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Believe it or not, "HTGAWM" hasn't been on since November, when it had its "winter finale" where we learned #WhoKilledSam. The show came back last night, and true to the title, Professor Keating showed us just how one does manage to get away with murder, in spite of a prosecutor who seems to have a smirk permanently tattooed on her face.
Blame the Other Guy
In the very first episode of "How To Get Away With Murder," Professor Keating taught her class that the key to getting your client acquitted of murder is to find someone else to blame. Goth Girl was going to be tried for Lila's murder -- unless they could get the charges dismissed.
Thankfully, Mister Professor Keating mysteriously vanished after his argument with Professor Keating, so it looks like he's skipped town for some reason. Of course, we know that he's in a dumpster somewhere. Well, most of him, anyway.
So what makes the perfect patsy? Means, motive, and opportunity, right? With Professor Keating pulling the strings -- because no one knows that she knows -- the team figures out that "motive" is "cuz he knew she was pregnant" and "opportunity" was "cuz he went up to New Haven to visit her at the sorority house."
After some dilatory tactics by the prosecution, and yet another Brady violation, there's a great courtroom scene where everything gets wrapped up neatly, even though all of this should have happened through written motions and negotiations between Keating and the prosecutor. (I'm also thinking there are some ethical problems with representing a client whose main defense is "my lawyer's husband did it.")
Who Loves You, Baby
Meanwhile, the police department, led by a detective who looks exactly like Kojak, is investigating the disappearance of Mister Professor Keating by grilling the team members. All of them have pretty solid alibis -- except when "OITNB" Guy reveals that he saw the gang's SUV parked outside Keating's house when the murdering was going on inside.
Michaela saves the day by pointing out that they parked there because there was no parking closer to the bonfire. Of course! Anyone who's lived in a small college town immediately understood that her alibi was iron-clad. Parking is a real pain in the butt on, or near, campus.
Most use of hearsay to seal the deal: The abortion clinic secretary's testimony, used to prove that Mister Professor Keating wanted Lila to have an abortion, but she didn't. This testimony was used for the truth of the statement. That's basically the defense case right there, but it's definitely hearsay and probably not a statement against interest (unless he said, "Boy, I could really just kill you now!"). Of course, the TV Rules of Evidence don't make this distinction, so naturally the prosecutor wouldn't object.
Best use of crowdsourcing: Keating's hypothetical to the full class at the end of the show (oh, right, there's a whole law school class to teach!) is a great way to crowdsource the gang's defense. How do you acquit everyone but Mr. White of murder? (On second thought, maybe Keating just wants to win her game of Clue-by-mail.)
Most maligned type of evidence: C'mon, guys, circumstantial evidence is perfectly admissible! It's not some "lesser" kind of evidence! Frankly, most evidence in a murder case is circumstantial because one witness to the crime isn't talking and the other really isn't talking. This prejudice against circumstantial evidence has to stop.
We can't wait for next week's episode with special guest star Marcia Gay Harden. Finally, a real TV lawyer.
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