Tuesday, May 12, 2020


In this month’s Bar Bulletin, Jacob Kuykendall, who is the editor of the King County Bar Bulletin, wrote an article in the Law Movie Corner about my favorite trial movie–Anatomy of a Murder.  You can read Kuykendall’s full article here.

I use Anatomy of a Murder in both my pretrial and trial class and in CLEs, including “Advocacy Goes to the Movies” and “Great Cross-Examinations in History and in the Movies,” around the country. Also, I’ve blogged about it.

Michael Asimow, co-author of Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies, describes Anatomy of a Murder as "probably the finest pure trial movie ever made." It's perfect for sparking a discussion of whether it is ethical to hint at the client's best legal theory. It's ideal for a making and meeting objections discussion. For instance, having Jimmy Stewart, an American hero from WW II and a beloved movie star, pull the dirtiest courtroom tricks, such as ringing the bell with an objectionable last question on cross-examination, is genius. As is having the trial presided over by Joseph Welch (pictured below), the lawyer who put an end to the McCarthy era with "At long last, have you no sense of decency." 

Robert Traver, the author of Anatomy of a Murder, was  actually John Volker, who was a Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. He also wrote about fly fishing, which is the other passion of Paul Biegler, who is the main character in Anatomy of a Murder.

Incidentally, a while ago, I reread Anatomy of a Murder and then Grisham's A Time to Kill back to back, and it's clear that Grisham's story was inspired by Anatomy.

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