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'The Good Wife' Meets the Grand Jury

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on January 30, 2012 10:57 AM

Last night's episode of The Good Wife was, well, a good one. The misdirection! The slap! The whipped cream!

Speaking of which, no one should desire Eli Gold. Ick.

And who knew Alicia is a gay icon according to the gay blogosophere? Not this blogger, that's for sure.

But what about the blawgosphere? What do we think about Alicia's trip to the grand jury?

Legally, it was pretty spot-on.

Grand juries are a prosecutor's domain. There are no judges, no attorneys and no rules of evidence. Prosecutors haul in witnesses and documents with the hope of convincing the jury to indict.

Will's attorney, Elspeth Tascioni, summed it perfectly when she told Alicia, "A prosecutor can ask anything at a grand jury hearing." Including inappropriate and irrelevant questions about a witness' sex life.

But as Judge Parks proved, prosecutors may ask, but witnesses don't necessarily have to answer.

The usual rules of evidence (hearsay, relevancy) don't apply during a grand jury hearing, but the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination does. Wendy Scott-Carr was pretty peeved when Judge Parks repeatedly asserted this privilege, but there was little she could do.

And Alicia? She just chose to leave instead of answering questions. Since there's nothing incriminating about sleeping with your boss, she can be arrested and held in contempt. But first, Scott-Carr would need to convince a judge to step in.

Unlikely. Cook County's imaginary judges are anything but fans.

All in all, this episode of The Good Wife receives a B+ in legal accuracy. Alicia's behavior in front of the grand jury was just a little too unrealistic to believe.

There are plenty of legal lessons to be gleaned from Hollywood. Sometimes they nail it (like in this particular episode), other times they completely fictionalize the legal system (see Law and Order: Special Victims Unit). Be sure to check back with us as we keep TV and film writers honest in this ongoing series. Is there a particular show that deserves to be called out or that gets the legal system right? Let us know over at our FindLaw for Consumers Facebook page.

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