Opening note: “twisted” takes place in New York, and accordingly I will be basing the legal aspects of my blog posts about this show on New York law.
The series premiere of “Twisted,” a new show on ABC Family, begins with two eleven-year-old girls playing on the swings. The scene seems innocent enough for approximately three seconds. Then suddenly the swing set looks as if it belongs in a horror film, and the mood has gone from innocent to ominous. The creaking noise coming from the swings does not sound fitting for the soundtrack of a play date among eleven-year-olds.
The blonde girl’s name is Jo, and her friend’s name is Lacey. They’re at their friend Danny’s house, but we haven’t seen him yet. Jo is worried about him because he has been acting different and strange lately, but Lacey reassures her that there’s nothing wrong — another sentiment that lasts all of two seconds. The third musketeer of this group, Danny Desai, comes outside and approaches the girls. He is armed with a red jump rope, but it’s obvious that he’s not in the mood to play any games. With a pale and terrifying expression on his face, he says, “I had to. I didn’t have a choice. Please don’t hate me.” Who else is already reeled in and terrified by the intense beginning of this show?
It turns out, now 16-year-old Jo Masterson (Madelaine Hasson) is terrified as well. The opening scene that we just watched was a nightmare she was having, but we quickly find out that it is based on an event that really happened when she was 11 years old. Jo wakes up shaking, and her mother, Tess Masterson (Kimberly Quinn) calls her into the kitchen to eat breakfast before school. This is going to be more than your average day at school, though. Jo and her parents have the news turned on, and the anchor is talking about this upcoming school day; Danny Desai (Avan Jogia) is returning to school after spending five years in juvenile detention for strangling and killing his aunt.
New York Penal – Article 125 – § 125.25 Murder in the Second Degree
§ 125.25 Murder in the second degree.
“A person is guilty of murder in the second degree when:
1. With intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person; except that in any prosecution under this subdivision, it is an affirmative defense that:
(a) The defendant acted under the influence of extreme disturbance for which there was a reasonable explanation or excuse, the reasonableness of which is to be determined from the viewpoint of a person in the defendant’s situation under the circumstances as the defendant believed them to be. Nothing contained in this paragraph shall constitute a defense to a prosecution for, or preclude a conviction of manslaughter in the first degree or any other crime”
I included the above affirmative defense, because Danny insists that he had a reason for what he did and that he had no other choice, yet he will not tell anybody what that reason actually was. It’s possible that if he DID tell somebody, his conviction could have been lowered from 2nd degree murder to manslaughter in the 1st degree.
Additionally, Danny’s sentencing was different because he allegedly killed his aunt when he was eleven years old, as opposed to committing the same crime as an adult. Therefore, he was subjected to New York’s laws for sentencing juvenile offenders :
New York Penal – Article 70 – § 70.05 Sentence of Imprisonment for Juvenile Offender (in relevant part)
” 2. Maximum term of sentence. The maximum term of an indeterminate
sentence for a juvenile offender shall be at least three years and the
term shall be fixed as follows:
(a) For the class A felony of murder in the second degree, the term
shall be life imprisonment;
3. Minimum period of imprisonment. The minimum period of imprisonment
under an indeterminate sentence for a juvenile offender shall be
specified in the sentence as follows:
(a) For the class A felony of murder in the second degree, the minimum
period of imprisonment shall be fixed by the court and shall be not less
than five years but shall not exceed nine years…”
Therefore, it appears that Danny was sentenced for 2nd degree murder and given the minimum period of imprisonment for a juvenile offender. I’m sure his upcoming return to school is INCREDIBLY comforting for his peers. At least he’s not one of those REALLY bad murderers given the maximum sentence. Now THAT would be crazy.
Moving on. As the anchor discusses Danny’s return on TV, Jo’s parents suggest that she should start seeing her psychologist again. However, Jo has a different idea on how to approach the situation; she wants to yell at her “lunatic freak” of an ex-best friend and tell him how much she hates his guts. Her father, Kyle Masterson (Sam Robards), the town sheriff, quickly informs Jo that this might not be the greatest idea. It must be all of the experience in his line of work that gives him the insight that screaming at a confessed murderer could be a poor choice.
