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Series / Proven Innocent

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Proven Innocent is a series which aired on Fox, starring Kelsey Grammer, Rachelle Lefevre, Riley Smith, Russell Hornsby and Nikki M. James.

Years after being exonerated for a murder that she didn't commit, defense attorney Madeline Scott learns that Gore Bellows, the District Attorney who sent her to jail, is running for State Attorney General. Incensed that the man who ruined her life is angling for a promotion, she and her firm start going through his old cases, seeking proof that he's corrupt. However, Bellows is still certain that Madeline was guilty, and he's equally determined to put her away again.

The series was canceled after one season, not helped by the fact that a corporate merger and shakeup by the show's producers took place while it was still airing.

This series contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: In "Shaken", the team aids a woman who was wrongfully convicted for the death of her daughter. They soon uncover a long history of abusive behavior from the child's grandmother, to the extent that she broke her grandson's arm.
  • Against My Religion: Easy initially refuses to take part in Sarah Bukhari's case because it allegedly involved her having an (illegal) abortion, which he is morally opposed to. He changes his mind later though, deciding that 25 years in prison was excessive punishment even if she had done this.
  • The Atoner:
    • In "Cross to Bear", Madeline and Easy take the case of a former white supremacist who has renounced his racist views since being locked up.
    • In "Shaken", the team is aided by a former Medical Examiner who helped put dozens of women in jail because of the theory of "shaken baby syndrome", and now fears that many of those diagnoses may have been wrong based on new medical evidence.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Acceptable Losses" ends with Davon Watkins executed, but Daniel Hernandez freed and Wren being paroled.
  • Cassandra Truth: Bellows tells Maddie Adele really was guilty, saying they had some DNA evidence against her that got suppressed on a technicality. She doesn't believe it, but he turns out to be right.
  • Child by Rape: In "Acceptable Losses", it turns out that someone else committed the rape and murder that Daniel Hernandez had been convicted of. This is found out as a result of them inputting the DNA from the crime scene and finding his son had searched for relatives with an online service. It turns out that the son was the result of him committing a rape in the past, and this helps show the truth of the previous crimes as well.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Levi accuses Madeline of this when she intervenes in his assault case, claiming that she needs to feel like everyone else depends on her.
  • Coming-Out Story: Madeline comes out to her mother as bisexual at the end of "The Struggle for Stonewall". Her mom is fine with it and wants to meet Madeline's girlfriend. She's thrown by Madeline saying that Wren is in prison though. Later, she's still pretty reluctant to tell her friends.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion:
    • Many of Bellows' convictions were achieved by dragging the defendants through the mud, so that by the time they reached trial, everyone already believed they're guilty.
    • "Shaken" looks at a positive version of this; after the team determine that Deborah Vanderhey is responsible for the death of her granddaughter as part of a long history of domestic abuse that was covered up by her family's lawyers and doctors, the judge informs Deborah that while she cannot charge Deborah with anything as the statute of limitations on her crimes has expired, she is certain that the woman will be tried in the court of public opinion.
  • Crime of Self-Defense:
    • Levi Scott hits back when Brian Husband assaults him with a bat. Brian and Heather, his wife, then claim Levi attacked him, so he's facing assault charges.
    • Tamara Folson admitted to police that she slashed the man who tried raping her. However, they use this as a confession to murdering a different man. The judge hearing her petition uses this initially as a pattern of her supposed "aggression" as well, despite it being to defend herself.
    • Some of the trans women in "The Struggle for Stonewall" note that when they fought to defend themselves from transphobic bigots, the police instead arrested them.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Madeline spent ten years in prison for a murder she didn't commit.
  • Dirty Cop: In "Cross to Bear", the Injustice Defense Group declares war on a crooked cop who's put dozens of people in jail.
  • Driven to Suicide: Toby Kissell hangs himself after Maddie and Levi threaten to expose his past as a drug dealer.
  • Enemy Mine: In order to take down Detective Falcone, Madeline Scott makes a deal with Bellows, giving him ammunition against his political opponent in exchange for Falcone getting busted.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Bellows almost refuses to free a former white supremacist, even if doing so would give him ammunition against his opponent.
