'Criminal Minds' Cast Prepares to Say Goodbye Ahead of Final Season (PHOTOS) – TVInsider

They can’t hunt down the most disturbing, creepiest serial killers forever.

Criminal Minds is ending its run on CBS with its upcoming 15th and final season, and the cast is in the middle of filming the series finale.

Season 14 ended with an emotional cliffhanger for two of the team’s members. JJ (A.J. Cook) confessed she’s always loved Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) at gunpoint, the fallout of which will be explored in its final season.

The series also stars Joe Mantegna, Paget Brewster, Aisha Tyler, Kirsten Vangsness, Adam Rodriguez, and Daniel Henney.

Click through the gallery above to see photos from the final table read — see who wore matching jumpsuits — as well as behind-the-scenes images of a stunt double and one of the character’s very recognizable desks as they prepare to say goodbye.

Criminal Minds, Season 15, Coming Soon, CBS

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Fed Up With the Criminal Justice System, Man Acts as His Own Attorney and Gets Acquitted After Serving 13 Years for Murder – The Root

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Philly native Hassan Bennett had always maintained his innocence, but unfortunately, our faulty criminal justice system ensured it would take him four trials and 13 years to finally prove it.

The Washington Post reports that on September 22, 2006, Bennett was accused of orchestrating the murder of his friend Devon English, 19, over a $20 dice game. Another one of his friends, Corey Ford, 18, suffered gunshot wounds to his legs and buttocks in the ensuring fracas.

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In statements provided to the police, Bennett was identified as the shooter by Ford and 16-year-old Lamont Dade. But during Bennett’s trial, they backtracked and revealed that homicide detective James Pitts told them to pin the murder on Bennett.

Despite Bennett maintaining his innocence—he was adamant that he was on the phone with a friend at home when the incident took place—he was eventually convicted during a second trial in 2008. His first trial, months earlier, ended in a mistrial. Bennett asserts that his lawyer at the time failed to present phone records or witnesses that would’ve absolved him of the crime.

He petitioned for a third trial after losing multiple appeals until he was so fed up with the legal system and how it had continued to fail him that he told his judge that he was done with lawyers and wanted to represent himself.

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“They told me, if you mess up here, your tail is done,” Bennett said. “Well, I’m not gonna mess up then. There is no room for error. This is the time you rely on yourself. They call it crunch time in basketball, when the best player in the game gets the ball with five seconds left and it’s his last shot. He wins or loses on this shot. That’s how I felt.”

Finally rid of apathetic and overburdened public defenders, Bennett committed himself to his craft. He combed through every trial transcript and police record in his case, taught himself legalese, and sought the tutelage of Brother Mook—his cellmate who provided invaluable legal guidance and would rip up Bennett’s draft petitions for inaccuracies.

“He was like my Yoda,” Bennett said.

But most importantly, he keyed in on Detective Pitts—the man who obtained the bogus witness statements from Ford and Dade that stole his freedom. And Pitts wasn’t exactly a man of integrity.

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From the Washington Post:

In recent years, Pitts has been accused of coercing witness statements in at least 10 cases, and in some murder cases, judges have vacated convictions because of Pitts’s misconduct, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. (Mired in scandal, he is on desk duty while the police department investigates, the Inquirer reported.)

Armed with this information, Bennett petitioned for a new trial. He drew correlations between Pitts’ affinity for coercion in other cases and the method in which Pitts obtained statements from Ford and Dade.

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Bennett’s request was denied, but in 2017, his conviction was vacated by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, and he was granted a new trial due to what was deemed “ineffective counsel.”

Reinvigorated by this new opportunity to reclaim his freedom, Bennett represented himself for the first time during his third trial, which resulted in a hung jury after all but one juror found Bennett not guilty.

“If the defendant knew how close he was [to acquittal], he would have been crushed,” juror David Scott told the Philadelphia Inquirer afterward.

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But Bennett maintained his resolve, and by the time he was representing himself for a fourth and final time in his most recent trial, he was confident and loose in his approach. Being so close to victory before, he knew that all he needed to do was to refine his technique.

From the Post:

In his opening statement last month, he told the jury it was a case about using common sense — and asked jurors to remember a song from “Sesame Street.” He described himself as a suspect who didn’t fit the description, like Oscar the Grouch in a photo array of fruits. “One of these things just doesn’t belong here,” he sang.

