Follow TV Tropes


Series / Conviction (2016)

Go To

Conviction is a legal drama that aired on ABC, starring Hayley Atwell.

After getting busted for cocaine possession, Hayes Morrison, a former First Daughter-turned-defense attorney is given one chance to avoid prison, by working for the newly-minted Conviction Integrity Unit, which investigates old cases to make sure that the convictions were on the level.

It premiered on October 3, 2016. On November 8, 2016, ABC announced there would be no back-order for more than the thirteen contracted episodes, and the remaining episodes of the season aired until its conclusion on January 29, 2017. ABC canceled the series on May 11, 2017.

This series contains examples of:

  • Acquitted Too Late: In "A Different Kind of Death", Earl Slavitt is proven innocent only after he's been put to death. This was mostly due to the real killer's interference.
  • Asshole Victim: Rodney Landon is an Islamophobic terrorist so extreme he thinks all Muslims should be wiped out. He was framed for bombing a mosque, while having planned to kill far more.
  • The Atoner: Tess is adamant over the unreliability of eyewitness testimony... because her own eyewitness testimony sent an innocent man to prison. She's also quietly slipped extra money to the guy without his knowledge for several years to help him maintain his food truck.
  • Big Fun: Hayes' big brother Jackson is quite large, but also a lot of fun to be around.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Maxine and a SWAT team save Sam when he's Alone with the Psycho.
  • Blackmail Backfire:
    • After Maxine blackmails Hayes into actually starting to do her job by threatening to tell the others that Maxine uncovered her arrest for drug possession, Hayes ensures that isn't going to happen telling them all herself.
    • Hayes also manages to turn Wallace and her mother's deal to get her out of her cocaine bust (with a subsequent threat to charge her with intent to sell if she flakes on the job) into a threat to take them both down if Wallace messes with her or the CIU.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Hayes was an excellent defense attorney, but got lazy after realizing that she could coast on her family's name. Now that her mother is running for Senate, she suddenly finds that her family is less willing to tolerate her behavior.
  • Cessation of Existence: Hayes says this happens when you die, telling one death row prisoner he will be "worm food". She regrets this after he's executed, saying she had wished he would go to Heaven like he wanted beforehand.
  • Downer Ending:
    • In "Mother's Little Burden", the CIU manages to prove that Penny Price is innocent... but the actual killer was her own daughter, and Penny decides that she'd rather spend the rest of her life in jail than allow the police to lock up her only remaining child.
    • In "A Different Kind of Death", Earl Slavitt isn't only innocent of ordering a hit on Tom Simon, he's innocent of the crime he was initially convicted of that supposedly caused him to order the hit in revenge. They find proof too late to stop Slavitt's execution.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Sam gets hammered when he realizes he prosecuted an innocent man.
  • Easy Amnesia: A victim was brutally beaten and as a result of the trauma she did not remember the attack or the few hours before it. The police had to rely on forensic evidence to determine when and how the attack occurred. The police got the time of the attack wrong and did not realize that the woman had consensual sex before the attack and was not raped by her attacker.
  • False Confession: This is a serious problem for the CIU. If a person was convicted based on a confession, they need to determine if it was genuine or if the police coerced the suspect into a false confession.
  • Famed In-Story: Assorted people immediately recognize Hayes as the tabloid-fodder former First Daughter. As the series progresses, she starts becoming recognized for the CIU's work.
  • Frame-Up:
    • The wife of a victim in "Dropping Bombs" murdered him for having an affair by using a bomb a militant Islamophobe designed, implicating him in the process.
    • Earl Slavitt in "A Different Kind of Death" was framed not only for murder, but the original crime he supposedly committed it in revenge for.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: In order to prevent would-be terrorist Rodney Landon from getting released after discovering he had planned another bombing from the one he was convicted of (but that the evidence for this isn't legally usable), Sam spreads a rumor in the prison that Landon is getting released because he snitched on other inmates. This causes them to attack him and he naturally fights back, stabbing another prisoner and insuring he'll stay in prison.
  • Going Commando: Hayes claims that she never wears underwear.
  • Hollywood Law: Part of Tess's backstory (mistakenly saying that an innocent man murdered her aunt) makes no legal sense. She had identified him in a line up and testified against him, yet somehow he doesn't know her name or face, so she's able to come up and buy food from him each day for months before finally revealing it? Defendants have the right to confront (i.e. face) witnesses against them, so he would have been sitting in court when she testified. Only in a few cases can a witness be allowed to not face the defendant-mostly sex offenses, which doesn't apply here, and he would still know her name. Tess implies she may have been a minor at the time of the crime and subsequent trial, which may affect whether her identity was protected.
