'Proven Innocent' review: Fox's spellbinding new courtroom drama has a bewitching motif
Fox's new legal courtroom drama is a mix of suspense and thriller, but I couldn't help but sense an underlining tone of witchcraft
The showrunners of Fox's highly anticipated legal drama 'Proven Innocent,' promised delivering "a soapy-sexy" feel to a murder mystery, but from the two episodes I've seen, I got a witchy vibe. The premiere aired today and the case of a woman named Lucia was taken up by Madeline Scott's (Rachelle Lefevre) firm to take down Gore Bellows (Kelsey Grammer) and hinder his prospects of becoming the state's Attorney General.
For a kick starter, both for the show as well as for the young lawyer Madeline, the case was a glorious win. Not only was it impossible to crack at first, but Lucia was a hated character, portrayed by the media as a wicked goth witch, thanks to her confession on tape with black paint across her eyes, laughing out loud, saying the "angel" made her "do it."
She was referring to murdering her son by setting fire to her house. Sentenced to life, Madeline takes on Lucia's impossible case despite warnings from her colleagues, mainly because the timing of her hearing coincides with Bellows' candidature. "We will get tons of press," Madeline points.
Then starts the questionings and the unravellings of the wicked, goth witch, and as heroic as this sounds, Madeline and her proficient team win the case. How? Turns out the black paint across her face was soot from the fire. The cause of the fire was determined a year later after her trial, and that was an accident caused by Christmas tree lights, and her hidden toxicology report revealed she was poisoned by carbon-monoxide causing her to hallucinate and wrongfully confess to a murder she did not commit.
Added to all this, her husband had never testified against her. Her non-English speaking husband's translation was forged by corrupt prosecutors, namely Bellows, to make her sound like an insane "satanic goth queen," who burned her child alive.
Another witchy practice comes in episode 4, where Madeline takes the case of a Muslim girl named Sarah Bukhari, convicted for murdering her newborn baby and throwing the fetus in the trash can. It sounds blasphemous, and Madeline's fellow co-lawyer backs out from the case because of his "pro-life" beliefs.
But without delving into details so as to avoid spoilers, the case, in short, can be said to be very absurd. There's a seething prejudice even among the judges to convict the young Muslim girl and decipher the reason she killed the baby, when in fact, she didn't. The test to determine whether or not killed the baby was referred to as a "float test." An odd term given what it has been historically associated to.
A quick research on float tests takes us to the Salem witch trials, where women accused of witchcraft were dragged to the nearest body of water, stripped to their undergarments, bound and then tossed in to see if they would sink or float. The belief was that since the witches had spurned the sacrament of baptism, the water would reject their body and prevent them from drowning.
Furthermore, "trial by water," as it was so called, is an ancient practice where suspected criminals were thrown into rushing rivers to allow a higher power to decide their fate. The practice was banned in many European countries in the Middle Ages, but it reemerged in the later years and used as evidence against a Hungarian woman named Dorko Boda, who was later beaten and burned at the stake as a witch, as well as tried out at a Salem witch trial.
Now, obviously those practices were not featured in 'Proven Innocent' episode 4, set in the 21st century. However, it threw some light on another archaic practice that was featured in the episode. The practice of the "lung float test" is a highly controversial autopsy procedure, believed to reveal if the fetus' lungs had ever undergone respiration. It was historically employed in cases of suspected infanticide where it was believed still born fetuses would drown, but dead fetuses who had breathed would float, from the lungs being aerated.
A highly fallible practice, where decomposition could make non-aerated lungs float, the practice has lost credibility. In fact, in 2014, a UK professor disproved the test, in a bid to free 17 women in El Salvador, who were convicted using that test.
This practice looms in episode 4, where the fetus was tested by drowning in water. Madeline gets an expert to testify the reasons why the "float test" is not reliable at all. "It's outdated and unreliable, and lacks scientific evidence," says the expert who adds that the "test has been outlawed in so many countries."
The witchy vibe was certainly gripping in the two episodes (1 and 4) I have watched, so far. Cannot wait for more episodes, because this legal court drama is more than what meets the eye.