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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

When Life Imitates Art: From Anatomy of a Murder (1959), the Four Ways an Attorney Can Defend Murder

 

L to r: Brooks West, as the D.A.; George C. Scott, as the prosecutor; and Jimmy Stewart, as defense counsel (and former D.A.) Paul Biegler. Biegler: "I'm just a humble country lawyer doing the best I can against the brilliant prosecutor from the big city of Lansing." That may be the origin of the “simple, country lawyer” ruse.
 

Left to right: Jimmy Stewart, Ben Gazzara, and Arthur O'Connell. Stewart would be nominated for Best Actor for the fifth and last time; O'Connell would be nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the second and last time.
 

By David in TN
Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 5:29:00 PM EDT

From Anatomy of a Murder (1959), “The four ways I can defend murder” (Jimmy Stewart, as defense attorney Paul Biegler) are:

• It wasn't murder. It was suicide or accidental;
• You didn't do it;
• You were legally justified, like the protection of your home or self-defense; and
• The killing was excusable.

Jimmy Stewart’s character tells Ben Gazarra’s character, “You don't fit in any of the first three.” When Gazarra exclaims, “He raped my wife!,” Stewart replies, “The time element. You had time to bring in the police but you didn't.”

The story (based on an actual case) is ambiguous, as to the guilt of Stewart's client, who killed his wife's alleged rapist.

A point lawyers have made about the film is the defense lawyer coaches his client into the defense.

My brother defended a woman in a Knoxville courtroom for vehicular assault and won an acquittal. He said he imitated Jimmy Stewart from Anatomy of a Murder. After that, my brother stayed in civil law.

By the way, the judge my brother tried this case before was Randy Nichols, then a judge, later the District Attorney General for Knox County.

Of the four ways, they can be elastic. The fourth category is sometimes combined with one of the first three. For example, dirtying the victim.

 
Rape accuser Lee Remick on the witness stand with George C. Scott
 

Kathryn Grant (later Crosby) and Stewart in court
 

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