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'The Good Wife': Good Law? -- Season 6, Episode 20

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 27, 2015 4:22 PM

RD is back with another legal issue to tackle. Kalinda and Cary fall over themselves to testify against Lemond Bishop. After her downfall, Alicia is returning to the firm, or is she?

Here's what you need to know from last night's episode, entitled "The Deconstruction":

The Good Wife: Good Law?

Season 6, Episode 20
"The Deconstruction"

Legal References:


More Legal Analysis of CBS' "The Good Wife":

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  • Season 6, Episode 21 (Airs 05/03/15)

Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert):

For his next legal crusade, RD wants to tackle the issue of mandatory minimum sentencing. Cary suggests the case of a man who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for giving painkillers to an undercover cop. Diane wants to champion the case of a 62-year-old grandmother, Louise Nolfi, who was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of six to 30 years for mailing 26 tablets of MDMA, also known as ecstasy.

In matters of law firm management, the firm is inviting Alicia back as a partner. Sadly, RD throws a wrench in their plans, telling Diane that he'll leave the firm if Alicia is brought back. He doesn't want to be associated with the name Florrick and its stench of corruption. Alicia is set adrift with no law firm to return to and no clients to start a new firm with.

Meanwhile, Kalinda and Cary are both trying to protect each other from having to testify against Lemond Bishop. Kalinda makes a deal with ASA Geneva Pine to get incriminating evidence against Bishop.

Legal Roots:

When Nolfi was convicted of intent to distribute a controlled substance, the judge tells her that he does not believe that she should be imprisoned, but his hands are tied by mandatory minimum sentencing. He must sentence her to six to 30 years in prison.

Legal Facts:

In 1986, in reaction to the exploding crime rate due to illegal drugs, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 which set mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. Mandatory minimum sentences are fixed penalties that allow a judge little to no discretion on sentencing. These laws are often seen as unfair and arbitrary because they sentenced many non-violent drug offenders to longer prison terms than some other violent offenders.

In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder advocated reforms to the unfair system of mandatory minimum sentences.

Legal Fiction:

While pursuing her case against Lemond Bishop, Geneva Pine tells Kalinda to get her evidence that she can use against Bishop. Kalinda does this by stealing files off of Bishop's computer. In real life, Pine wouldn't be able to use this evidence.

Normally, stolen evidence is illegally obtained evidence. The police would not be allowed to search a suspect's computer without a warrant. Any evidence obtained from an illegal search is excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree.

There is an exception. If a civilian illegally stole evidence and turned it over to the police, that evidence would not be excluded. The courts reasoned that excluding the evidence wouldn't discourage the civilian from illegally finding evidence.

However, police cannot take advantage of this exception by telling a civilian or informant to steal evidence. When people act on the direction of law enforcement, they become agents of the police. The rules that apply to law enforcement now apply to the informant.

Kalinda stole the evidence on Geneva Pine's orders, so the evidence would be thrown out in a real court.

Legal Verdict:

We're happy to see Ms. Nolfi get probation instead of prison, but wish that the show did more to discuss mandatory minimum sentencing. Also, Geneva Pine may be happy to arrest Bishop now, but we wouldn't be surprised to see the evidence challenged in a later episode.

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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