“The Commonwealth will try to tell you that Oscar the Grouch belongs because Oscar the Grouch is always seen on the corner. He has a smart mouth. He’s nobody’s favorite on Sesame Street,” Bennett said. “But that doesn’t make him guilty when the evidence shows he’s not guilty.”

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The case was pretty cut and dry.

He called witnesses to the stand to back up his alibi. He cross-examined Ford and Dade. He provided phone records proving he was home at the time of the shooting. And to the surprise of those in attendance, he confronted Pitts.

Wearing his blue prison uniform, he accused the former homicide detective of coercing statements from Ford and Dade — and questioned why, if Pitts were credible, prosecutors elected not to call him as a witness. Pitts denied the accusations. But the jury, Bennett told The Post, ultimately “saw through his hogwash.”

“Why didn’t the prosecutor call Detective Pitts?” he asked the jury, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported from the courtroom. “He’s the lead detective. He’s the head honcho. Pitts worked the witnesses for hours on end. We can’t tolerate this misconduct. We can’t tolerate these actions.”

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13 years after having his freedom stolen from him, Bennett emerged triumphant. He was acquitted of all charges.

Since his return to society on Monday, he’s poured himself into his family while getting acclimated to a world that was forced to leave him behind. There’s technology to learn, new family members to be introduced to and seasons of Game of Thrones to binge watch. But he won’t be leaving his passion for the pursuit of justice in the past.

Bennett plans to use the experience he accrued as his own lawyer to help other incarcerated individuals. His court-appointed attorney has recruited him to assist with briefs and investigations of other cases, and he intends to study the bar exam so that one day he can be the lawyer that other inmates so desperately need.

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“People from our neighborhood, from low-income neighborhoods, they don’t really know the law,” he said. “But see, there are people from the legal community that don’t know about the low-income neighborhoods. They don’t know about ‘the hood,’ as they call it. I am that bridge.”

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office disagrees with the jury’s verdict, as does the family of Devon English.

“I’m still trying to cope with it. I think it is wrong,” Arturo Alleyne, English’s father, told the Inquirer. “I think the whole process is unfair. All of this will be cleared up by God.”

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'Criminal Minds' Star A.J. Cook Says 'Goodbye' to Series – PopCulture.com

A.J. Cook is looking back on the legacy of her role on Criminal Minds ahead of the final season.

The actress, who has played Jennifer “JJ” Jareau, on the CBS crime procedural for most of its run, spoke about saying goodbye to the show in an interview published during production of the final episodes.

“It’s not a place I’m willing to let my mind go yet, you know?” she told Parade of leaving her 15-year job behind. “There’s a lot of compartmentalizing going on because we still have the job to do and we’re lucky that we still have this time together. We all just really enjoy each other. The chemistry is 110 percent real. We really enjoy each other and we know what we have is special. We know that lightning is probably not going to strike twice with that kind of chemistry.”

With only a few more weeks of shooting left at the time, Cook said the cast is enjoying every minute they get to spend together before production wraps on the show for good.

“We’re savoring every last moment and, the closer we get to the end, obviously, the harder it is,” she said. “As soon as I start letting my mind go there, I’m a mess, because I grew up here. This is my family. My family doesn’t know life without this show either.”

“It’s really been an amazing journey. To see a character evolve and grow that much is a real gift and something that most people don’t get the opportunity to do,” she added. “I’m so extremely grateful for that time that we had to see these characters grow up, change, go through the wringer and come out the other side and come out better for it. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to this character because truly she’s like a sister for me and I just feel so protective of her, so it’ll be really hard to say goodbye.”

While emotions will be heavy in the final days of filming, Cook was sure that the cast will remain close even after production is over. However, that doesn’t make leaving the show easier.

“…there is a little mourning there for these characters that we’ve developed and created, and watched change and grow. So, it’s a double-edged sword right now for sure,” she admitted. “People keep talking about the last day and I’m like, ‘Are you serious?’ I hope there’s a lot of emotional scenes in the last episode because we’re probably going to be crying a lot.”

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The cast of Criminal Minds has been making headlines for documenting the final days of filming, showing bittersweet moments from the final table read, as well as group shots of the cast on set.

Details on the 10-episode final season of Criminal Minds are being kept under wraps, though it is expected to air sometime in the 2019-2020 season on CBS.

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