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Recap / Murder She Wrote S 4 E 3 Witness For The Defense

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Jessica receives a most unpleasant interruption to her routine when defense attorney Oliver Quayle calls her as a witness in his latest case. The topic of contention — whether her friend James Harlan murdered his wife Patricia. Jessica tries to get to the bottom of the matter, but her investigation runs into roadblocks at every turn courtesy of both family secrets on the Harlans' side and Quayle's utter refusal to listen to her on the other.


This episode includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Ad Hominem: One of Quayle's favorite tactics seems to be smearing the character of the witnesses for the opposing side to discredit their testimony. He "accidentally" brings up that Clay McLeod, the caretaker who claimed to have heard James threaten Patricia, did time in prison. When the prosecution unexpectedly calls Jessica, he tops himself by mentioning a number of murder cases involving her relatives and the time she spent in a sanitarium.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Jessica suggests getting a search warrant for Clay McLeod's house to find the missing brooch. However, it turns out she intended to fool the real murderer into going and finding the brooch.
  • The Bride with a Past: On motherly intuition, Mrs. Harlan hired a private detective to investigate her new daughter-in-law. He found that Patricia was an ex-convict and had been a Vegas showgirl when she and James met.
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  • Call-Back: While trying to discredit Jessica on the witness stand, Quayle brings up four murder cases in which one of her relatives had been considered the primary suspect, two involving her nieces Victoria and Tracy and two involving her nephew Grady. Of course, these are all covered in past episodes.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Jessica admires a brooch on Patricia's dress and James tells her it's a family heirloom. When Patricia's jewelry gets catalogued by the police after her death, her rings are still there but the brooch has disappeared. This leads Jessica to the killer, because the only person who would have taken the brooch but not the valuable diamond ring Patricia was wearing would be a person with a sentimental attachment to the brooch.
  • Fiery Coverup: The coroner notes that what remained of Patricia skull showed signs of blunt force trauma to the frontal lobe. This means the murderer killed her and then set the fire to get rid of the evidence.
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  • Identification by Dental Records: So little remained of Patricia's body that she had to be identified her by her jewelry.
  • Ms. Red Ink: Patricia's tendency to go through huge amounts of money on a regular basis put a strain on her and James' marriage. On her death date alone, she had withdrawn twenty thousand dollars. Jessica theorizes the cash went to Monica Blane in exchange for her silence about Patricia's past, but this never gets confirmed.
  • Running Gag: Oliver Quayle keeps receiving messages from his ex-wives about money throughout the episode.
  • That Was Objectionable: Both lawyers attempt to get some of the testimony drawn out by their opponent ruled inadmissible, although Miss Pirage does it more often, owing to Quayle's love for the Ad Hominem defense.
  • Your Cheating Heart: James briefly checks into a No-Tell Motel with Patricia's old roommate Monica Blane. He kept this hidden out of shame. However, it comes out during the trial, making him look even more guilty.

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