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The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A somewhat different book for Mr. Grisham. Although it is very involved with the legal world it is a non-fiction book. Grisham had seen some news articles about this unusual case and decided to follow it. And then he turned it into The Innocent Man. From all indications it is definitely a case of an innocent man who gets completely and unfairly tried and convicted by the authorities.

Ron Williamson had been a fairly decent ballplayer in his youth and actually was signed by Oakland Athletics to a minor league contract. Sadly he never had enough talent to hang on in the minors nor make it to the big leagues. He pretty much hung around Ada, Oklahoma and got by. He had many friends and he was always out in public somewhere. Most of his time when he wasn’t working he was hanging out in bars and saloons.

In 1982 a cocktail waitress, Debra Sue Carter, was found raped and murdered in her apartment. Although there was no evidence at the time indicating who did it, Ron and his friend Dennis Fritz appeared in the eyes of the police to be responsible. In fact the very shaky evidence was that Ron and Dennis were seen earlier in the evening with Debra.

After several attempts the police do in fact arrest the two men and through some very inept prosecution by the local prosecutor they are both sentenced to die for the murder.

And then the story bounces back and forth and all around as Ron and his sisters try desperately to prove his innocence and the prosecutor and his men begin to really build a case against them. The case involves some type of scientific studies of human hairs which the police claim point to both Ron and Dennis.

Even before they are actually put away for good they are shuffled back and forth from county to county. And several times they are actually turned loose but always still named as the killers.

Most of the story involves a lot of legal happenings In the courtrooms and also some of the day to day happenings of the two and how they are getting by in prison.

With the help of a few astute legal investigators and some work that digs back years to the time of the murder the entire situation changes quite drastically.

As Grisham named it, The Innocent Man, does in fact get that benefit but in all sincerity the damage has already been done. The years of prison time, convoluted testimonies in court, and the fact that many people did in fact believe they were guilty ruined both of their lives.

A good one to read to get a different view.

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