  • Evil Counterpart: Isabel Sanchez, Bellows' new second-in-command, is set up to be the evil counterpart (for a given value of "evil") to Madeline Scott. Whereas Madeline suffered a wrongful conviction because of Bellows' glory-hounding, Sanchez not only lost the chance to see the man who killed her mother get punished because of a slick defense attorney, but he only had a chance to kill her mother because he was released after an assault charge a month before the crime.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In "In Defense of Madeline Scott", Levi agrees to testify against Madeline in order to avoid going back to jail; ultimately subverted in the second half of the episode when it turns out he only did it so that he could call Bellows corrupt while testifying.
  • Former Bigot: In "Cross to Bear", Madeline takes on the case of a former white supremacist who was framed for the murder of a black man. He claims to have renounced his former beliefs, but it's left ambiguous whether he actually did, causing tensions between Maddie and her black associates, who are understandably uncomfortable with defending him.
  • Frame-Up:
    • Heather Husband, one of Maddie's old classmates, still refuses to believe that she and her brother Levi are innocent, and in the first episode, she and her husband Brian decide to frame Levi for assault so that he'll lose his job and get sent back to jail.
    • Kaufman frames a man previously acquitted of serial murders with faked emails indicating that he killed Adele's stepmother, ensuring her acquittal on the charge.
    • In "SEAL Team Deep Six", Rachel Clarke was framed by the real killer of her training officer.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Explored in "The Shame Game", in which Madeline struggles to exonerate a Muslim woman wrongly convicted for an illegal abortion. Throughout the case, Madeline has to fight against an openly pro-life judge who's blatantly biased against them. Easy too is pro-life, but he takes a much more lenient view, believing that even assuming their client was guilty, twenty five years is excessive punishment and thinks women who have abortions should be treated mercifully.
  • Hollywood Law: In "A CinderHella Story" after Violet records Adele and Kaufman talking of how they got the former off, she says they can't use it because of attorney-client privilege. However, that only applies to legal communications between attorneys and clients, but the pair agree with her even so. She is not a lawyer in any case, so the evidence could be delivered to the police regardless. However, eavesdropping like she did is illegal under Illinois law, so there could be some repercussions for it. Bellows likely would be happy to get it though and decline to prosecute (Violet could be sued for this, however.)
  • Homophobic Hate Crime: In "The Struggle for Stonewall", Bodie gets struck in the head by a bunch of homophobes after leaving a drag bar.
  • Immoral Journalist: Journalist Dylan dates defense attorney Madeline Scott in hopes of finding evidence that she murdered her best friend years earlier. After she finds out his true motives, she dumps his ass.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Violet's badgering Madeline about her love life becomes this when it's revealed that Madeline is still not over her relationship with her girlfriend, who is still in prison when the series opens.
  • Inspector Javert: Bellows is obsessed with proving that Madeline Scott really did kill Rosemary Lynch. His own predecessor warns him that this could ruin him yet he continues to try and "prove" her guilt. To his 'credit', when Madeline is found not guilty he appears willing to let the matter rest, and expresses genuine regret when he learns the identity of the real killer.
  • It's Personal:
    • Madeline makes no secret of the fact that her quest to bring down Bellows is driven by the damage that he did to her and Levi's lives.
    • While he claims his quest to prove Madeline is guilty is guided by justice, it's clear Bellows can't get over Madeline ruining his record by her innocence and this is really about his wounded pride, although he does show regret when meeting with Madeline in private after they have learned the truth about Rosemary's death.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In "Acceptable Losses", while a character comes across as an arrogant entitled man in his first meeting with Easy and Bodie, when he learns that one of his friends raped his then-girlfriend when they were in college, he immediately apologizes for what happened and puts his own reputation at risk by revealing his association with the rapist to make amends.
  • Junkie Parent: Nikki is taking care of her nephew because her sister is in rehab for drug addiction.
  • Kangaroo Court: "Shaken" has the team defending a woman convicted of an illegal abortion while facing an anti-abortion judge who's quite openly biased against them. Unsurprisingly, he not only rules against them but talks about his personal views more than once when hearing evidence.
  • Karma Houdini: Throughout the series, Bellows is constantly warned that he may ruin his entire career if he goes after Madeline for Rosemary's murder again and fails to convict her. At the end of "In Defense of Madeline Scott", although the trial ends with Madeline being fully cleared and the true killer exposed as one of Bellows' campaign supporters, Bellows manages to turn it in his favor by killing the man in a manner that is staged as a suicide and exaggerating his emotional investment in the situation to atone for his 'mistake', thus regaining the campaign support he might have lost.
