Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
6 user

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) | 5 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?


Guest star Patrick McGoohan (Oliver Quayle) is most familiar to television fans from his long-standing roles on Danger Man (1960) and The Prisoner (1967). 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

Jessica Fletcher takes the stand
19 August 2017 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Have always been quite fond of 'Murder She Wrote'. It is a fun and relaxing watch that makes you think as you try to unwind in the evening. If one wants more complex, twisty mysteries with lots of tension and suspense 'Murder She Wrote' may not be for you, but if you want something light-hearted and entertaining but still provide good mysteries 'Murder She Wrote' fits the bill just fine.

"Witness for the Defense" is one of the jewels of one of 'Murder She Wrote's' best overall seasons. Not just that, it has always been one of my favourite episodes of the show. Suspension of disbelief is needed for the portrayal of Quebec in general, which is less than accurate to say the least, but to me this was insignificant and easily forgotten when there are so many pleasures elsewhere.

Production values, however, are slick and stylish as ever with 'Murder She Wrote'. The music has energy and has presence but also not making the mistake of over-scoring, while it is hard to forget or resist the theme tune.

Writing is thought-provoking, light-hearted and amiable and the story has some well executed twists and turns and is never dull.

Quayle's interrogation of Jessica on the witness stand sees some of the best lines in 'Murder She Wrote' history, showing the character's sharp observation and arrogance to the hilt as he dares to utter what's on viewers' lips. The courtroom scenes are very compelling, just as much as those in "Trial By Error" but for different reasons.

The always dependable Angela Lansbury is terrific, Jessica Fletcher is one of her most remembered roles for very good reason. Claire Trevor classes it up hugely, while Juliet Mills is suitably sharp and Charlie Brill has a ball as a total sleazebag. Marilyn Hassett and Dianne Kay are fine. Stealing the show is the brilliant turn of Patrick McGoohan, one of my favourite guest star performances on 'Murder She Wrote' without a shadow of a doubt.

In summation, a gem and one of the best episodes. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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