Anatomy of a Murder
Small-town lawyer Paul Biegler, a former district attorney who lost his re-election bid, spends most of his time fishing, playing the piano and hanging out with his alcoholic friend and colleague Parnell McCarthy and sardonic secretary Maida Rutledge..
Biegler is contacted by Laura Manion wife of US Army Lieutenant Frederick Manion, who has been arrested for the first degree murder of innkeeper Barney Quill. Manion does not deny the murder, but claims that his wife was raped by Quill.
Biegler's folksy speech and laid-back demeanor hide a sharp legal mind and a propensity for courtroom theatrics. However, the case for the defense does not go well, especially since the local D.A.is assisted by a high-powered big city prosecutor. Biegler eventually manages to get the rape issue into the record and Judge Weaver agrees to allow the matter to be part of the deliberations. However, Dancer's cross-examination of Laura portrays her as a woman who was not satisfied with her marriage and openly with other men, including the one she claimed raped her.
Quill's inn is due to be inherited by Mary Pilant, a mysterious Canadian who is suspected of being his mistress.Mary attends the final day of the trial when the issue is raised about the panties that Laura was wearing on the night of the murder. These panties were never found at the spot she claims the rape took place. Mary, who was unaware of this, later returns to testify that she found the panties in the inn's laundry room, presuming that Quill dropped them down the laundry chute when he returned home. Dancer insistently quizzes her that she was lying and that Quill was her lover. She shocks the court and torpedoes Dancer by stating that Quill was her father.
Biegler has played heavily on the issue that he is "just a humble country lawyer" facing a "brilliant prosecutor from the big city of Lansing". It is to no avail, however: Manion is found "not guilty by reason of insanity".
The next day Biegler and McCarthy go to see the Manions at their trailer park home in order to collect their fee only to find the trailer missing. A note left by Manion tells Biegler that he was "seized by an irresistible impulse"—the defense used by Biegler during the trial. Evidence left lying around indicates that Manion was actually a heavy drinker who beat Laura before they left. This might indicate that Laura's sexual encounter with Quill was consensual (or that Manion believed it was) and that Manion killed Quill out of drunken jealousy; or that Laura was raped but that Manion killed Quill in a drunken rage and not due to irresistible impulse.
Robert Traver (John D. Voelker June 19, 1903[-March 19, 1991),
Anatomy of a Murder is based on a real homicide and subsequent trial that occurred in Michigan in July 31, 1952. Coleman A. Peterson, a lieutenant in the Army, was charged with murdering Maurice Chenoweth.Voelker successfully defended Peterson who was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
• Trouble-Shooter: The Story of a Northwoods Prosecutor, 1943 (memoir)
• Danny and the Boys, 1951 (novel)
• Small Town D.A., 1954 (short stories and essays)
• Anatomy of a Murder, 1958 (novel)
• Trout Madness, 1960 (short stories)
• Hornstein's Boy, 1962 (novel)
• Anatomy of a Fisherman, 1964 (non-fiction)
• Laughing Whitefish, 1965 (novel)
• The Jealous Mistress, 1967 (essays)
• Trout Magic, 1974 (short stories)
• People Versus Kirk, 1981 (novel)