Exonerating the wrongfully-convicted is the primary focus of The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that has reversed the verdicts of hundreds of people who never should have been jailed. The organization is so well-known, the creators of The Good Wife tried to base a TV show on it, In Justice, which starred Kyle MacLachalan and ran for 13 episodes in 2006. It's no wonder then that The Good Wife creators eventually looped The Innocence Project into their most successful series.
In The Good Wife's second season, the episode "Nine Hours" was based on an actual case the Innocence Project was pursuing. Their real case involved a father named Cameron Todd Willingham, originally convicted of murdering his three kids by burning down their family home in 1991. Willingham was sentenced to death by lethal injection, which occurred in 2004, but the case is still surrounded in controversy, due to a suspicious lack of evidence that casts doubt on the initial verdict.
The Good Wife isn't the only show to look to this particular Innocence Project case for inspiration. Cold Case ("Flashover") and Law & Order: SVU ("Torch) also found unique ways to tell the same story, but neither of those shows went the extra lengths that The Good Wife did to honor the work of The Innocence Project.
On The Good Wife, not only does the plot circle around this famous case, portraying Alicia and company desperately trying to save a death row inmate in the hours before his execution, but they even pulled in an impressive guest star from the real world. Halfway through the episode, Cary Agos gets a phone call from The Innocence Project co-founder himself, Barry Scheck.
Scheck co-founded The Innocence Project in 1992 with partner Peter Neufeld for one simple reason: A landmark report had found that more than 70% of wrongful convictions were due to witnesses incorrectly identifying suspects as perpetrators. With the help of advancements in DNA evidence, the nonprofit sought to overturn these wrongful convictions, going on to free more than 350 prisoners since the project first started.
On The Good Wife, Scheck shares a suprisingly comedic scene with Cary over the phone. It's established on the show that Cary interned at the Innocence Project after law school and that Scheck is an old family friend, but despite this, Cary is certain throughout the first half of the show that the man claiming to be Barry Scheck on the phone is actually a friend trying to pull one over on him.
Once Scheck finally convinces Cary he is in fact The Innocence Project founder, Cary's face falls in a moment when viewers otherwise expect things might just work out for the death row inmate the firm is fighting for. It's just one of many ways The Good Wife toyed with our expectations – and shined the spotlight on real figures making important moves in politics.
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