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'How To Get Away With Murder,' meet law Students for the Defense

Viola Davis from "How To Get Away with Murder." (Photo: WJLA/ABC)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - For decades, the public has been fascinated by the portrayal of criminal defense attorneys on television. From Perry Mason and Matlock to Annalise Keating in ABC’s current “How To Get Away with Murder,” the lawyers have been seen as clever, but cunning, defenders of those guilty and not.

But how do these TV characters compare with those who defend the accused in real life? What motivates lawyers to assist even those who have committed violent crimes?

ABC 7 News follows a prominent criminal defense attorney from Georgetown University Law School as she shows the ropes to her law students from across the nation.

Under her supervision, they strategize, visit clients in jail, make court appearances and grapple with the tough ethical questions in class.

“People hear ‘guilty’ and they just think, oh, he did it,” says student Tad Baker of Baltimore. “But there is so much more that goes into an individual and a case.”

Adds Amanda Henderson of Orlando, Fla., “We need really good attorneys on THAT side of the table.”

The students learn how to counsel their clients when, as is often the case, things don’t go their way. And, most important, these young attorneys-to-be can assess whether they are cut out for a life in criminal defense.

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