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Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man (2001)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | TV Movie 2 May 2001
A disturbing link is made between Jessica's family history and the death of a slave in the 1860s.


Anthony Pullen Shaw (as Anthony Shaw)


Matthew Sommer


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher / Sarah McCullough
Phylicia Rashad ... Cassandra Hawkins
Michael Jace ... Samuel Pinckney
David Ogden Stiers ... Stanford Thornton
Madison Mason ... Charles Hobbs
Tim Abell ... Jeb Bucknell
Elizabeth Lackey ... Mary Hobbs-Mercer
Mac Davis ... Sheriff Underwood
Beth Grant ... Louisa Ashland
Tim DeKay ... Robert Mercer (as Tim Dekay)
Walton Goggins ... Billy Weber
Elizabeth Dennehy ... Archivist
John Hostetter ... Cornelius Ashland
Taraji P. Henson ... Bess Pinckney
Keith Jefferson ... Jeremiah Jessup


Jessica Fletcher discovers a shocking old family secret leading her on a journey to the deep South to bring to light the mysterious details surrounding the death of a slave owned by one of her long-dead ancestors in the mid-1800s. Written by Kent Karemaker

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tv series reunion | See All (1) »


Did Jessica's distant aunt hold the key to a murder. Historic letters could solve a 140 year old crime.


Crime | Drama | Mystery


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

2 May 2001 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Arabesque: L'heure de la justice See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Actor Michael Jace portrays a man falsely accused of committing murder in 'Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man'. In real life, Jace murdered his wife, April, in 2014. A jury convicted Michael Jace of second-degree murder in her shooting death. See more »


[first lines]
Cassandra Hawkins: Samuel Pinckney was accused of killing a white plantation owner. Some of what you've been taught about the American South before the Civil War is true, some is not. Sam was condemned without a trial and killed for crimes that my research suggests he did not commit. He had lived peaceably on a plantation in Culpeper, Virginia, owned by one Sarah McCullough. Unfortunately, we may never know the whole story regarding Samuel Pinckney, and this is both a sad fact of history, and for me,...
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Follows Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

Jessica in old Dixie
24 August 2016 | by GoingbeggingSee all my reviews

These 80-minute versions of Murder She Wrote do manage to bring out the best in the scriptwriters - a chance to breathe a bit deeper than usual.

In Virginia, Jessica discovers a family link with a young black woman historian Cassandra, whose ancestor Sam was a slave owned by Jessica's ancestor Sarah. I immediately hoped they'd go into flashback, with Jessica in costume, and I wasn't disappointed.

The scene is a big farmhouse wedding in 1860, the eve of civil war, where one observer says "Let's hope that this whole thing can be resolved without bloodshed" - a statement that would turn out deeply ironic. Sarah is in favour of paying Sam for some of his duties, but this heightens the divisions between the abolitionists and the slave-power. When the bridegroom is shot dead, Sam is the immediate suspect, and Sarah demands that he should be given a fair trial. But Sam urges her not to waste her time trying to fight for truth and justice. And sure enough, the local farmers hunt him down like a dog.

Back in the present day, Jessica and Cassandra find themselves arguing with the curator of a historical museum, who believes in 'truth' or preserving the Southern cultural heritage - a slightly ambiguous agenda. When Cassandra finds her car booby-trapped outside the museum, history seems to be repeating itself. The underground railroad (the safe-house network where slaves were smuggled to freedom) turns out to be a big part of the story - as revealed by a 100-year old woman who can remember it. The dates may not quite fit, but it doesn't hurt the story too much.

Sam is played magnificently by Michael Jace, deeply convincing as the long-suffering slave with the noble character who can rise above his captive status. So it was doubly shocking, just the other week, to see him jailed for 40 years for murdering his wife.

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