So Help Me God was the ninth episode of Season 2 of the TV series Quantum Leap. also the 18th overall episode in the series. Written by Deborah Pratt, the episode, which was directed by Andy Cadiff, originally aired on NBC-TV on November 29, 1989.
Though he can't remember much more than habeas corpus, Sam finds himself leaping into Leonard Dancey, a defense attorney, in a capital murder case, for a young black woman named Delilah "Lila" Berry (Tyra Ferrell) accused of murdering the son of prominent white powerful man in a small Louisiana town steeped in racism.
Sam has leapt to Louisiana in 1957, into a defense attorney by the name of Leonard Dancey. His entrance is very poorly timed, as it is during the committal hearing of the leapee's client, a young black woman by the name of Delilah (Lila) Berry, accused of murder, and is immediately asked for their plea. Unsure of what to do, Sam looks at Lila, and seeing innocence in her eyes, pleads “Not Guilty”. This causes uproar in the court, the audience had been expecting (and clearly hoping) for a guilty plea.
As Leonard had struck a deal with the prosecution prior to the hearing, in his chamber, the judge Eugene Haller (played by William Schallert), discusses this change of heart with both counsels. He wonders if Sam has ulterior motives for changing the plea (such as Lila putting the moves on him) and advises that unless Leonard has a good reason, he should reconsider the prosecutor's offer of 20 years imprisonment for a guilty plea. But the prosecutor, angry and humiliated, rants that now he's going to push for a sentence of death with the electric chair once Lila is pronounced guilty. Sam coolly responds “you’re going to have to prove it” (her guilt). Back in the courtroom, the judge announces that Delilah Berry will stand trial for the murder of Houston Palmer Carter.
Lila angrily asks Sam why he changed their plea, and he responds that it's because she's innocent. She retorts with “I never said that!” but their conversation is cut short when the sheriff handcuffs her to be taken back to the prison, and tells Sam he can talk to her during visiting hours the next morning. Sam is then approached by a well-dressed middle-aged man, clearly very prominent and powerful due to everyone tipping their hat at him.
“The Captain”, as he is called, asks if he can drive Leonard home, and despite Sam's immediate dislike, he agrees (mainly because he doesn't know where he lives). During the drive, Captain Colton Carter (played by Byrne Piven), who it turns out is the father of Houston, the murder victim, tells Sam that Leonard only has this job because of his friendship to Houston, and explains that since Houston's death, his wife Sadie (played by Kathleen Noone) hadn't been well, and that he offered a plea bargain to not have to put her through a trial.
The Captain doesn't believe Sam when he answers why he pleaded her not guilty, and like the judge, thinks Sam is enjoying her attention. He doesn't exactly blame Sam for this either, reminiscing how he enjoyed watching her bent over while cleaning the floor – Lila was one of their maids. They reach Sam's house, and Leonard's wife “Shugee”, who is keen for a country club membership, is so pleased that her husband was seen in the Captain's new car, says she was going to bake him a pecan pie and let him play “Rhett Butler” with her that night.
Sam spends the night researching the case and tries to think of some way to help Lila, but all he could remember about law was what he could remember from a television show he couldn't even remember the name of, until Al shows up the next morning and exclaims “It’s Perry Mason!” when he sees Sam.
Al apologizes for taking so long to get there, he had to deal with Leonard, who was in a bad state in the Waiting Room. He's not much help to Sam anyway, as they have no idea why Sam leapt there, having already run some scenarios and finding that in the original history, the 20 year plea bargain that was taken was the best possible option anyway due to the overwhelming evidence against Lila. Unfortunately that no longer is an option with Sam having plead Lila as not guilty.
Al is flabbergasted, but Sam argues that after hearing how bigoted this town is towards blacks (and especially Lila), it doesn't make any sense that they would show her “mercy”, there must be something else going on. He also says what he saw in Lila's eyes, and Al is won over, as he believes the eyes are the window to the soul. Al informs Sam that law is not one of Sam's seven degrees, but that he has the entire history of law at his fingertips (through Ziggy) and they will blow everyone away at the trial...
Needing to do more research, at the police station he asks to see all the evidence, such as the police and coroner's reports, but the incompetent sheriff isn't sure if Sam has the right to it. Sam makes the sheriff call his superior to get approval, and when it looks like he would be refused, Sam yells down the phone that he'll have all the evidence subpoenaed and have them both charged with obstruction of justice. When approved, in his mind Sam thanks Perry Mason.
He then goes to the Captain's house to speak with their other maid, Myrtle (played by Ketty Lester), who heard the shooting and is the closest thing to an eyewitness. He is greeted by the Captain's wife, Sadie. Away with the fairies, she talks about how the heat is causing all the flowers to die, and wonders if “they” are ever coming back. On the back porch Sam speaks with Myrtle, and what she tells him completely contradicts all the information that had been in the confession Lila signed – that she constantly threw herself at Houston and when he refused her advances, she murdered him in cold blood.