  • Lady Macbeth: Mrs. Bellows cheerfully encourages her husband's darker political impulses.
  • Lying to the Perp: William Hurston was tricked into handing over incriminating evidence to the police because they led him to believe that he wasn't a suspect in the murder of a grocery store owner.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: The show centers around this, as main character Madeline Scott suffered being wrongly convicted for murdering her friend (along with her brother) and did ten years in prison. She now helps other people who have also been wrongly convicted to get exonerated as their lawyer.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Just as it looks like Sarah Bukhari is going to lose her appeal in court, the deputy prosecutor in her case suddenly announces that she'll accept a plea to a lesser crime and offer a sentence for time served. The deputy prosecutor does this after getting tired of the sexist, condescending judge talking over her for the whole trial.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • The ending of "A CinderHella Story" as the gang realize Adele and Kaufman played them by setting up a serial killer as the supposed murderer of Adele's mother and the team freed her. Worse is that the team know they have to keep it quiet, first because they say it violates lawyer/client confidentiality to reveal it. More importantly, nothing will destroy the reputation of an "innocence project" more than revealing they did get a guilty person out of jail. Thus, the team is forced to learn from their mistake of letting a twisted killer go free.
    • On a more positive note, during "In Defence of Madeline Scott", Heather Husband finally recognises that she was wrong about Madeline when new evidence emerges that Ravi, the head of a sex cult that Heather and Rosemary were in at school, is still alive and is trying to stop the trial, although Madeline cannot let Heather testify in her defence as a witness changing sides would actually hurt her case.
  • Naughty Narcs: Davon Watkins' murder case involves a crooked former DEA agent who now works for a crime boss.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Heather Husband's decision to bring up the Rosemary Lynch case during her testimony in Levi's assault case allows Madeline to cross-examine her and point out inconsistencies in her testimony from that case. Since Heather was a key witness in the Lynch case, she ends up accidentally severely damaging Bellows' and Sanchez's efforts to retry Madeline and Levi, forcing them to find new evidence. Meanwhile, the prosecution in Levi's assault case decides to offer Levi a plea bargain rather than risk having Heather's boneheaded husband get cross-examined.
  • Not Used to Freedom: In "The Struggle for Stonewall", client-of-the-week Cindy initially declines to Madeline's offer to re-open her case, as she has no idea what she would do if she were free.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: At the end of "Shaken", Judge Speer, normally opposed to grandstanding, decides to publicly call out Deborah Vandenhey for abusing her children and grandchildren, ensuring that while Deborah might never see the inside of a jail cell, her reputation will be ruined.
  • Prison Changes People: Discussed in an episode when Madeline and Easy take on the case of a young black man who was wrongfully convicted in a shooting and has spent several years in jail. All that time in prison has aged the kid, making it that much harder to convince the jury that he was still a teenager when he was arrested.
  • Rape as Backstory: In the second episode, Tamara Folsom spent years being sexually abused by her stepfather, and as a result, took to carrying a knife around everywhere in order to defend herself. This did not endear her to the cops investigating the murder of Tim Manning.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • In "Shaken", after the case has concluded by exposing a long history of child abuse from Deborah Vandenhey, the grandmother of the dead infant, although Deborah was not responsible for the infant's death directly, the judge makes it clear that she is only not opening charges of child abuse against Deborah because the statute of limitations has expired, but expresses full confidence that Deborah will be tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.
    • During "In Defence of Madeline Scott", Madeline bluntly informs Gore Bellows that whatever soul he had has dried up long ago.
  • Rejected Apology: Heather apologizes to Madeline after realizing that she's innocent, but Madeline, while appreciative of the gesture, says she can't forgive Heather after everything she did to her and Levi.
  • Rich Bitch: In "Shaken", Deborah Vandenhey has used her money and political influence to cover up decades of abusive behavior towards her son and grandson. She also used her power to frame her daughter-in-law for murder.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • Madeline and Levi's backstory is clearly inspired by the Amanda Knox case. Like Knox and her then-boyfriend, Maddie and Levi were accused of murder based largely on their behavior when the police brought them in while intoxicated.
