Power, class, race, and the search for justice: these are the elements that fuel For the Defense, a murder mystery about Jimmy Poe. Jimmy is a poor, 18-year-old African-American boy who has overcome numerous obstacles on his way to obtaining a full academic scholarship to the University of Virginia, but whose world is shattered when his baseball bat and school I.D. are found at the scene of the brutal slaying of Jefferson Price, the popular, white mayor of Jimmy’s hometown and the father of Jimmy’s beautiful girlfriend. Jimmy’s fate is placed in the hands of his public defender, Nolan Kilbride, who must cross lines he never thought he would in his quest for an acquittal, culminating in a heart-pounding climax at Jimmy’s capital murder trial.
Nolan is a cynical, white, 45-year-old alcoholic who is still haunted by the death of his wife and daughter some years prior. Even with his many faults, Nolan remains one of the best criminal defense lawyers in Virginia and his talent in the courtroom is outstripped only by his skepticism of Jimmy’s claims of innocence. Nevertheless, Nolan spares no effort to save Jimmy from death row and attempts to build a case that the real murderer is either Trace Wilkins, the Vice Mayor whose wife was sleeping with Mayor Price, or Roger Wolf, Price’s former business partner who stood to profit immensely from his death. Even so, with all the evidence pointing to Jimmy’s guilt, obtaining any result short of the death penalty will require Nolan to summon all his considerable talents, and push the boundaries of law and ethics to their breaking point.