Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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Witness for the Defense 

Jessica goes to Quebec to testify at the trial of a friend who is accused of killing his wife and burning his house.



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Episode cast overview:
Jessica Fletcher
Jim Harlan
Clay McCloud
Dr. Cornwall
Patricia Harlan
Barnaby Friar
Dianne Kay ...
Monica Blane
Attorney Oliver Quayle
Annette Pirage
Judith Harlan
Sean G. Griffin ...
Dori Arnold ...
Ivan Bonar ...
His Lordship


Jessica obeys a Canadian court summoning to Quebec to give testimony in wealthy fledgling author friend Jim Harlan's trial concerning the death of his young wife Patricia in their country house's fire in his alleged absence. Nationally reputed Attorney Oliver Quayle refuses to acknowledge arson as murder mode; instead he fights the evidence, claiming it could be an accident, despite convincing indications she was even killed by a blow on the head before the fire. The couple was heard to fight over a nasty divorce. Jessica can't resist to do her own investigation, even questioning witnesses like the ex-con plumber, and snooping in the motel where Jim would have an alibi, staying with mistress Monica Blane, who seems to have disappeared. Instead of appreciating her help, the haughty lawyer starts discrediting her in court, referring to a allegedly stolen book plot, psychiatric history and even arrested relatives, none of which was ever convicted. Yet Jessica keeps sleuthing, unearths ... Written by KGF Vissers

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Plot Keywords:

trial | quebec | fire | arson | brooch | See All (10) »


Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

4 October 1987 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Guest star Patrick McGoohan (Oliver Quayle) is most familiar to television fans from his long-standing roles on Danger Man and The Prisoner. See more »

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User Reviews

Fireplace Poker Cometh before the Crown
22 October 2009 | by See all my reviews

This episode marks one of the last appearances by Classic film star Claire Trevor, who has starred in many films since 1933. Christopher Allport, Ivan Bonar and Patrick McGoohan has also since passed.

One year earlier than the current day, author Jim Harlan (Christopher Allport) had completed the manuscript draft for what would become his second novel, and he invites to the Quebec family residence which he shares with mother, Judith Harlan (Claire Trevor), his write colleague Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury).

At the Harlan residence, Jessica observes Jim's wife, Patricia Harlan (Marilyn Hassett), arriving with her old acquaintance Monica Blane (Dianne Kay), while Patricia winks toward the Harlans' gardener, Clay McCloud (Richard Cox).

That evening, dinner is interrupted by a murder, when a body is found in the Harlans' country house, bludgeoned before or during the fire which destroys the edifice.

And now, Jim Harlan faces homicide charges in a trial judged by His Lordship (Ivan Bonar) and prosecuted by Annette Pirage (Juliet Mills) in the name of the Crown.

Attorney Oliver Quayle (Patrick McGoohan) represents Jim on the defense of accidental negligence and, under the advice of Judith Harlen, prepares Jessica to testify as a character "Witness for the Defense."

Oliver Quayle's legal office is staffed by his capable assistant, Barnaby Friar (Simon Jones), and his efficient Secretary (Dori Arnold), each of whom befriend Jessica to advance clues which she seeks to attempt to clear his name. (Dori Arnold doesn't, but ought to receive an acting credit in the Cast List for her speaking role as Quayle's Secretary, who helps Jessica to realize a clue.)

Expert witnesses testify at the trial, including Doctor Cornwall (Stefan Gierasch), Mr. Fouchet (James Staley) and Nathan Klebber (Sean G. Griffin), plus the gardener, Clay McCloud.

In a challenge between defense and prosecution to locate the missing Monica Blane, Jessica attempts to outmaneuver Oliver Quayle to meet with Rudy Plansky, Private Investigator (Charlie Brill), who has been acting as an intermediary.

In the process, Jessica Fletcher befriends Annette Pirage to learn of the Crown's intentions, as Judith decides Jessica an unfitting witness and demands that Oliver Quayle dismiss her, and to send her packing.

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