    • In "Acceptable Losses", the Daniel Hernandez case draws heavily from the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, including a reference to the "devil's triangle" and testimony that parallels the real-life testimony from Christine Blasey Ford.
  • Shipper on Deck: Violet likes to help Madeline in her love life so that she can live vicariously through her. Her own dating life appears to be stalled due to her swearing off dating apps.
  • Shower Scene: In a flashback, Maddie had one with Wren, her girlfriend, while they were both prisoners.
  • Stepford Smiler: In "In Defense of Madeline Scott", Reverend Malloy smiles compulsively as Madeline and Easy ask her about Ravi.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The series has Madeline and Levi Scott convicted of the murder of their high school classmate Rosemary. After ten years in jail, the duo are freed when newer evidence proves their innocence. However, not everyone is willing to accept this and many (including Rosemary's parents and the D.A. Bellows) are still convinced the duo are guilty.
    • While Madeline gets a job with a legal innocence team, Levi has a hard time finding work due to his reputation.
    • "The Struggle For Stonewall" details how, in the 1980s, gay rights groups would ignore transgender people, feeling that they were "too much" for straight society to take and would hinder gay people's progress. One LGBT worker openly regrets how he ended up being as prejudiced as people against him.
    • Madeline and Easy defend a former white supremacist wrongly convicted who has accepted his terrible ways in prison. Violet, naturally, is outraged at defending a man with such a racist past, no matter how much he regrets it.
    • Madeline approaches Bellows with a proposal to let that client out of jail in exchange for taking down a corrupt cop whose false testimony put others in jail. At first, Bellows states that he can't do it because releasing a known racist in an election year is political suicide. However, when he learns his main opponent in the election turned a blind eye to the cop's actions, he realizes the political gains of that will overcome letting a man out of jail. That he can spin how prison "redeemed" this former racist is the icing on the cake.
    • Bodie has been having a steamy affair with cop Nikki and gets information from her that aids the team bringing down that corrupt cop. Nikki is outraged Bodie used her to bring down a fellow officer (even a corrupt one) and breaks up with him.
    • The team defend a woman accused of murdering her mother. A professor helps them gather evidence indicating a known serial killer was the one who did it and the girl is freed. During a private talk, the team hear a recording of the girl and the professor which reveals she did kill her mother and she and the professor (her lover) set up all that evidence. Violet wants to turn them in but the others say they can't as this talk could fall under violating lawyer/client confidentiality. More importantly, nothing would ruin the reputation of an "innocence project" more than revealing they got a guilty person out of jail and so, for the good of their future work, they have to keep this quiet.
    • In "Seal Team Deep Six," Madeline finds herself over her head defending a Navy officer as military courts are far different than civilian courts in their handling of matters and court conduct (Navy judges don't take kindly to a lawyer "demanding" things). There's also how the burden of proof rests solely on the defense and the military tending to classify key evidence top secret.
  • The Teetotaler: The first time Madeline got drunk was the night that her best friend Rosemary got murdered. Her intoxication at the time helped Bellows convict her. As a result, she has never gotten drunk since.
    "The last time I got drunk, I got convicted and spent ten years in prison, so I'm a party seltzer girl now."
  • Trans Equals Gay: Cindy mentions she and Vanessa had both been viewed as gay men by the cops along with many other people, not as trans women.
  • Trans Tribulations: "The Struggle for Stonewall" showcases the many travails trans people face, from discrimination to assaults or being rejected even by fellow members of the LGBT community.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: "The Struggle for Stonewall" notes how many in the LGBT rights movement during the 1980s rejected transgender people, believing they would hurt their progress. One of the gay activists who had expresses remorse for it in the present.
  • What You Are in the Dark: During "In Defence of Madeline Scott", the defence includes a videotape of Rosemary where she reveals that, while cult leader Ravi was trying to make Rosemary drug Madeline so he could have sex with her, Rosemary intended to deliberately give Madeline enough drugs to render her unconscious so that Ravi couldn't do anything to her.
  • White Sheep: In "Shaken", Declan Vandenhey has tried very hard to cut off all ties with his family, who are all protecting their vicious, abusive matriarch.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After she helps him find evidence to retry Madeline Scott, Gore fires Isabel Sanchez in the hopes of covering up the fact that she obtained evidence illegally.
  • You Need to Get Laid: In the second episode, Violet forces Madeline to go on a date in the hopes that it will make her less high-strung.