Next, Jo’s former best friend Lacey Porter (Kylie Bunbury) comes onto the screen and expresses her feelings on Danny’s return. “If it were my choice, I wouldn’t let that socio anywhere near my school,” she proclaims. At least Danny has a shiny new nickname for his first day back! As the anchor elaborates on Danny’s family life, we learn that his father recently fell off of a company yacht while he was intoxicated, and his body was never recovered. So we already have a deadly jump rope and a fatal cruise in one family. We also see Danny’s mother, Karen Desai (Denise Richards), who clearly spent hours in hair and makeup for her brief cameo on the news. I would like to take this moment to formally apologize for any of my complaints about the negativity on my local news channel.
Jo’s father drives her to school, and Jo finally admits that she is upset about Danny’s return to school and that she feels like suddenly she is eleven years old again. When she gets out of the car, she sees that the school is surrounded by reporters. She is greeted by her best friend, Rico (Ashton Moio), who is also concerned about the difficult day that awaits. The only difference here is that Jo is worried about a murderer’s return to school and Rico is worried about a pre-calc quiz. Jo puts Rico in his place by reminding him that a child murderer roaming the school hallways trumps a math quiz.
Meanwhile, Lacey is walking towards the school with her two current best friends, Regina (Karynn Moore) and Sarita (Jamila Velasquez). Regina informs Lacey that her “socio” line is trending on Twitter. Fun fact: it was also trending on Twitter in real life. #Socio. Lacey’s two best friends assure her that they have her back against Danny. Inside the school, Lacey’s boyfriend, Archie (Grey Damon) tells her that he saw her on the news and that he thinks she’s sexy when she’s traumatized. Wow, what a compliment! He’s definitely a charmer. Archie and Lacey’s other friends make fun of Jo’s appearance.
Lacey approaches Jo to discuss Danny. Then, she “invites” Jo to Regina’s party, by saying, “If you want, you can come. I don’t care.” Is Jo supposed to RSVP to that polite invitation? This awkward conversation is abruptly interrupted when Danny arrives at school. Regina thinks that he’s hot. He walks up to Lacey and Jo and creepily says “boo!” He claims that he is just kidding, but neither of the girls seem entertained. Fortunately for the girls, this encounter is cut short by the principal (Rob Yang) who tells Danny to come to his office. Danny wears an unfazed, “whatever, the principal’s office is nothing compared to juvie” look on his face. He’s your regular dark, brooding, high school bad boy. He just also happens to be a killer.
The next scene is a meeting between the principal, Danny, and Danny’s mother. Danny’s mother is clearly more excited about Danny’s return to Green Grove High School than Danny is. The principal explains that he thinks Danny will be fine academically, but he might have a difficult time socially. His mother insists that there won’t be any problems, and this conversation is met by Danny’s sarcastic banter. “Yes, mother, I’m sure you’ll be running the PTA again by spring,” he promises. Danny’s sarcasm is interrupted by the principal awkwardly hitting on Danny’s mother. Did he really just say “am I right?” after calling Karen Desai beautiful? Right, and Danny is the socially awkward one. That sounds about right!
After his lovely meeting in the principal’s office, Danny approaches Jo at her locker. He tells her that he is nervous to be back at school and he begs her to chat. Jo angrily blames him for her lost childhood and her “journey to post traumatic stress disorder.” She demands to know Danny’s reason for killing his aunt, but Danny refuses to disclose that information. He can never tell that to anybody, which makes everybody want to know what the reason is RIGHT NOW.
Much to Jo’s dismay, when Danny asks her to direct him to his next class, she learns that he is in her psychology class. The teacher, Mrs. Fisk (Kathy Najimi), uses Danny as her lesson plan for the day. She informs him that his nickname on “The Twitter” is “Socio.” Danny replies, “I guess I should get into this whole Twitter thing.” “You should, it’s a delightful waste of time,” Mrs. Fisk tells him. Is the username @Socio taken? Lacey’s idiot of a boyfriend attempts to humiliate Danny in front of the class by telling Mrs. Fisk that the class is distracted because they’ve never seen a “real psycho” before. In this class session, the students learn that sociopaths are good at mimicking human emotion. This clearly makes Jo wonder if that’s exactly what Danny has been doing all day.
Afterwards, in the school cafeteria, Lacey sits with her friends and they discuss Regina’s desire to have sex with Danny. Regina beckons Danny to their table by screaming “Socio!” across the room. She invites Danny to her party, and Danny is enjoying the conversation. When Regina tells him that everyone will get over the whole murderer thing, he likens the school to “Glee” and says that he expects the students to break out into song any minute. When Regina expresses surprise that Danny’s familiar with “Glee,” he tells her that watching the show was part of his punishment when he was in juvie. His tone quickly turns creepy when he notices Regina’s necklace. His reaction to it is incredibly strange, and he wants to know where she got the necklace. He looks incredibly suspicious when he asks her, as if the necklace has frightened him somehow or brought up a bad memory for him. He seems skeptical when Regina responds that she got the necklace as a gift.
