30 user 18 critic

Brother's Keeper (1992)

This compelling documentary details the strange-but-true murder trial of Delbert Ward, accused of the mercy killing of his brother in rural upstate NY. This real-life murder mystery won the Audience Award at Sundance.
10 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Delbert Ward Delbert Ward ... Self
Roscoe Ward Roscoe Ward ... Self
Lyman Ward Lyman Ward ... Self
Walt Geisler Walt Geisler ... Self - Ward Supporter
Ken Elmer Ken Elmer ... Self - Neighbor
John Teeple John Teeple ... Self - Neighbor
Dave Goff Dave Goff ... Self - Cousin
Joseph F. Loszynski Joseph F. Loszynski ... Self - Bureau of Criminal Investigation, New York State Police (as Captain Joseph F. Loszynski)
Harry Thurston Harry Thurston ... Self - Friend
Ralph A. Cognetti Ralph A. Cognetti ... Self - Defense Attorney
Maynard A. Cosnett Maynard A. Cosnett ... Self - Bureau of Criminal Investigation, New York State Police (as Investigator Maynard A. Cosnett)
John W. Graham John W. Graham ... Self - Bureau of Criminal Investigation, New York State Police (as Investigator John W. Graham)
Robert J. Killough Robert J. Killough ... Self - Bureau of Criminal Investigation, New York State Police (as Investigator Robert J. Killough)
Donald F. Cerio Donald F. Cerio ... Self - Madison County District Attorney


This documentary by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky details the murder trial of Delbert Ward. Delbert's of a family of 4 brothers (the other 3 being Roscoe, Lyman and William - Bill, for short), working as semi-literate farmers, and living together in isolation in a ramshackle shack, until William's death. The subsequent police investigation and medical examiner's autopsy suggested Bill may not have died from natural causes, and Delbert was arrested on charges of second-degree murder. Under questioning by police, Delbert appears to have waived his rights and signed a confession, but, it seems he might not have been competent, and was coerced into doing so. The film explores possible motives for the crime, from mercy-killing (Bill was ill at the time), to progressively more outré hypotheses. It also shows how residents of the rural community of Munnsville, NY rallied to the support of one of their own (residents previously considered the Wards as social outcasts), against what they ... Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence. | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Picked by Entertainment Weekly magazine as one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films" in a special supplement devoted to independent films that was only distributed to subscribers in October 1997. See more »

Crazy Credits

Flash, the editing room dog. See more »


Featured in 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die: Episode 2 (2011) See more »

User Reviews

Am I my brothers keeper?
15 September 1999 | by TuckMNSee all my reviews

From the opening quote from the Book of Genesis about Cain rising up and smiting Abel to the very end sequence, this is not an easy film to watch.

The story of the Ward Brothers in rural New York received national media attention.

Adelbert (Delbert) Ward was accused of murdering his brother William. Questions of euthanasia, incest and just being tired of William's needs are brought up.

But the question arises: Was he railroaded by a legal system looking for an easy answer and a prosecuting attorney up for re-election?

The abject terror of Lymon Ward when he was on the stand is sickening and horrifying to watch.

The townspeople that rally around Delbert and raise the money for his bail in about 20 minutes, even though they have little to spare themselves and don't really know the reclusive Ward brothers is more than just heartwarming -- it is astounding.

The "Boys" (as the townspeople call the Ward brothers)are not really particularly liked by the townspeople who see them as strange, dirty and retarded.

But, whatever they may be they are THEIR strange, dirty and retarded fellow townspeople.

It is not fair to tell you how this movie ends -- you will simply have to see it for yourself.

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Release Date:

9 September 1992 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Brother's Keeper See more »

Filming Locations:

Munnsville, New York, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$10,758, 13 September 1992

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



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