The INNOCENT MAN, John Grisham

Believe it or not? Grisham writes a non-fiction book, one which some will find tedious reading because of its overwhelming attention to real life events in endless detail.

In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the Big Leagues, Ron stumbled, his dreams broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then, on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron’s home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence, it led to Ron Williamson. The washed-up small-town hero was charged, tried, and sentenced to death—in a trial littered with lying witnesses and tainted evidence that would shatter a man’s already broken life, and let a true killer go free.

Impeccably researched, grippingly told, and filled with eleventh-hour drama, The Innocent Man reads like a page-turning legal thriller. It is a book no American can afford to miss.

Richard writes
This takes a stab at writing non-fiction. The story is about a real criminal case, one where an innocent man is caught up in a tragedy of mistrials, misinformation and the incompetence and inept unprofessionalism of the legal system.

The story is intriguing and depressing. One assumes and expects that the legal system in countries like the USA would be uniform, and equitable treating everyone fairly and equitably. Furthermore, one would expect that the ‘judicial system’ would be constructed and developed so that it deals with cases professionally, objectively and properly. Every person will get a fair and proper trial.

Real-life is not what we expect, what we would like to think it to be. Real-life has ineptness, deviation, deflection and corruptness everywhere. The only thing one can really expect and hope for is that one’s experience here will see minimum occurrences of the possible extremes. That the people doing their job will be as honest, competent and productive as they can be. That they will be moral, ethical and properly effective in their work. One hopes for the ideal, that the person doing the work will be as true to the ideal as possible.

But reality means every picture is tainted, every job is somewhat sullied. One can only hope the ineptness, incompetence and corruption is as minimal as possible.

Grisham spent nearly two years researching before putting pen to paper. His story reveals the incredible inadequacies, incompetence and ineptitude throughout the legal system that dealt with his protagonist, Ron Williamson. Readers will grit their teeth as they read about the failures everywhere in the system.

Maybe the worst part of the whole story is there was no retribution accorded Williamson for the miscarriage of justice he suffered for more than twelve years.

The story itself is a challenging read because it is a log of incompetence and unprofessionalism. Event and event, incident and incident, Williamson is the victim at every turn, a victim of abuse, impropriety and malpractice. He was victimized, cheated to so say the very least. Judges turned a blind eye to justice, ignoring legal precedent, indigent legal bodies failed to deliver consistent levels of competency. He even had a blind defence attorney at one point, a competent lawyer for the most part but too often had to deal with visual evidence.

The book is really difficult to read because of the unbelievable reality of the story. Most readers will refuse to believe how the legal system could screw up so badly, and fail a defendant so incredibly. But it is a true story.

The book is a difficult read beyond just its incredibility. It is a slog because it is fact piled on fact, detail on detail, really incredible event after another. Most readers will not want to believe the possibility of such things happening. But they did and they do. Such is Grisham’s The Innocent Man.


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