For Lack of Evidence (1990)

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German title For lack of evidence
Original title Presumed Innocent
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1990
length 122 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Alan J. Pakula
script Frank Pierson ,
Alan J. Pakula
production Sydney Pollack ,
Mark Rosenberg
music John Williams
camera Gordon Willis
cut Evan A. Lottman

For Lack of Evidence (Original Title: Presumed Innocent ) is a courtroom film thriller from 1990 directed by Alan J. Pakula , who also wrote the screenplay with Frank Pierson . Harrison Ford played the main role . The film is based on the published 1987 novel Presumed Innocent (German book title: For lack of evidence ) by Scott Turow .


Rozat Sabich, nicknamed Rusty, is the assistant prosecutor in Kindle County. One day he learns that his colleague Carolyn Polhemus has been murdered. She was found tied up with ropes in her home. There she was apparently raped and beaten to death with a blunt object.

Raymond Horgan is in the middle of an election campaign to be re-elected as chief county attorney. Since he fears that his opponent Nico Della Guardia exploits the case for himself and could portray him as a weak and incompetent public prosecutor, he instructs his deputy "Rusty" to take over the investigation and pursue it with the highest priority. Rusty is not enthusiastic about it, but gives in and starts the case with the policeman Lipranzer. Rusty's inner conflict: he had a secret affair with the murder victim; Carolyn had finished her while Rusty still mourned her.

Horgan loses the election against Guardia. In the course of the investigation, it is discovered that the fingerprints on a beer glass seized at the crime scene came from Rusty. Checks of the phone calls have also revealed calls from Rusty's private line to the victim. Because of Rusty's attempt to withhold this evidence, the newly elected Prosecutor Guardia, along with Homicide Chief Tommy Molto, are quick to accuse Rusty of the murder of Carolyn Polhemus. Rusty then hires the lawyer Alejandro Stern, known as "Sandy", for his defense.

The further investigations show that, based on the traces of sperm found on the dead woman, the perpetrator's blood group is blood group A - the same one that Rusty has. Traces of fiber were also found from a carpet from his apartment at the crime scene.

However, in the course of the judicial process, errors and inconsistencies in the prosecution become apparent. The glass with the fingerprints can no longer be found and can therefore no longer be used as evidence. There are doubts about the credibility of Horgan's testimony against Rusty, who secretly removed a case file from her office the day after Polhemus was murdered. In his conclusions, the coroner missed the fact that Polhemus was sterilized, a contradiction of the findings of a sperm-killing agent, which indicated the use of a diaphragm. The conclusion that the perpetrator would have to have removed the diaphragm after consensual sexual intercourse with Polhemus in order to simulate rape, however, is another chain of circumstantial evidence to prove Rusty's alleged guilt.

Judge Larren Lyttle cannot avoid dismissing the charges and acquitting Rusty.

Lipranzer explains to Rusty that it was he who did not return the glass to the evidence room , since Molto had already acknowledged receipt for it. Rusty is grateful that his friend wanted to help him, but is also shocked that a police officer has been willing to withhold evidence.

In the life of Rusty Sabich and his family everything seems to be fine again, and his wife Barbara gets a position as a lecturer at a university. But when one day he finds a hammer with blood and hair while working in the garden, he is shocked and immediately washes the marks off. Then his wife arrives and admits that she killed Carolyn Polhemus and laid the tracks with her husband's previously frozen sperm. After learning about his affair with Carolyn Polhemus, she fell into depression and wanted to kill herself, but then came up with the plan to "destroy the destroyer". Rusty is horrified, but doesn't want to take his son's mother away and keeps her confession to himself.


  • The filming took place from July 31, 1989 to October 24, 1989 in the USA (including Allendale ) and Canada.
  • The film grossed around 221 million US dollars in cinemas worldwide, including 86 million in the US alone.
  • It opened in theaters in the United States on July 27, 1990, and in Germany on December 13, 1990.


  • Hellmuth Karasek wrote in Der Spiegel on December 10, 1990 : “The public prosecutor is investigating a murder case and comes across himself - how many Oedipus infusions may the film be in its first part? But Pakula is interested in more than that: he wants to brand the political and moral corruption that has so obviously perturbed the American judicial and police system. […] But no matter how much the film works with forensic tricks and conjures criminalistic surprises out of its hat - the truth is that the routine judicial spectacle amounts to the old puritanical morality that infidelity takes terrible revenge. In US cinema a la Pakula, cheating for low sexual motives still faces the death penalty. The film finds out who is allowed to impose it, disguised as a perpetrator. "
  • On Rotten Tomatoes , the film received an overall rating of 93% (of 30 reviews, 28 were positive). Among the top critics, all 8 reviews were positive and the rating was 100%.



Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Hellmuth Karasek: Fatal Affair . In: Der Spiegel . No. 50 , 1990 ( online ).