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'How To Get Away With Murder' Review: Season 1, Episode 5

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 24, 2014 1:13 PM

And then there was "HTGAWM" Episode 5. Is anyone still watching this show? We are, though my editor is nearing his breaking point. Shondaland, where everything works out perfectly for unethical lawyers and their clients, and where everyone is having lots of sex, isn't for everyone. Anyway, if you're just now tuning in, we have recaps and reviews of all of the episodes. Now, back to Episode 5 -- SPOILERS FOLLOW.

Who's our Monster Client of the Week? A creepy teenage kid who shot his dad in the back, killing him. But don't worry: He did it for his mom, who was being beaten by his dad -- a cop. As for the ongoing murder mystery, the one that Goth Girl (Rebecca) has been charged with, we don't seem to have gotten any closer to figuring out who the real murderer is, unless the obvious choice (Prof. Annalise Keating's husband, whose body her students are trying to dispose of in various flash-forward clips) is it.

Mr. Keating, by the way, was sending pics of his privates to the dead girl and admitted to a wee little affair.

Law School: Nothing to See Here

There was very little law schooling going on in this episode, other than a brief mention of outlining, a quick class segment on problem jurors (including stealth jurors), and two students having sex on a table in the Legal Aid office.

Law Practice: Voir Dire, Nullification, and Evidentiary Issues

I liked the emphasis on criminal procedure in this episode, even though it was mostly made-up crap. The voir dire didn't seem too far from reality -- try to find jurors who aren't pro-police. And it was a nice trick when Connor (the one-dimensional gay character) used a gay hookup app (Humpr, a sly reference to real-life Grindr) to goad the "lumberjack" juror to admit that he was pro-cop, getting him kicked off the panel in the process.

But the two more interesting issues were nullification and the admissibility of evidence of the abuse, including the mom's testimony and the defendant's blog posts.

Laurel (the previously invisible girl who was the star of this episode) flirted with an ethics violation by passing a pamphlet on jury nullification to a juror. Why? Because in Shondaland, it's illegal to tell the jury about nullification. In real-life Pennsylvania, nullification is referenced in the state constitution and case law. Though I know nothing about Pennsylvania-specific jury instructions regarding nullification, I doubt mentioning it in her closing would get Prof. Keating disbarred.

(The pamphlet, by the way, led to mistrial and after the D.A. saw the light, the Client of the Week's case was transferred to juvenile court for a slap on the wrist.)

The even bigger issue was the admissibility of evidence that the dead cop father was a wife-beater. The judge kept both the mother's testimony and the blog out, calling them "self-serving hearsay." However, moments later, all of the evidence -- the testimony and the blog posts -- were auto-magically made admissible by a teacher mentioning lyrics that the defendant sung in a talent show. Why? Rule 106, which states:

If a party introduces all or part of a writing or recorded statement, an adverse party may require the introduction, at that time, of any other part -- or any other writing or recorded statement -- that in fairness ought to be considered at the same time.

OK, that might make sense for the blog posts ... maybe -- he did blog about the lyrics once, though the teacher wasn't testifying about his blog ("introducing all or part of a writing or recorded statement"). But the mom's testimony? And I still have no idea what "self-serving hearsay" is. Shonda needs to hire a legal consultant.

Hollywood: Product Placement

The Client of the Week storylines are interesting, as is the focus of the show (mostly) on one student per episode.

But the real "damn it Hollywood" moment of this episode was the obvious Microsoft Surface product placement. Just like on "Grey's Anatomy," where everyone now has their Microsoft tablets with detachable keyboards, it looks like they're going to squeeze them into this show as well. Here, Laurel used her Surface to look up the defendant's blog posts while the camera zoomed in on Windows 8.1.

What did you think of Episode 5? Any thoughts on the evidentiary issues or jury nullification? Tweet us @FindLawLP.

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