"In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories."
On a crowded NY subway during evening rush hour, gunfire suddenly breaks through the noise and the passengers run out as soon as possible. A transit police officer finds two young black men injured and calls in a shooting.
Seargant Max Greevey (George Dzundza) and Detective Mike Logan arrive on the crime scene. One witness identifies the shooter as "a ballerina." They also find a screwdriver on the floor.
At the hospital, the detectives interview Michael Jones (Dwayne McClary), one of the victims. Michael says he doesn't know why the woman shot him, that his friend, just asked her for an apple.
The detectives meet with Captain Donald Cragen, who indicates the press is following this story. Logan and Greevey locate several witnesses from the subway, two of whom praise the "ballerina" shooter for shooting young men on the subway who bother other passengers.
The ballerina was carrying a Manhattan Dance Company tote bag. They discover her name from a Dance Company teacher and track her to her job in radiology at Murray Hill Hospital.
The detectives that Laura Di Biasi (Cynthia Nixon) at the police station. She admits she shot the men in the subway in self-defense. Privately, Logan tells Greevey he understands why Di Biasi felt defensive on the subway, but Greevey points out that one of the victims didn't have a record and shouldn't be vulnerable because "he looks guilty" and that she shouldn't have fired into a crowded subway car. Cragen tells them to talk to the shooting victims, Michael Jones and Darnell 'Chenault' (Akili Prince). However, Michael Jones has passed away.
Darnell is in the hospital, paralyzed from the shooting. He says he didn't do anything to antagonize Di Biasi.
ADA Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty) talks to Cragen and they agree to charge Di Biasi. They don't want New York citizens to think it's OK to defend themselves with gunfire.
Greevey's wife calls him to inform him that their daughter, Eileen, has been assaulted at school by three boys on the high school basketball team.
The detectives bring Di Biasi in to the station. Her lawyer from the public defender's office, Shambala Green (Lorraine Toussaint) is also there.
Ben Stone meets with District Attorney Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) and they discuss the repercussions of the case if Di Biasi isn't charged with a serious offense.
Robinette interviews Di Biasi's boss and friend, Ms. Maltese (Phyllis Somerville), who explains that Di Biasi's dance career had been cut short because of a previous assault.
In Stone's office, he and Shambala do not agree on a deal for Di Biasi. Stone says the punishment needs to fit the crime and he suspects there might have been some premeditation on Di Biasi's part. Shambala says that Di Biasi is a hero to anyone who's ever been hassled, threatened, or assaulted in public.
The ADAs meet with the detectives who are more sympathetic to Di Biasi than the shooting victims.
Robinette is searching Di Biasi's apartment where they find books on combat and small hand guns as well as target practice sheets. She explains she was terrified in the subway.
In court, Green stages a reenactment of the subway occurrence which causes outbursts.
Another witness comes forward and identifies one of the victims as the man who raped her several years ago.
Stone is adamant that Di Biasi be found guilty of something. He and Shambala make a deal that Di Biasi is convicted on gun charges and serves no jail time.