  • Instant Waking Skills: Hayes abruptly repeats something from the interrogation videos of the Prospect 3 Maxine and Tess are reviewing, despite her apparently sleeping on the couch in the office, that demonstrates the interrogations were contaminated by information the police inadvertently gave them. She claims she wasn't really sleeping, she just pays attention better with her eyes closed.
  • Jerkass: Hayes introduces herself to her new staff by openly admitting that she expects them to do all the hard work for her, and repeatedly debates whether or not Sam Spencer is a moron while he's standing right there. Over time she gets more involved and nicer to people.
  • Karma Houdini: Part of the series premise is that Hayes, being a former First Daughter whose mother is planning on running in the next presidential race, is not charged for possession of cocaine and is instead given the position of the head of CIU, purely because her family can't afford her causing them trouble. This is discussed especially in "Mother's Little Burden," where the scandal of having possession charge covered up is discovered and Hayes' brother Jackson has her appear on an national talk show to do damage control by garnering sympathy. Hayes, being Hayes, naturally can't keep up the charade, and points out that the only reason she's gotten away with what she does is because of her name and privilege - and that she's very willing to share that privilege by means of overturning wrongful convictions.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: Hayes informs Wallace that if he tries to blackmail her with the cocaine charge, she'll rat him out for burying the case to blackmail her. When he tries to one-up her by saying it will ruin her mother's senatorial campaign, her reaction is quite clearly indicating she doesn't care.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In-universe, Tess went to work for the Innocence Project and later for the CIU out of guilt because when she'd been a child her identification of a suspect had sent him to prison, while later DNA evidence had exonerated him.
  • Neat Freak: Jackson just has to tidy up Hayes's office and line up her furniture in "Bad Deals".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • In "Dropping Bombs", Hayes decides to review the case of Rodney Landon, an Islamophobe who was busted for bombing a mosque by the Counter-Terrorism Unit, just to piss off Wallace and the politically-powerful CTU. However, her investigation reveals that the evidence that was used to convict Landon was illegally obtained, meaning that he has to be released. And then, of course, she finds out that Landon truly was innocent of the bombing, though he planned to commit another bombing that would kill even more Muslims.
    • In "Bad Deals", the team has to re-investigate a murder case that Sam prosecuted after it turns out that the girl is still alive.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Hayes Morrison is obviously based on someone imagining the result of combining an overly exaggerated version of George W. Bush's daughters from when they had party-girl reputations with Chelsea Clinton. Her mother is a former First Lady running for Senator of New York. Prior to the re-naming of Hayley Atwell's character (from Carter to Morrison, to avoid confusion with Atwell's most famous role) she would have been "Harper Carter", or "HC".
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Wallace appoints Hayes as head of CIU not only because her family needs her to stay out of trouble, but also because he genuinely cares about her and knows that she's capable of doing so much more in a legal backdrop. But when its discovered that his very successful choice of appointment for the head of CIU had been in jail for a possession charge, the DA's office decides to investigate Wallace and all of his previous cases, rather than fire or even investigate Hayes.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: In the last episode, Hayes is shown taking off after having had sex with a man the night before. He tries to arrange a future meeting, but she brushes it off and drives away in a cab.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: You can hear a little Peggy Carter in Morrison's voice every so often.
  • Really Gets Around: When Wallace brings up that Hayes had been sleeping with a law student of hers, she corrects him that she'd slept with several students. Later on, when somebody brings up the rumor that she was the "campus bike", she says that "he wasn't far off". In the second episode she wakes up in bed next to a strange man and merely checks if he is alive. We then find out that he is a waiter she picked up at a party the previous night.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Although Wallace initially gives the impression that he's only concerned about the politics of one of his cases being reviewed, he demonstrates genuine distress at the idea he may have put innocent people in jail and he doesn't interfere with the CIU's investigation.
