Paul Biegler is a small town lawyer who until recently had been the local prosecutor and given a lack of clients, he spends a lot of time fishing. When a murder takes place in a trailer park on the outskirts of town, he is asked to defend Lt. Frederick Manion who admits to having killed Barney Quill, a local bar owner who allegedly raped his wife. He now claims temporary insanity. The case is both prominent, with the State's Deputy Attorney General personally prosecuting the case and lurid, given the rape and the sexual nature of much of the testimony. Biegler and his friend Parnell McCarthy, now a bit the worse for wear and given to drink, must find a way to convince the jury when they little or no evidence to support their case.