The next scene takes place at a diner where Jo and Rico are studying. In reality, Rico is studying, and Jo is just a “lady who’s apparently ok with an A-minus on this problem set.” Rico is definitely a nerd, but he’s hilarious. When Danny walks into the diner, Rico warns Jo, “whatever you do, don’t turn around and then look up.” Guess what Jo does next? If you guessed that she turns around and looks up, you’re correct! Danny approaches the table where Jo and Rico are sitting, and he echoes the words that Jo said to her father earlier, “It’s like suddenly I’m eleven again.” Then, he introduces himself to Rico, who quickly and candidly responds, “Hi, I’m Rico. I’m extraordinarily uncomfortable right now.” When Danny leaves, Rico exclaims, “Oh, my god that was tense. I feel like I just lived through a Hitchcock movie!” His one-liners are already becoming an essential part of this show.
Jo goes after Danny outside. She wants him to stop trying to talk to her, which is all well and good, except that when he agrees to leave her alone, she continues talking to him. She offers her condolences about Danny’s father, and Danny makes sociopath jokes and then invites Jo to accompany him to Regina’s party. In two seconds they have gone from not speaking to partying together.
The next thing we know, Danny and Jo are walking into Regina’s party. Jo explains that she doesn’t drink alcohol or mingle, but she came to the party so that she can tell her grandkids that she did something stupid in high school. Regina is ecstatic to see that Danny accepted her invitation. “Socio! You came!” she shouts. Then she drags Jo away to ask her “what’s up with [her] and Danny.” Regina informs Jo that she wants Danny, but that she’s willing to “pass him to her after” because “sharing is caring.” Regina then goes on to half-insult, half-compliment Jo by remarking, “You’re so cool- everyone is so wrong about you!” Then she grabs drinks for the two of them and instructs Jo to “twirl it, swirl it, knock it down.” And now we get to twirl and swirl and knock into:
Broken Law # 2 Alert! New York Alcoholic Beverage Control – Article 5 – § 65-C Unlawful Possession of an Alcoholic Beverage With the Intent to Consume by Persons Under the Age of Twenty-one Years (in relevant part): “No person under the age of twenty-one years shall possess any alcoholic beverage… with the intent to consume such beverage.” There is an exception which allows people under the age of 21 to possess an alcoholic beverage with the intent to consume it if the alcoholic beverage was given to them by their parent or guardian. (paraphrased). However, since Regina had this party while her parents were out of town, and it does not appear that the alcohol was provided to her by her housekeeper, she would not likely fall into this exception, and neither would any of her underage guests.
Grading: (in relevant part) “Any person who unlawfully possesses an alcoholic beverage with intent to consume may be summoned before and examined by a court having jurisdiction of that charge… If a determination is made sustaining such a charge the court may impose a fine not exceeding fifty dollars and/or completion of an alcohol awareness program… and/or an appropriate amount of community service not to exceed thirty hours…”
Although it’s rather tame compared to the murder premise in this show, anyone who is drinking underage at that party is not within New York law.
Next, Danny approaches Lacey, who is with her friend, Sarita at the party. Sarita calls Danny a stalker, and Danny calls Sarita out on her 5th grade facial hair issues. He makes fun of some lazer surgery that Sarita supposedly got when she was younger. Lacey comments that Jo is already following Danny like a puppy. When he observes that she’s being harsh, she justifies her behavior. “Didn’t you hear? I’m a bitch now.” Regina walks up to them and suggests that Lacey invite her boyfriend to the party so that there can be a “stud-off” between Socio and the Soccer captain. Danny claims that his new nickname is catchy.
Jo is completely wasted; this may or may not be her first time ever drinking. Sarita convinces Jo to do a body shot off of Scott. Then, Scott and Sarita physically try to make Jo take off her shirt. Sarita claims that she has to do it and that it’s “Green Grove High School law.” Sarita and Scott have a thing or two to learn about New York State’s REAL laws.
Broken Law # 3 Alert!
While some might believe that Sarita and Scott’s behavior seems typical in the party scene, you’re actually not allowed to physically abuse people, EVEN at parties. Their behavior definitely places Jo in fear of being physically injured.
