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'The Good Wife': Good Law? - Season 6, Episode 10

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on November 24, 2014 1:00 PM

As the mid-season finale of The Good Wife, "The Trial," features both an actual trial -- Cary's criminal conspiracy trial -- as well as the continuing trials and tribulations of Alicia's political campaign.

In "The Trial," Alicia is confronted by a joke shared with her daughter Grace that threatens to derail her campaign for State's Attorney, forcing her to negotiate with a scheming teacher. At the same time, Cary and Diane also find themselves forced to the negotiating table with Assistant State Attorney Geneva Pine, who offers Cary six years in prison for a guilty plea in his criminal case.

Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert!):

The episode opens with jury selection in Cary's criminal trial. Judge Cuesta, trying to make it out of court in time to procure Neil Diamond tickets for his anniversary that night, advises Cary and Diane to take the prosecution's deal, since Cary has a "loser" case. Maintaining his innocence, Cary refuses, setting the stage for the trial. Despite some last-minute heroics from Kalinda, Cary eventually sees the writing on wall, agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for a four-year sentence, allowing for his release in two years with good behavior.

The Good Wife: Good Law?

Season 6, Episode 10
"The Trial"

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Meanwhile, a note written by Alicia threatening to stab her daughter Grace's physical education teacher ends up in the wrong hands; Grace's civics teacher gets a hold of it during a discussion on free speech. Alicia refuses to give the teacher what she wants in exchange for killing the note controversy-- a political appointment -- so Eli and Johnny go to Alicia's husband Peter, highlighting what is sure to be on ongoing source of conflict as Season Six moves into its second half

Legal Roots:

Although Cary's criminal trial features a number of made-for-TV dramatic embellishments, it does offer some fairly accurate insights into actual criminal proceedings. With the high volume of criminal cases and limited availability of resources in most criminal courts around the country, prosecutors and defendants are typically encouraged by judges to resolve the case through a plea bargain if at all possible. Cary's case also offers a look at the importance of jury selection. In this case, the loss of a sympathetic juror led, in part, to Cary's decision to take a guilty plea.

Legal Fiction:

Cary catches a break when former Assistant State's Attorney Polmar -- despite repeatedly telling Alicia that it would be a breach of legal ethics to do so -- provides Alicia with surveillance photographs. This allows Kalinda to track down Dante, the surviving member of Bishop's crew who can clear Cary's name. Alicia is certainly charming, but it's unlikely that an attorney with Polmar's stature would jeopardize his career with this sort of risky maneuver.

Legal Fact:

The recording of Cary and the confidential informant played by the prosecution is hearsay evidence -- statements made out of court offered as proof that what is stated is true. Hearsay evidence is typically inadmissible at trial. However, there are several exceptions under which hearsay evidence may be admitted. In this case, the prosecution successfully argues for admission of the evidence under Illinois' forfeiture by wrongdoing exception to the hearsay rule.

Legal Babble:

402: At the beginning of Cary's trial, the judge calls attorneys for both sides and Cary into his chambers for a "402." Under Article IV of Illinois' Rules on Criminal Proceedings in the Trial Court, Rule 402 governs the process for a defendant entering a plea of guilty, including the ability to confer with the judge and allowing the judge to make a recommendation as to what an appropriate sentence would be in the case. The rules also state, however, "the trial judge shall not initiate plea discussions," meaning that the judge in Cary's case may have violated this rule (along with several others) during the course of the 402 conference.

The Verdict:

"The Trial" is guilty of being a stellar 42 minutes of television. Unfortunately, the penalty in this case is six weeks of no "The Good Wife" until Season 6 resumes in January.

What did you think of this week's episode of "The Good Wife"? Is the show guilty of making any legal mistakes? Check back here for more legal recaps of "The Good Wife," and send us a tweet at @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #TheGoodWife.

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