Guilty? Innocent? Those questions aren't for high-powered Chicago attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) to decide. His job is to defend - especially if a case will put his name in the headlines and further his career. When Vail hears that a penniless altar boy (Edward Norton) is accused of murdering the local archbishop, he snaps up the case, eager for the media spotlight. Little does he know that it will uncover a viper's nest of corruption, pit him against a prosecutor (Laura Linney) who's his ex-lover, and test all his skill, judgment and even his win-at-any-cost attitude.