New York Penal – Article 120 – § 120.15 Menacing in the Third Degree:
“A person is guilty of menacing in the third degree when, by physical menace, he or she intentionally places or attempts to place another person in fear of death, imminent serious physical injury, or physical injury.
Menacing in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor.”
What’s the main lesson here? Don’t grab a girl and try to force her, violently, to remove her shirt when she clearly doesn’t want to. It’s rather simple. Oh, and another important lesson: “Green Grove High School Law” is a bunch of BS. It’s becoming comical that the same people doing this to Jo are so concerned that a criminal attends their school. If this is how they behave regularly, it’s surprising that they haven’t been to juvie as well.
Additionally, Scott and Sarita could get nailed for:
Broken Law # 4 Alert!
New York Penal – Article 120 – § 120.20 Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree:
“A person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree when he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.
Reckless endangerment in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.”
While all of this is happening, Regina attempts to bring Danny to her room. She uses the upfront approach of telling him that she has something to show him, then giving him a hint that, that “something” is her bed. Fortunately for Jo, Danny does not take Regina up on this offer, and he notices what Scott and Sarita are doing to Jo and intervenes.
When Danny gets Scott off of Jo, Scott tells him to mind his own business, then he calls Danny a freak. This leads to a dramatic moment. The party music immediately stops playing as Danny informs Scott that “freak” is a little too generic of an insult. Scott then calls him “rope boy” and violently shoves Danny across the room. Pretty soon everyone at school is going to be gossiping about Scott and giving him new nicknames if he keeps up this type of behavior.
Broken Law # 5 Alert!
When Scott shoves Danny across the room, he is not obeying New York law.
New York Penal – Article 120 – § 120.00 Assault in the Third Degree (in relevant part):
“A person is guilty of assault in the third degree when:
with intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person…”
“Assault in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.”
So far, Scott seems more violent than the school’s resident Socio/Murderer.
When Scott tries to get violent with Danny again, Danny grabs him and whispers something in his ear. We don’t get to hear what he said, but we see that it immediately gets Scott to back off. Danny and Jo leave the party, and Jo asks Danny what he said to Scott. Danny claims that he said “something about suing him for assault and winning.”
Legal Comment/Broken Law # 6!
If Danny really wants to successfully sue Scott for something, it would be the tort of BATTERY rather than the tort of assault. In New York, if someone is criminally guilty of assault, they can be found liable in tort for battery. New York follows the 2nd restatement of torts in its definition for the tort of battery:
Tort of Battery (in relevant part): Sections 13 and 18 of the Restatement state that “an actor commits a battery if he acts intentionally… to cause a harmful or offensive contact…” An offensive contact, under the restatement, is considered any contact with someone that was not permitted and would offend a reasonable person. Conversely, in New York, the tort of assault would impose liability on someone for placing another in reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive conduct. Essentially, in New York, the tort of assault places someone in fear of an imminent tort of battery. (paraphrased).
After this night of wild partying, Lacey offers to give Jo and Danny a ride home. When Jo gets home, she has not sobered up at all, and she drunkenly engages in conversation with her parents. When she knocks on the door to her house and her parents open it for her, she greets them by crying out “Mom, dad! You came! Welcome!” Jo is most definitely a light-weight. Since Danny is so intimidating, he tries to boss Jo’s father around by telling him to try not to go too hard on her. Jo’s version of what happened between Danny and Scott is entertaining to say the least. She slurs to her parents that Scott tried to get her to take off her shirt and Danny said “get away from her, you suck!” Drunk Jo is definitely funny even if her parents don’t appreciate it.
After dropping Jo off at home, Danny bribes Lacy into his house with the promise of blue ranch potato chips. He thanks her for saving him from an hour of tedious drunk walking. Lacey describes how difficult Danny made her life, but Danny believes that deep down, Lacey misses her friendship with Jo and Danny. He tells Lacey that he regrets not growing up with her and Jo. Lacey proceeds to pass out in Danny’s room, cuddling the bag of blue ranch potato chips. Her boyfriend would definitely not be happy about this!
Then, we see that in his two days out of juvie, Danny has already gotten himself an iPhone. He receives text messages from Regina, who invites him to come back to her house for “an after party of two.” She’s incredibly persistent; she really wants to get him into that bed! When Danny rejects this invitation, he receives another text from Regina, but this one is a lot more disturbing. It reads: “Come over. We have to talk. I know why you killed your aunt.”