  • Refuge in Audacity: After struggling to pretend to be sorry about getting caught with coke in her purse, Hayes finally throws out all pretense and point-blank admits that in a more sane world she'd be in jail, and the fact that she isn't is proof of how screwed up the criminal justice system really is. It works. Her public approval goes through the roof as a result of her honesty and she comes out being more highly regarded than she would have with the insincere apology.
  • Rejected Apology: A man Sam sent to prison for 10 years who is later found innocent tells Sam flat out that he will never forgive him for stealing those years of his life.
  • Right Behind You: Hayes rather nonchalantly proclaims that the team can get "another good-looking black poster boy" to exonerate if they can't do a quick one with the convict's case before CIU. Unfortunately, his mother walked in and overheard everything. She's revealed to have been standing behind Hayes.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • The pilot episode is clearly inspired by the Adnan Syed/Hae Min Lee case that was made infamous by the podcast Serial. The alleged killer was a high school athlete whose main picture of him in his football uniform greatly resembles one constantly used by Adnan. The victim's diary is used as a piece of evidence, she's found in the woods, there's issues with the timeline and information missing from the files. There's even a drug-dealing friend.
    • The second episode's "Prospect 3" case has similarities to the Central Park 5 case, which was coincidentally back in the headlines when the episode aired because of comments made by Presidential candidate Donald Trump claiming they were really guilty, despite them having been exonerated with DNA evidence. However this has a race-reversed portrayal from the real life case, with a black victim and white suspects. One of them also actually is guilty, unlike the real suspects.
    • "A Simple Man" seems to be inspired in part by the case of Brendan Dassey, a developmentally-disabled young man who was one of the subjects of Making a Murderer, complete with a documentary film crew who has been working on the subject's case following the CIU around.
  • Running Gag: Hayes repeatedly offers to let people see or touch her breasts in exchange for their cooperation. She claims it's worked before, but nobody takes her up on it in the show.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Hayes strips down to her underwear to try on a new dress while in the office, in a meeting, with everyone on her team present. She responds to their shock by sarcastically noting they must have seen the (apparently famous) tabloid pictures taken of her at a nude beach in Belize.
  • Slut-Shaming: The victim in the second episode was afraid of this if people knew she'd had casual sex with a married co-worker earlier on the night of her attack, and thus didn't mention it. Unfortunately this helped to get some innocent men convicted, as the physical evidence was thought to be from rape. Afterward her fears are proved correct as the media hounds her about this, despite Hayes's attempt to stop it.
  • Stopped Clock: When the victim of a crime was beaten so badly that she lost all memory of the attack and the previous hours, the police used her broken watch to determine when the attack occurred. The watch was actually broken accidentally an hour earlier.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Wallace and Hayes get into an argument where it was revealed that Hayes could have a true romantic relationship with him in Chicago. But because Connor is still hurt about how she left, he calls her out on her bratty and self-destructive attitude.
Wallace: Why is it impossible for you to trust me?
Hayes: Well, you hardly set a precedent.
Wallace: Hell no. You don't get to do that. I never betrayed you. You're the one who left in Chicago, not me.
Hayes: I left Chicago because I was fired.
Wallace: You got yourself fired because things were going well for you, for us, and it freaked you out.
Hayes: Oh, right. This is all about you.
Wallace: No. This is all about you and your need to constantly challenge people with the things that you say and the cases you pick and how you defy everyone and trust no one. And you never, ever admit when you're wrong, no matter how much damage you leave in your wake.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Matty's reaction to Tess admitting that it was her testimony that sent him to prison could be considered an example. While she's clearly remorseful about what she did, Matty is shocked and hurt and when Tess is distracted he leaves without saying a word, never contacting her again.
  • Tough Love: Hayes' mother informs her that if she screws up with the Convictions Integrity Unit, the family will turn her cocaine-possession charge into possession with intent to distribute in order to stop her from further embarrassing them.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Frankie Cruz is Latino and gay.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In "Bad Deals", the team repeatedly calls out Sam as it becomes glaringly obvious that he's more interested in protecting his record as a prosecutor than determining who actually kidnapped Sierra Macy.