Matthew McConaughey plays a young, attractive and highly-skilled attorney named Jake Brigance, who is faced with the toughest case of his life, one that on many occassions also threatens his life. In the southern Mississippi town of Canton, the KKK is active and the tension is high when the black majority is angered at the raping and attempted murdering of a black man's 10-year-old daughter. Against Jake's advice, the distraught father (Samuel L. Jackson) takes revenge, gunning down the two criminals in the local courthouse. Racial hatred hightens with the suspense and conflict threatens to break out regardless of the verdict. Jake must decide, along with his new, eager assistant (Sandra Bullock) whether he and his family can run the risk of defending this man.