Bar Bulletin

Bar Bulletin

Marital Privilege: Much More than Film Noir Plot Device

July 2022 Bar Bulletin

By Kim Schnuelle

The prohibition against one spouse being compelled to testify against the other is a common literary and cinematic trope. For example, in the classic Robert Mitchum 1953 film noir Angel Face, a scheming step-daughter marries her accomplice so that neither can be “forced to testify” against the other at the subsequent trial for her parents’ murder. The television show Law and Order: Special Victims Unit had many episodes where spousal privilege precluded testimony, including one where two criminals confess their plans to their respective current spouses purposefully so as to try to invoke the privilege. A major plot devise in Sidney Sheldon’s...

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