The following morning, Lacey bolts out of Danny’s house while he is still asleep. Danny’s mother sees her leaving, and is abnormally happy that his son had a girl spend the night. Meanwhile, we see Jo in her room looking at an old picture of herself and Lacey and Danny. Then, Regina’s housekeeper finds Regina on the floor… DEAD! Jo goes to Danny’s house to thank him for rescuing her from the “wannabe rapist jock douche” formerly known as Scott. Danny’s mother is happy to see Jo, and exclaims that she’s “So big. Not in a fat way but in a grown up way.” Um, thanks? Then, a story about Regina’s death comes on the news at Danny’s house. As Danny watches this with his mother and Jo, we can tell that Jo is wondering if Danny could be the one who killed Regina.
At school, Lacey mourns the loss of Regina with her other friends. Archie and Scott insist to Lacey that Danny is definitely the person who killed Regina. Scott claims that Danny threatened to kill him and “enjoy it like he did last time” if he didn’t get away from Jo at the party. Then, there’s an assembly in Regina’s honor at the school. The students begin chanting “Socio!” They clearly suspect that Danny is guilty of murdering Regina. Jo’s father and two other police officers interrupt the assembly to take Danny in for questioning. Jo stands up and gives a speech to her fellow students about how they shouldn’t jump to any conclusions about Danny. Jo and Lacey argue in the hallway afterwards. Jo is upset that Lacey doesn’t want to help her stand up for Danny. Jo believes that Lacey cares way too much about her high school social status.
Jo’s father questions Danny about the text messages he received from Regina. He also shows Danny a picture of Regina’s necklace and asks him if it looks familiar. Danny says that it doesn’t. Jo’s father informs Danny that he asked about the necklace because Regina’s housekeeper said that Regina never took that necklace off, yet it was the only item missing from the house after Regina’s death. Danny comments that this sounds like a burglary gone wrong.
Legal Comment/ Broken Law # 7!
Actually, if the person responsible for Regina’s murder and the theft of her necklace was NOT Danny, this sounds more like a burglary gone RIGHT, in New York.
New York Penal – Article 140 – § 140.30 Burglary in the First Degree (in relevant part):
“A person is guilty of burglary in the first degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling with intent to commit a crime therein, and when, in effecting entry or while in the dwelling or in immediate flight therefrom, he… causes physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the crime.”
“Burglary in the first degree is a class B felony.”
If Danny IS responsible for this, then his comment about a “burglary gone wrong” would be more accurate, because he wouldn’t have been in Regina’s dwelling unlawfully, because she invited him over. However, assuming somebody else, who Regina did not give permission to enter, did this, that person would be guilty of burglary, because that person would have unlawfully entered Regina’s dwelling with the intent to commit a crime therein (kill Regina, steal the necklace). Then, the person would have met the next requirement, because Regina was physically injured (ore more accurately, Regina was KILLED).
Jo’s father’s questioning of Danny is cut short when Danny’s mother and her lawyers arrive at the police station. Afterwards, Danny talks to Jo about the speech she gave in his defense during the assembly. He also tells her about the text messages he got from Regina, and he still refuses to tell Jo his reason for killing his aunt. He says that he is protecting Jo by not telling her this information. He swears that he is not the one who killed Regina, and he needs Jo to trust him. He gives her the perfect reason to trust him, too. “I may have killed someone before, but I never lied to you,” he insists. How comforting and convincing!
At the end of the episode, Danny’s mother comes into his room as he is looking at an old picture of himself and his father. Danny’s mother says that she believes that he is innocent. She tells him that if he doesn’t feel comfortable in this town and at this school, they can find somewhere else to live and start over. Danny doesn’t think this is a good idea. He explains, “I haven’t brushed up on my criminal law lately, but I think fleeing town might make me look guilty.” Maybe Danny should be the one writing this blog!
At the very end of the episode, we see Danny looking at an old picture from when he was 4 years old. It’s a picture of him and his aunt Tara, who he allegedly killed. In the picture, his aunt is wearing the exact same necklace that Regina had — the necklace which is now missing. Then, we see that the necklace is now in Danny’s bedroom. We are left in a state of complete suspense, wondering if Danny killed Regina and then took the necklace from her house, or if there is some other explanation for all of this. Maybe we will find out more information in the second episode of “Twisted,” which airs tonight on ABC Family, right after “Pretty Little Liars.” Stay tuned!