David Armstrong, a preeminent criminal trial attorney from New York City, volunteers to defend a tribal policeman on an Indian reservation accused of the torture-murder of a Mexican drug smuggler who killed the policeman's parents and raped and killed his fifteen year old sister. The policeman shot the smuggler in the stomach then took him into the desert to tie his wrists and ankles to stakes and leave him to be eaten alive by wild animals.
On David's first visit with the policeman he asks him if he has any regrets for what he did to the smuggler. The policeman says, "Not really. In fact, I now wish I'd also skinned the son-of-a-bitch alive.