Kelsey Grammer and Rachelle Lefevre are making their return to TV with Fox’s new series, Proven Innocent. The Chicago-based legal drama tackles the issue of wrongful conviction and investigates what happens when the justice system gets it wrong. A number of real wrongful conviction cases have taken the spotlight in the past few years, so viewers are wondering, is Proven Innocent based on a true story?
While Proven Innocent is not based on a specific true story, writer and creator Danny Strong told Forbes that he was inspired to write the series after watching a documentary on the real-life legal battle of Amanda Knox. “I had just seen the documentary about [accused murderer] Amanda Knox,” said Strong. “I didn't know anything about her case, and I was enraged. I literally would scream at the TV. I just couldn't believe how badly she was railroaded and what an injustice her conviction was. That she was even put on trial was absurd.”
He told Forbes that after watching Knox’s story, he decided to write a series that reflected her plight. Strong said he focused on making the series' lead character a person who’d been wrongfully convicted and wanted to show her case by doing “a season long arc telling her story.”
Proven Innocent tells the fictional story of a woman named Madeline Scott (Rachelle Lefevre), who spent 10 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. After years of public trials and media coverage, Madeline was freed and went on to become one of the fiercest wrongful conviction attorneys in Chicago. She now runs her firm with partner Easy Boudreau (Russell Hornsby), the attorney that helped set her free. While she passionately fights for her clients’ freedom, Madeline is often pitted against Gore Bellows (Kelsey Grammer), the prosecutor who put her away and still believes she is guilty.
While Proven Innocent focuses on many of the legal aspects of wrongful conviction cases, Strong told Variety that he didn’t want to write it like a typical courtroom drama. “In these wrongful conviction cases the cops have no interest in them because the person’s been found guilty and is in prison; it’s closed,” explained Strong. “So wrongful conviction lawyers have to be their own investigators, and it can be very dangerous for them. And I thought, ‘Oh so it’s not just a straight legal show, it’s an investigation show, too’ and that just seemed really cool to me.”
Strong noted that while the series was mainly inspired by Knox’s case, it also tells a range of other wrongful conviction stories, many of which were loosely inspired by real-life cases. “We have a transgender case and we have a Muslim case that has anti-Muslim bias in it and a shaken baby case,” he told Variety. “We’re exploring a different issue each week. Some of them are inspired by the headlines — loosely inspired by something — and we’re trying to tackle social issues and how bias against classes of people create wrongful convictions.”
Proven Innocent premieres on Friday, Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.