Presumed Innocent (novel)

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Presumed Innocent
Presumed innocent turow novel.jpg
First edition
Author Scott Turow
Country United States
Language English
Genre Legal thriller, Crime novel
Publisher Farrar Straus & Giroux
Publication date
August 1987
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 448 pp (first edition, hardback)
432 (paperback)
ISBN 0-374-23713-1 (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 0-14-010336-8 (paperback)
OCLC 15315809
813/.54 19
LC Class PS3570.U754 P7 1987
Preceded by One L
Followed by The Burden of Proof

Presumed Innocent, published in August 1987, is Scott Turow's first novel, which tells the story of a prosecutor charged with the murder of his colleague, an attractive and intelligent prosecutor, Carolyn Polhemus. It is told in the first person by the accused, Rožat "Rusty" Sabich. A motion picture adaptation starring Harrison Ford was released in 1990.


The novel begins with the discovery of Carolyn Polhemus dead in her apartment, the victim of what appears to be a sexual bondage encounter gone wrong, killed outright by a fatal blow to the skull with an unknown object. Rozat "Rusty" Sabich is a prosecutor and co-worker of Carolyn and is assigned her case by the district attorney. At the time he is also helping his friend and boss Raymond Horgan with his re-election campaign. If Horgan wins, Sabich will keep his job and if not, he will lose it. The case is further complicated by the fact that, unknown to the people around him, he had a brief affair with Polhemus that ended months before her murder.

Despite his obvious conflict of interest, Rusty is handling the investigation, while keeping the affair secret. He's assisted by Dan "Lip" Lipranzer, a police officer who is investigating the details and evidence for Rusty. During the investigation, Rusty learns Horgan also had a brief relationship with Carolyn. The only person who knows of his affair is Rusty's wife Barbara, and that has placed a strain on their marriage. Evidence surfaces that points the finger at Rusty and he is indicted for murder. He hires lawyer Alejandro "Sandy" Stern, an Argentinean who has been a frequent opponent over the years, to defend him.

The evidence against Rusty consists of a bar glass with his fingerprints, physical evidence, and calls from his home on the night of the murder. As the trial ensues, Rusty learns that the judge also had an affair with Polhemus and that he and Horgan took bribes from various suspects. Stern is able to discredit the expert forensic testimony and a key piece of evidence goes missing. The case is dismissed and it appears Rusty has gotten away with murder. However, later at home he discovers that his wife killed Polhemus out of vengeance.

Many of the minor characters in Presumed Innocent also appear in Turow's later novels, which are all set in the fictional, Midwestern Kindle County. A sequel to Presumed Innocent, titled Innocent, was released on May 4, 2010 and continues the relationship between Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto.


Scott Martelle of Los Angeles Times called the novel's plot twists "inventive".[1] Kevin J. Hamilton of The Seattle Times called its story "clever, chilling and wildly unpredictable."[2]


Before the original novel was released in August 1987, director Sydney Pollack bought the film rights for $1 million.[1]


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