Are Robert and Michelle King, creators of "The Good Wife," copping story ideas from their colleagues at "60 Minutes"? A few weeks ago, correspondent Lara Logan reported on the case of Michael Morton, a Texas man wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years in connection with the murder of his wife. The prosecutor in the case now faces charges of misconduct for allegedly withholding key evidence from the defense.
In this week's episode of "The Good Wife," "The Penalty Box," the Lockhart-Gardner gang defended Richard Cuesta, a former prosecutor, now a judge, who is facing a court of inquiry –- which, from what I can gather, is like a court for judges and lawyers -– over his role in the wrongful conviction of a man accused of killing his wife. Chances are this episode was in the works well before the "60 Minutes" report aired, but I'm continually impressed by "Good Wife's" impeccable news judgment.
The show frequently does these kind of "ripped from the headlines" cases, but unlike other procedurals, it also tends to dig deep and explore the legal and ethical implications of the cases in question, not just use them as pre-fabricated story lines. The show is especially interested in the flaws of the criminal justice system, and it tends to take the side of the underdog (not surprising, given that the Kings’ previous show, "In Justice" was all about a lawyer who sought to overturn wrongful convictions).
This week's "Good Wife" elaborated on the same themes, but it struck a chillingly ambiguous note. For one thing, Cuesta seemed like a jerk; even his grown daughter hated his guts. It also seemed clear that Cuesta was overzealous in his prosecution, and may have even planted prejudicial photos of the defendant in a place where the jury foreman would see them. Initially, Cuesta was reluctant to place the blame on his co-counsel, Lloyd, which is obviously more than a little ironic. But under questioning from "Murph," the latest in a long line of wacky-yet-formidable "Good Wife" judges, Cuesta claimed that Lloyd never handed over key credit card receipts. Maybe Cuesta was telling the truth, but that long, slow zoom-in on his face was hardly reassuring.
As with last week’s case, it was a victory that felt less than completely triumphant, even though, as Will explained, the firm's defense of Cuesta would ingratiate it to other judges. Over beers with her former nemesis and brand-new colleague Cary (don't worry, I'll get to this), Alicia expressed her ambivalence about the win -– and about her job more generally. "There are moments when I think, what the ... what am I doing?” she said, almost dropping an expletive. Cary seemed at least as jaded, claiming that the only thing he's learned in his two years away from Lockhart-Gardner is that "people lie. And the people who judge, they lie the most." Heartwarming isn't it?