Ten-year-old Dexter Hinton’s conviction in the drive-by shooting of elderly robbery target Cora Rollison was routine once the judge admitted the confession that Dexter—d recanted after talking to his grandfather and guardian Carl Hinton. And now it looks as if the appeal Carl has painfully cobbled together will be denied with equal dispatch. Judge Carter Albertson, of the Indiana Court of Appeals, tells his first-year clerk Nora Lumsey that the verdict is to be affirmed without ado. But Nora, who overlooks no chance to reiterate that she’s a big-boned woman used to locking horns with authority figures, looks deep enough into the record to notice that Carl Hinton is a neighbor of hers. Unwisely and incredibly, she drops by his house to introduce herself (though concealing her job), listen to his hard-luck story about his poor deaf grandson, and, eventually, come out fighting for Dex’s release despite the threat of disbarment if either side she’s working for ever finds out about the other. Beset on every front by inner-city gangstas who want the buck to stop with Dex and by big-city politicos who don’t want a freed Dex to turn into another Willie Horton, Nora ends up risking more than she’d ever imagined when she said hello to Carl Hinton. Nora’s harsh, uncompromising voice, something new and welcome in the genre, makes the extravagantly improbable premise of her first case worth the stretch—though it’s a relief to find her headed to more suitable employment at the fade-out.