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.


Seymour Robbie


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 4 more credits »

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Episode complete credited cast:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Christopher Allport ... Jim Harlan
Richard Cox ... Clay McCloud
Stefan Gierasch ... Dr. Cornwall
Marilyn Hassett ... Patricia Harlan
Simon Jones ... Barnaby Friar
Dianne Kay ... Monica Blane
Patrick McGoohan ... Attorney Oliver Quayle
Juliet Mills ... Annette Pirage
Claire Trevor ... Judith Harlan
James Staley ... Fouchet
Charlie Brill ... Rudy
Sean G. Griffin Sean G. Griffin ... Klebber
Dori Arnold Dori Arnold ... Secretary
Ivan Bonar Ivan Bonar ... His Lordship


Jessica obeys a Canadian court summons 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. Nationally reputed Attorney Oliver Quayle refuses to acknowledge arson as a cover-up for murder. Instead, he fights the evidence claiming it could be an accident, despite convincing indications she was killed by a blow on the head. The couple was heard to fight over a nasty divorce. Jessica can't resist doing her own investigation, even questioning witnesses like the ex-con gardener. Instead of appreciating her help, the haughty lawyer starts discrediting her in court, referring to an allegedly stolen book plot, psychiatric history and even arrested relatives. Yet Jessica keeps sleuthing and unearths how Jim, who hurt his cause by silence, eloped with and blackmail was paid by socialite, overbearing mother, Judith Harlan, and gets help from Quayle's assistant. Barnaby. checking on the ... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

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


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

4 October 1987 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Grady, Victoria And Tracy (Jessica's Nephew And Nieces) Are Metioned In This Episode. See more »


Everyone speaks either British or mid-American English. Quebec City is a dominantly French-speaking area and most people if they speak English at all would have a French accent. Native English speakers have a very distinct Canadian accent. There are immigrants from Britain and the US but they are not the only people there. See more »


[first lines]
Jessica Fletcher: Good morning. I'm Jessica Fletcher. I believe Mr. Quayle is expecting me.
Secretary: Oh, yes, Mrs. Fletcher. Indeed, yes. Please follow me.
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Murder She Wrote Theme
Written by John Addison
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User Reviews

Fireplace Poker Cometh before the Crown
22 October 2009 | by WeatherVioletSee 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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