'Proven Innocent' Season 1: Fox's legal drama has focused on cases involving minorities, here's possibly why
The show could be inspired by the Innocence Project, a real-life version of Madeline Scott's firm, fighting for the innocent
Fox's new legal drama, 'Proven Innocent,' has made for a good watch so far. With the second episode just in, the fight to prove one's innocence just got even more real as Madeline Scott (Rachelle Lefevre) saved yet another person wrongfully convicted of murder, who again happened to be a minority, an African-American.
A fact I point out because being invested in the show I have been prompted to ask why? Is it because of an undertone to racism, overlooked or is there more to it? Research on the topic conducted by Michigan State University College states African-American prisoners who were convicted of murder are about 50 percent more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers and spend longer in prison before exoneration. That has been in keeping with the cases of Fox's 'Proven Innocent,' we have seen so far.
The first client of Madeline is a brief case concerning Harvey Birkbeck played by (Ernest Perry Jr.), who has been wrongfully imprisoned for years. He does not have much of a say but is neatly proven innocent as Gore Bellows (Kelsey Grammer) concedes to a swift victory for Madeline as strategy to win the seat of the state's attorney general. In short, there is no opposition to his innocence and his case wraps up pretty quick.
The next client Madeline chooses is a woman named Lucia Rincon (Liza Colón-Zayas), a Latina woman, who is falsely accused to burning down her house, murdering her young son and labeled a wicked goth witch because of her on-screen confession, smeared with black paint around her eyes.
With hysteric laughter and a taped confession saying: "The angel made me do it," Lucia was sentenced to life imprisonment until Madeline came to her rescue to prove otherwise. A difficult case, but not impossible once they confirm the cause of fire was the Christmas tree lightings, and the goth make up on her face was soot which was not cleaned before she went on camera and finally, her confession was invalid since her toxicology reports confirmed that she was hallucinating from carbon monoxide poisoning.
With the case rested, we move on to episode two which aired February 22, titled 'The Burden of Truth.' In this episode, we meet a woman named Tamara Folsom (Tyla Abercrumbie), who has been imprisoned for 16 years for a murder she did not commit.
Forget murder, she has not even met the man she's accused of murdering. The chips fall in its place when Madeline and Ezekiel Easy Boudreau (Russell Hornsby) figure out the real murderer caught up in a prostitution business.
With three inmates we've come across, all have been proven innocent, and all were minorities. In episode 4, (which I got to preview, and won't disclose spoilers) there's a case of a Muslim woman, again an innocent and a minority, named Sarah Bukhari, convicted for murdering her newborn baby and throwing the fetus in the trash can. Even the prejudice of the judges regarding her case, as seen on the trailer, is baffling.
Even though 'Proven Innocent' was inspired by the Amanda Knox's case, reimagining as to what would happen if Knox became a lawyer, it seems as if the weekly trials, which are all new cases every week, is inspired by the Innocence Project.
Danny Strong, the creator of 'Proven Innocent,' himself retweeted:
Are you intrigued by the work that Madeline, Easy and their team are doing?— PopCultureReview Mike 🔜 #SXSW (@popcultureview) February 16, 2019
Then check out the Innocence Project, the grandfather of wrongful conviction practices ...#ProvenInnocent @InnocentOnFOX @RachelleLefevre @russellhornsby https://t.co/VxzIjAtWlx
Innocence Project is very much like Madeline Scott's law firm. It is a non-profit legal organization working to exonerating wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing and reforming "the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice."
An article on the Innocence Project states African-American have been wrongfully convicted "throughout history." Listing many cases of wrongful convictions of African-Americans throughout history, the report adds that between 1870’s and 1960’s "The Tuskegee Institute Archive estimates approximately 3,500 lynching deaths of blacks. How many of the lynched were actually innocent will forever be a mystery."
In another article titled 'What Wrongful Convictions Teach Us About Racial Inequality' the analyst states; "Thousands of individuals of every race and ethnicity have requested our assistance. Yet, the vast majority of our clients are minorities. In fact, people of color are disproportionately represented at every stage of the criminal justice system – from arrest to conviction to the prison cells."
What's even more shocking is the article highlights, "out of 297 DNA exonerations minorities make up approximately 70% of those proven innocent through DNA testing. Similarly, African-Americans represent the vast majority of these exonerations, 63% of those exonerated by DNA testing."
In the pilot episode of 'Proven Innocent,' we saw Madeline Scott prove Birbeck's innocence with a DNA sample. Wrongful convictions among the minorities, not just today, but throughout history, perhaps inspired the show 'Proven Innocent,' and we get a glimpse of this reality every week.