In the series premiere, Hayes needs to dig herself out of what could be a publicly embarrassing situation. She makes a clandestine deal with her adversary, Conner Wallace, to take on the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) and justice system in order to save face, not only for herself, but for her family. The first case Hayes pushes her team to consider is that of Odell Dwyer, a handsome former high school football player, who has been in prison for eight years for murdering his girlfriend. The CIU only has five days to determine if there was mishandled evidence, an invalid confession or a mistaken witness – five days to give Wallace the acclaim he wants for the CIU's first case and, perhaps, for Hayes to gain the respect she deserves.
Hayes confronts Wallace head-on, investigating the case that made his career ten years ago: the Prospect 3. Three young white men confessed to the rape and robbery of a young black woman. Hayes hopes to catch Wallace off guard with the team's investigation, but the complex case serves up a major surprise. When the young woman's character takes a hit in the press during the investigation, she is victimized for a second time, which Hayes takes personally.
While the CIU team vociferously disagrees among themselves whether the "bad guys" also deserve justice, they work to exonerate a political activist with questionable views. He is serving a life sentence for planting a bomb at a mosque that killed a prominent Imam and three worshippers. The re-examination of the case calls into question the NYPD's role which puts Hayes in Wallace's crosshairs. After a rigorous analysis of the evidence, the stunning conclusion to the case leaves one member of the team strongly dissatisfied with the outcome. Meanwhile, just as Hayes and Wallace seem to be getting cozy, they discover that their worst nightmare has been realized.
Hayes' recent transgressions spark a media firestorm. Meanwhile, she and the team tackle the highly sensitive case of a mother, Penny, convicted for the death of her autistic son. The state's most compelling evidence originated from Penny's own video blog, expressing her frustrations and fears about her violent son. While the CIU team tracks multiple leads, Hayes must do damage control in an attempt to save her job, which results in a primetime interview. The outcome of both the interview and the case have shocking endings with lasting repercussions.
Hayes launches into damage-control mode following her controversial nationally televised interview, seeking to limit the repercussions within her family and to her mother's Senate campaign. Meanwhile, the CIU takes on the case of a young man from the wrong side of the tracks, convicted for killing a wealthy woman whose privileged family took him in and treated him as one of their own. And Hayes' relationship with her family isn't the only tricky situation when she learns Wallace has hired a surprising person from her past to represent him in a high-stakes government investigation into his work as D.A.
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