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Presumed Innocent (1990)

aka Presumed Innocent

"Attraction. Desire. Deception. Murder. No one is ever completely innocent."

Directed By: 
Details: 127 mins · English · R (USA)


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Small Raymond Horgan
Small Sandy Stern
Small Barbara Sabich
Small Detective Lipranzer
Small Judge Larren Lyttle
Small Carolyn Polhemus
Small Tommy Molto
No_movie_poster Nico Della Guardia
Small Eugenia
Small 'Painless' Kumagai
Small Jamie Kemp
Small Rozat "Rusty" Sabich


Small John Williams Original Music Composer
Small Sydney Pollack Producer
No_movie_poster Gordon Willis Director of Photography
Small Alan J. Pakula Director
No_movie_poster Frank Pierson Screenplay
No_movie_poster Evan A. Lottman Editor
No_movie_poster Mark Rosenberg Production
Small Alan J. Pakula Writer
No_movie_poster Scott Turow Story Contributor
No_movie_poster Evan A. Lottman Editing


"Attraction. Desire. Deception. Murder. No one is ever completely innocent."

"Some people would kill for love."

"Sometimes it's dangerous to presume."


"Rusty" Sabich (Ford) is a prosecutor and the right-hand man of Prosecuting Attorney Raymond Horgan (Dennehy). When his colleague Carolyn Polhemus (Scacchi) is found raped and murdered in her apartment, Raymond insists that Rusty take charge of the investigation. The election for County PA is approaching and Tommy Molto (Joe Grifasi), the acting head of Homicide, has left to join the rival campaign of Nico Della Guardia (Tom Mardirosian).

Rusty, a married man, faces a conflict of interest since he had an affair with Carolyn. When he showed little ambition, and would therefore be of little use to her career, she dumped him. He has since made up with his wife, Barbara (Bedelia), but is still obsessed with Carolyn.

Detective Greer (Tucker Smallwood) is initially in charge of the case, but Rusty has him replaced with his friend Detective Dan Lipranzer (John Spencer), whom he persuades to narrow the inquiry so that his relationship with Carolyn is left out. Rusty soon realizes that Tommy Molto is making his own inquiries. Aspects of the crime suggest that the killer knew police evidence-gathering procedures and covered it up accordingly. Semen has been found in the victim's body but contains only dead sperm. The killer's blood type was A, the same as Rusty's.

When Nico wins the election, he and Tommy accuse Rusty of the crime and push to get evidence against him. They have Rusty's fingerprints on a beer glass from Carolyn's apartment, and fibers from his carpet at home match those found on her body. Lipranzer is removed from the case and Greer's inquiries uncover the affair.

Rusty calls on "Sandy" Stern (Juliá), a top defense attorney, who agrees to take the case. At trial, it is revealed that the beer glass is missing. This was a crucial piece of the prosecution's case and Sandy persuades Judge Larren Lyttle (Winfield) to keep this from the jury. Raymond testifies and perjures himself, claiming that Rusty insisted on handling the investigation, thus confirming the prosecution's claim of a cover-up.

Rusty discovers that Carolyn had acquired a file for a bribery case involving a man called Leon who paid a bribe to get his case thrown out of court. The probation officer who set the whole thing up was Carolyn and the deputy prosecutor in charge of the case was Tommy Molto. The thrust of Sandy's defense is that Tommy and Nico have set Rusty up as part of a cover-up of the bribery case. Lipranzer tracks down Leon and he reveals that the official who took the bribe was in fact Larren Lyttle, the judge handling Rusty's trial.

During the cross-examination of the coroner Dr. Kumagai (Sab Shimono), it is revealed that Carolyn had undergone a tubal ligation, making it impossible for her to become pregnant. She would have no reason to use the spermicidal contraceptive which was found on her. Sandy asserts that the only explanation for this discrepancy is that the fluid sample was not actually taken from Carolyn's body.

Based on the disappearance of the beer glass, the lack of motive, and the fact that the fluid sample was rendered meaningless, there is no direct evidence to tie Rusty to the murder. Judge Lyttle dismisses the charges.

Rusty confronts his attorney for bringing up the bribery file in the case, as Sandy most likely knew that it exposed Judge Lyttle. Sandy admits that he and Raymond knew Lyttle was taking bribes, and Carolyn was his courier. Lyttle offered his resignation, but Raymond believed that he was a brilliant judge and should be given another chance. Lipranzer reveals to Rusty that he has the beer glass, which he never returned to the evidence room. Tommy signed it as "returned to evidence" when it was still at the lab and, by the time it was returned to Lipranzer he'd been removed from the case so he decided to keep it in his desk drawer until someone asked for it, except nobody ever did. Rusty throws the beer glass into the river.

Some time later, Rusty comes across a small hatchet/crowbar with blood and hair on it and realizes that they are Carolyn's. He washes it and confronts his wife. Referring to herself in the third person, Barbara relates how she committed the crime. She'd left enough evidence so Rusty would know it had been her, but she assumed it would be filed under unsolved cases, not anticipating he would be charged with the murder.

In a final voice-over he says that the murder of Carolyn has been written off as unsolved.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 1990-07-27 : United States of America

DVD : 1997-12-16

DVD : 2010-11-09

DVD : 1997-12-17