with "in my world we call that an acquittal." Nonetheless, the prosecution proceeds with Marlon and makes a last pitch to the jury during the closing statements. The attorney reminds everyone in the jury that high school was not even easy for the most popular students, and tells them to imagine what it must have been like for a lacklustre guy like Marlon. He says that Marlon resented the fact that the victim made it look so easy to be popular and smart, of which Marlon wasn't really either. And when she pulled a mean-spirited prank on his little sister, he went on, he snapped and started a chain of events that led to her death. He asks the jury to find that he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

The defence attorney, however, tells jurors that the prosecution's case consists entirely of reasonable doubt. She questions how someone like Marlon could orchestrate a chemistry-based crime when he's not terribly bright. To pull off a crime like this one, she says, you'd have to be -- pause for effect -- a genius. Marlon is not a genius. Therefore, she concludes, he musn't be guilty and it's better to let 100 guilty men go free than to imprison even one innocent man.

Nick and Sara are later called back to court when the jury announces that it has reached a verdict.

Conclusion (there are spoilers here. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED)

The jury delivers its verdict.

Sara runs into the family at the police station afterwards. She informs Hannah that the district attorney is more than willing to file murder charges against a 12-year-old and that they'll be seeing a lot of each other in the future. Hannah's mother expresses her disappointment in this news, but Hannah asks to speak to Sara alone. Sara tells her that she could have done anything she wanted with her gifts, but she wasted them on murder. Hannah seems bemused by this, reminding Sara that she'll be out of jail within years and will have a degree. She also says that she's free to write a book about her life and notes that "freaks are good box office." Sara tells her that she's a smart girl, but that no one is smart enough to get away with murder.

Hannah smiles, leans in and lets Sara in on a secret: she's not the murderer. Marlon is. She walks away, leaving Sara to contemplate what just happened. And because Marlon has just been found not guilty by a jury, he cannot be tried for the murder a second time

Sara got pwned


Although the character of Gil Grissom would famously go on sabbatical in season 7 (due to actor William Petersen's four-week sojourn to perform with a community theatre group), he's not in this episode at all. Neither is police captain Jim Brass (Paul Guilefoyle) or DNA tech-turned CSI Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda). No explanation is given as to why.

Most CSI episodes contain two investigations: the main plot and the subplot. This one has only a main plot. The main characters that do appear in the show (Sara, Nick, Warrick, Sofia and Catherine Willows) are all involved in this investigation.

This is the second CSI episode (in the main series anyway) where the team has to re-evaluate an entire case from the very beginning because something came up in court that went against their initial findings. The first such occurrence was in the season 4 episode Invisible Evidence, wherein Warrick was testifying on the stand when the defence attorney revealed that he hadn't followed proper procedure.


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