If you’ve seen Primal Fear, then you may have wondered about attorney-client privilege and whether or not Martin Vail (Richard Gere) could reveal Roy (Edward Norton) actually committed murder and doesn’t have a split personality. Well, I have an answer for you!
Attorney-client privilege protects past actions. If Roy admitted to planning another murder or future crime, then privilege doesn’t exist. But privilege protects anything that’s already happened as a means of allowing a client to freely speak with their lawyer without fear.
If Vail revealed the truth, he faces not only widespread embarrassment for falling prey to Roy but the very real possibility of disbarment. And because of double jeopardy laws, it’s unlikely a court could try Roy again anyway.
So Vail is unable to tell anyone without it costing him his reputation and career. Maybe he tells his former love interest, Janet (Laura Linney), but what good will that do? Her high morals probably cause her to look down on Vail for breaking privilege. On top of that, he has to admit he put her in the hands of a murderer for no good reason. That also won’t go over well.
There’s nothing for Vail to do and no one he can turn to.