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Angel Chavez (Rafael Campos) is a Mexican American who lives in the small California town of San Juno. During an annual event called Bass Night held at the town beach, he wanders onto the beach, off-limits to Mexican Americans. There he meets a non-Hispanic girl from his high school class. After she suffers a heart attack and dies, Angel is arrested and charged with murder. At the state university, a law professor, David Blake (Glenn Ford), is told he can no longer teach because he has never appeared in court to defend a client. Blake asks if he would be able to teach in the fall semester if he finds work with a law firm for the summer and gets courtroom experience. The dean agrees and Blake finds work at a small law firm run by Bernard Castle (Arthur Kennedy). Castle wants to defend Angel and agrees to hire Blake to handle the case. Castle and Angel's mother (Katy Jurado) travel to New York City to raise money to defend Angel. Castle leaves his law clerk Abbe Nyle (Dorothy McGuire) to help Blake, and they fall in love. During the selection of the jury, Blake is called to New York to join Castle at a rally. Blake discovers that Castle is a leader of a Communist group, and is using Blake as a propaganda tool. Blake is insulted by being betrayed by Castle but returns to San Juno to see the trial through to the end and represent Angel's interests.