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Top 5 Legal Lies From 'HTGAWM' S1 E4 ('Let's Get to Scooping')

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 17, 2014 11:52 AM

There are plenty of lies that fly back and forth between the characters on ABC's "How To Get Away With Murder," but sometimes the legal lies get overshadowed by the deceitful ones.

Episode 4 focused on a more white-collar criminal issue -- insider trading -- but much of the legal facts were swapped out for plot-convenient lies. Plainly put, "Let's Get to Scooping" was trading in legal B.S. for much of the episode.

But which five of the legal lies from this "HTGAWM" episode were the most glaring? Here are our picks -- but first, our episode recap in 140 characters or less:

#HTGAWM in 140 Characters: Client, female boiler room boss, wants insider trading dismissal before trial. Connor's hookup commits suicide. Wes unlocks Rebecca's phone.

In between these dramatic plot points, these five egregious legal lies were told:

1. Prosecutors Can Withhold Exculpatory Evidence.

The sideplot in "Let's Get to Scooping" involves Annalise's frosty associate Bonnie going to great lengths to extort the police department into handing over the tape from Rebecca's confession. This is because D.A. Wendy Parks (thanks IMDB!) tells Bonnie that she doesn't have to turn over the tape unless she plans to introduce it as evidence. Wrong-o! Under a Supreme Court case that's over 50 years old, Brady v. Maryland, the defense is entitled to any exculpatory evidence in the prosecution's possession, not just what it plans to use.

2. Warrants Need 'Proof' to Be Served.

The episode opens with law enforcement agents serving a search warrant on she-wolf of Wall Street Marren Trudeau for insider trading, and Annalise demands proof! BZZZT! Law enforcement needs to prove to a judge that there is probable cause to search a person or property, but the actual search warrant that person is handed at the time of the search doesn't need to include that proof.

3. The 'Appeal' of Rebecca's Bail Amount.

A small lie, although somewhat insidious, is that you "appeal" a bail determination made at arraignment. In reality, Annalise and her team would need to file a motion to reconsider Rebecca's bail with the same court, not make an appeal to a higher court.

4. Criminal Depositions Are Like 'Perry Mason.'

Sorry Annalise, but it's not a super-effective tool of a criminal defense lawyer to get a witness to crack and spontaneously confess to the crime. While depositions happen often in civil cases, criminal depositions are pretty rare, and they require a judge to be present. We're not sure what was happening with Annalise throwing down big stacks of paper and lying to suspects with a prosecutor grinning like an idiot behind her, but we'll chalk it up to dramatic foofery.

5. Coercive Confession = Bail Reduction.

Judges set bail based on a number of factors, but one of them isn't how strong the prosecution's case is. Instead of reducing Rebecca's bail from $1 million to $100,000 based on the interrogation tape, the judge should have been confused about why Annalise wasn't asking for the whole case to be thrown out on Fifth Amendment grounds.

Tune in next week for our take on the legal truth and lies in "HTGAWM's" fifth episode, "We're Not Friends."

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