"Both challenging and provocative, Sworn to Silence does something quite
unique for a TV movie. Lo and behold, it forces you to think... Peter
Coyote, an intense, gifted actor, plays a respected pillar in his
Pennsylvania community who is then reviled for defending a murderer...
Sworn to Silence features exceptionally fine acting on the part of
Coyote and Coleman. The rapport between Fischetti and Costigan who face
adversity as 'two lawyers naive enough to follow the law,' is so
naturally adult and collegial that their relationship forms the heart of
the movie... The film not only features excellent performances but
explores the complicated territory. Your sympathies, of course, are
rooted with the sympathetic hero. But by shades and degrees, you cannot
help but question his decision to stand by the canon of ethics to which
he is sworn. Thus, Sworn to Silence becomes a fascinating, layered study
of right and wrong, and of the tug between personal emotion and
"Peter Coyote, a quiet, likable actor, plays Sam Fischetti, a respected
lawyer who honors the rules and reveres the law... A suspenseful show
with a fine cast."
Albany Times Union:
"Peter Coyote, a Sam Waterston lookalike, plays the Armani character,
with Dabney Coleman as an alcoholic criminal lawyer who assists him on
the case. There is a nice chemistry between the two, the older, more
experienced man helping Fischetti with the criminal law in the case.
Liam Neeson plays the psychotic killer, and with the proper amount of
sleaze and creepiness, too... Writer Robert L. Joseph has set up a good,
well-paced drama, pitting the well-meaning, moral, oath-upholding lawyer
against his middle class community, with the alcoholic and the psycho
thrown in for diversion."
"This is a well-crafted, well-acted drama, and it does make a point -
that the legal system, if it is to work, must protect sinners as well as
"A lawyer's privileged information versus the public's right to know is
explored in this
provocative but flawed drama, with Coyote as a troubled defense attorney
in an Emmy-winning performance, as his burned-out, boozing colleague."
Lexington Herald Leader:
"There has to be something about playing a lawyer that appeals to Peter
Coyote. After making a strong impression as the prosecutor who opposed
Glenn Close in the 1985 movie hit Jagged Edge, he again steps into the
courtroom - but on the other side of the defense this time... Though the
highly opinionated Coyote has done considerably less television than
movies, he has become more admiring of TV's impact."
"This thought-provoking TV movie benefits from the sure hand of veteran
director Peter Levin and an outstanding cast that includes Peter Coyote
and Dabney Coleman, with Liam Neeson in an uncharacteristic role as a
sadistic killer... The issues of lawyer/client confidentiality and
'privileged information' are explored with balanced integrity and
absorbing emotional tension. Courtroom thriller buffs and viewers of
quality television will add this to their list of favorites."
"Both Dabney and I made our decision to work
contingent on each other. I figured if they hired him, it would be a
good show. He's just a brilliant actor... You're going to see real
friendship here. It was a good script. And it was a script talking about
something I thought worth talking about the Constitution and the Bill of
This is about a worm of a man whose rights are still protected by the
Constitution.. It's not easy for anybody involved. But remember, as our
founding fathers knew so well, the state has unlimited resources, and
the individual's rights must be protected.
It's about a real human crisis. Here's a man caught between his
instincts for decency - tell the children's parents - and his sworn oath
to his client and the Constitution to provide the best defense possible
- I want you to see what this man felt... He's a happy, easy-going, nice
guy, with a nice, small-town law practice that he's having fun with.
Then this dilemma is pushed unwillingly onto him and it absolutely tears
his life apart.
I was interested in this because of the cross it puts a man in, between
his instincts to be compassionate, and his belief in his sworn oath and
the importance of the American Constitution. I got involved with the
project because our newspapers are reporting that some of the highest
officials of the land are transgressing the law. When the attorney
general of the United States is saying that the Constitution is not
necessarily the highest law in the land, I think it's important that we
remind people of that issue.
My initial reaction was that humanity demands disclosure to the parents
of the victims, but thinking about it made me realize that our whole
system of justice is based on protecting the individual from the awesome
power of the state. If a venal and corrupt person is not protected under
the law, an innocent person won't be protected either. We have to be
protected from our instincts to trample on the law when we don't agree
The law gives the same shelter to a venal worm as it does to an average
citizen. And you can't really say we'll give aid and comfort to this
guy, and not to that guy, or you have Chile. I love the quality of this
script. There's a great line in the script - 'The law does not protect
us from heartache.' It's true. It's not nice. It might not be
compassionate in the long run. But it's the way our legal system works.
It's the kind of film that can change people's thinking, to instill in
them a sense of price that they live in a country that operates that
Sworn to Silence is excellent. To me, excellence itself is a
radical statement, because it employs care about particulars, it employs
restraint, elegance and a high order of mind. I see Sworn to Silence
as almost a personal ethical statement. It comes down to the basic
tenet of what it means to be an American. If we choose to throw out our
Constitution and Bill of Rights because it gives us a hard time
sometimes, that's like canceling our commitment to our nation and to
ourselves." ...Peter Coyote
Did you know?
Perhaps to avoid a libel
suit, the names and circumstances were changed. The Armani character
is named Fischetti and Garrow is called Cauley and, most
importantly, the movie is set in Pennsylvania, not the Adirondacks
where the murders actually took place back in the early '70s.
Dabney Coleman won an Emmy
for his performance.
Available on DVD
Coyote Web Site ]