David Strathairn as District Attorney Joe Lobruto
Rosamund Pike as Nikki Gardner
Embeth Davidtz as Jennifer Crawford
Billy Burke as Lt. Rob Nunally
Cliff Curtis as Detective Flores
Bob Gunton as Judge Frank GardnerJosh Stamberg as Norman Foster
Zoe Kazan as Mona
Theodore "Ted" Crawford, a wealthy and talented Irish aeronautical engineer in Los Angeles, discovers that his wife Jennifer ) is having an affair with police detective Robert Nunally After confronting his wife, Crawford shoots her, seriously wounding her, and immediately confesses the crime to Nunally at the scene.
>He then engages in a battle of wits with rising star deputy district attorney William "Willy" Beachum, who considers this an open-and-shut matter and agrees to go to trial immediately. Beachum is busy, making preparations for his transition from criminal law to corporate attorney for Wooton & Simms, a well-known law firm, and begins a romantic relationship with his future boss, Nikki Gardner.
At the trial, Crawford acts as his own attorney, which serves as a key vehicle for the plot of the movie—matching up a star prosecutor against a supposedly untrained litigant. Crawford reveals that the arresting officer was having an affair with his wife, assaulted him during his arrest, and was present during his interrogati on. Crawford's confession is ruled to be inadmissible as evidence, as it was fruit of the poisonous tree. Beachum discovers that Crawford's handgun was not used to shoot his wife because it had never been fired and did not match the shell casings at the crime scene. As the house was under surveillance the entire time from the shooting to Crawford's arrest the police are baffled.
Beachum is tempted by Nunally's scheme to plant false evidence to implicate Crawford but decides against it at the last minute. With no new evidence to present to the jury, Beachum is forced to concede the trial, and Crawford is acquitted. The disgraced Nunally commits suicide with his own gun outside the courtroom.
Beachum's future with the prestigious firm is in tatters. With the case closed, he obsessively continues to search for evidence, repeatedly visiting the comatose Jennifer in the hospital, hoping that she will wake up. However, at Crawford's request, a restraining order is issued forbidding Beachum to visit the patient. Realizing that Crawford's plan is to dispose of the only eyewitness to the crime, Beachum goes to great lengths to get a court order to keep Jennifer on life support. Nikki Gardner refuses to help him, and they end their relationship. In a last-ditch effort, Beachum is able to get a court order from Nikki's father, who is a judge. Beachum arrives at the hospital just as staff are turning off Jennifer's life support, and despite announcing he is carrying a court order, security prevent him from entering and Jennifer dies.
A mix-up of cell phones causes Beachum to realize what happened and now he has an evidence and he confronts Crawford.