After leaving his Lexington family, which is headed by the prominent Judge Meredith, to take a job as an engineer in the Kentucky mountains, Harry Meredith meets and marries a local girl. Conflicts arise between Harry and Zeke, his father-in-law, and Harry, drinking heavily, neglects his work. Concerned, his wife writes to Judge Meredith, who sends Douglas, Harry's brother, to look into matters. In the hills, a vengeful tramp, arrested earlier for trespassing, sets fire to a house and a posse forms to hunt him. After a heated confrontation between Harry and Zeke, Harry returns home to get his shotgun for the posse, but the tramp meets up with Zeke first and shoots him. As Zeke dies in Harry's arms, several people witness the scene and conclude that Harry committed the murder. Convicted on circumstantial evidence, Harry is executed before the tramp issues a deathbed confession.
According to advertisements for the film, which billed itself as an indictment against capital punishment, the story was based in large part on actual events surrounding the much publicized case of Leo M. Frank, wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Georgia, and on Governor John M. Slaton, who saved him from execution. Hal Reid, the director, also made a documentary on the subject called Leo M. Frank, released a few months before this film. On March 11, 1986, the state of Georgia issued a posthumous pardon for Frank, who was lynched by a mob after Slaton commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.