According to Myrtle, however, Houston had forced Lila into a dominating sexual relationship when she was 14 that continued for many years, that he had a history of beating her, and that there had been a huge argument that turned violent just before the shooting. Sam tells Myrtle that if she testifies, Lila will be found innocent as she shot him in self-defense, but Myrtle refuses, stating she won't “swear on no bible!”
When Sam visits Lila in the prison, she says she now knows how the Christians felt. Sam comforts her and says that nobody will throw her to the lions, and asks her to confirm what Myrtle had told him. Lila recalls her mother having had to bury fourteen children in the bayou where she came from and swore to never go back, so she “let him” take advantage of her, and confirms what Myrtle had said. But for some reason, she too will not testify.
At the trial, Sam causes a ruckus when he claims that the jury needs to be replaced, as a jury is a trial by peers and since Lila is black, there should be some black members. Even though this goes down well with the judge, he reminds Sam that to serve on a jury you need to be a registered voter, and there weren't any black voters, so Sam states that they have to reluctantly accept this jury as Lila's equals. The prosecution commences with their case, and when it comes to the confession, Sam objects to having it sworn into evidence as it was written under duress. He tries to get Lila onto the witness stand to defend herself, but she refuses, so Sam asks her to at least read over the confession, and Lila reveals she can't read.
The judge calls a recess so that Leonard can decide what to do. Over lunch Shuggy tells Sam how mortified she was at those nice jury members being told they're equal to [a black woman], and the Captain arrives and threatens Sam that much of the legal work in this town comes from his offices and now most of the work he'll be doing will be pro-bono. Sam is unfazed and takes Lila some lunch. He desperately tries to get her to realize that unless she recants the confession it will send her to the electric chair, and reads it out to her. She breaks down when it says “he begged me in the name of Jesus” and calls it a lie.
Sam thinks he may have won her over, but back at the trial she still refuses to swear on the bible, and so the confession is sworn in as evidence. Sam heads to the chapel, as he has had a realization. He and Al come to the conclusion that Myrtle and Lila won't swear on a bible because they fear God so much that they would tell the truth even if it incriminated them, or someone else that they care about even more than themselves. Myrtle happens to walk in and apologizes for interrupting his prayer, and Sam says he was praying for a miracle. Myrtle wishes she could help but she swore to keep something secret and that the person she swore to said if she revealed it she would go to Hell.
Ziggy finds something, and Al tells Sam to read a bible passage to Myrtle, that whatever persuasion he used did not come from God and that he too would have to face judgement. Convinced, she tells him that last crucial bit of information... The next morning, Sam is running late for trial. They are about to start without him, when Sam runs in and calls Sadie Carter as his witness. This causes uproar in the court, Lila tells Sam not to, and the Captain yells at the judge to put a stop to it. The judge refuses Sam, having no intention of putting a grieving mother on the stand, but Sam had anticipated this. The reason he was late is because he had gone to Baton Rouge to obtain a subpoena and a Federal Marshall.
Unable to stop him, Sadie is sworn in. Even though she's not in her right mind, she is coherent enough to tell her story. Under oath, she said how much Houston loved Lila and wanted to marry her, but couldn't because she was black. He loved her so much he hated her for it, and beat her often (but never in front of her until that night). She had given Lila some money so that Lila could leave and start a new life, and as they were saying goodbye, Houston returned from hunting, and was so enraged he started beating Lila within an inch of her life and even pushed his mother away. Sadie shocks the courtroom when she recalls, fearing that he'd kill Lila, that SHE picked up the shotgun and shot Houston – and Lila screams that the gun went off by accident. Sometime after the trial, Sam meets up with Lila at the bus stop, planning to start fresh. She thanks Sam, and couldn't be more grateful to Sadie for saving her life twice.
Lila hopes Sadie never remembers what happened. After congratulating “Leonard” on his new job at a prestigious law firm (and the country club membership that comes with it), she offers to send money to Leonard until she has paid him in full for his services, but Sam tells Lila that the only payment he wants is for her to learn how to read, handing her a reader. She enters the bus, and from her window, waves goodbye and promises to do so “So Help Me God”, and with a final parting wave, Sam leaps.
|Quantum Leap Season Two|
|● Honeymoon Express ● Disco Inferno ● The Americanization of Machiko ● What Price Gloria? ● Blind Faith ● Good Morning, Peoria ● Thou Shalt Not... ● Jimmy ● So Help Me God ● Catch A Falling Star ● A Portrait For Troian ● Animal Frat ● Another Mother ● All Americans ● Her Charm ● Freedom ● Good Night, Dear Heart ● Pool Hall Blues ● Leaping In Without A Net ● Maybe Baby ● Sea Bride ● M.I.A. ●.|