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The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a…

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (2006)

by John Grisham

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,577125773 (3.51)101
  1. 10
    Manifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom by Barry Siegel (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: Stories of justice gone awry, more interesting than fiction.
  2. 10
    Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer by Andrea D. Lyon (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: More about those who are wrongfully convicted. An eye-opener.
  3. 10
    The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: True stories of corruption in the justice system. The Monster of Florence is about the search for a serial killer in Italy, The Innocent Man is a man falsely convicted and on death row.
  4. 10
    Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty by Scott Turow (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Novelist Scott Turow writes about his struggle to come to grips with the death penalty. This non-fiction work describes the evolution of his thought process and his sometimes ambivalent reasoning while he served on the Illinois Commission that investigated the effectiveness of the punishment and proposed important reforms to make its imposition more equitable.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)

I had thought this was one of Grisham's famously tightly paced thrillers (of which I have read, I think, precisely one), and was surprised therefore to find that it is a true story - the account of the wrongful convictions for rape and murder of two Oklahoma men, and the fight to prove their innocence.

To be honest, for anyone who's paid much attention to the operations of the United States' legal system, there much to be shocked about here but sadly little to be surprised about. Public pressure is for conviction of convenient suspects rather than for justice. Small town courts are very under-resourced, particularly for defendants without means to pay for their own counsel. Rules were repeatedly broken by many people who were supposedly paid to enforce them. One of the unjustly sentenced defendants came within days of execution. Both served eleven years for a crime that they did not commit. Williamson, broken in mind and body by the trial and the long time he spent in solitary confinement waiting to die, lived only another few years after his release. Of course, no compensation was paid.

Grisham is making the point to white readers that this could happen to them too, or to their friends or relatives. Black readers will hardly need to be told.

It's a grim story, and at least it has been told. ( )
  nwhyte | Jun 25, 2017 |
I always feel a little guilty when starting a Grisham book as I know I will still be reading ten hours later...but at least this one is a true story so I feel like I learned something.

The author is trying to shine a light on potential miscarriages of justice in America specifically the small town of Ada, Oklahoma--those in prison and on death row who really shouldn't be there. They end up there for all manner of reasons; corrupt cops, ambitious prosecutors, judges who are too focused on retirement or reputation, snitches willing to lie on oath, or maybe even innocent people just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. At least one of the men wrongly convicted believed that his coerced confession wouldn't matter because the police would get to the truth. He had placed his faith in the criminal justice system, it let him down.

The story is sad but believable. As always, it is a well written account that kept me reading until the last page. Being non-fiction, it is also well researched--the author spent a lot of time with many of those involved in these cases and investigated the culture of small town Oklahoma. The story focuses on two men convicted of the rape and murder of a 21 year old waitress in 1982. The cases are linked to other possible innocents in jail. All of the cases covered are compelling. I hope that some progress is being made on those who still languish in prison.

I always find Grisham's stance on faith issues a little confusing. He often includes strong Gospel statements referring to salvation by faith in Jesus in his books and refers to himself as a Christian. However, he also states that his faith is a private matter that he keeps to himself. How can a real Christian think it is okay to keep their faith to themself, especially one with the huge platform that he has?

This book has only a little bad language. There is some violence and some graphic details of the crime but it is factual rather than sensational. There are also some details about the sexual aspects of the crime but again it is factual.

I enjoy Grisham's books and will no doubt read more of them and probably re-read those that I have read in the past. To find a non-fiction book by Grisham was a nice surprise and I'm glad I read it. I hope that one day Grisham will take a clearer public stand on faith issues, choosing God over popularity/success... ( )
  sparkleandchico | Jun 2, 2017 |
The Innocent Man tells the story of a troubled man wrongly convicted of murder who spent most of his adult life as the victim of a flawed system. From beginning to end I worked hard to find a redeeming quality in this book, but I still haven't found it. Beyond the veracity of the story, this book isn't worth reading. The writing is sub-par; Grisham's overuse of the exclamation point to emphasize the injustice of the case was just one among many distracting factors. There is little to no dialogue, and the book reads like a list of facts and events. The problem is not with the content but with the execution: surely someone could have told Ron Williamson's story in an engaging way. I would not recommend this book even to Grisham lovers, much less to students or other teachers. ( )
  cskaemmerling | May 7, 2017 |
Being the airhead that I am I didn't realize that this book was based on a true story. It certainly reads like any of Grisham's works of fiction. It's the story of Ronald Wiliamson and Dennis Fritz being wrongfully convicted of murder back in the early 80's. It also illustrates the horrific truth that even in modern times innocent people are sometimes sent to death row. ( )
  Charlie_Boling | Apr 19, 2017 |
Ada Oklahoma convicted 2 innocent men and covered it up for 15 years. Bad attorneys, bad judges, lenient townspeople, all contributed.
In the end the convicted men were freed and a civil suit netted the millions. What they went through was not worth the money. Cruel and unusual punishment was the rule of the day. Shame on you Ada, Oklahoma ( )
  pgabj | Feb 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
It’s true in some cosmic sense that the story of every life has value, but not to the writer of nonfiction. Writers of nonfiction narratives learn to pick their subjects with care, because some true stories are much, much more interesting than others. In this case, John Grisham could have conjured up a better story on his own.
added by stephmo | editNew York Times, Edward Lewine (Dec 10, 2006)
When Grisham gets into what happened to Williamson and company during their prison stay, The Innocent Man finds its purpose. In describing the wretched food, poor ventilation, and abusive guards—all factors that led to Oklahoma prisons being condemned by Amnesty International—Grisham makes clear exactly what's at stake when the state sends the wrong man to jail.
added by stephmo | editAV Club, Noel Murray (Dec 7, 2006)
Grisham is a great storyteller and a fine, no-nonsense writer. He has a well-honed attention to detail. He doesn't degenerate into cliches and he has a natural sense of dramatic structure that ensures the book has a compelling forward momentum.
John Grisham here crosses the line from fiction to non-fiction. And it's hard to tell the difference. His prose is still lean and fast-paced and his skilful sketches capture all you need to know about the characters. He explains courtroom procedure and precedent in a simple style that allows a layman to follow the legal labyrinth. Even the plot would fit comfortably between the covers of one of his earlier books, except this story is true.
Grisham is a great storyteller but an uninspired writer — he has none of Capote's weird, stark lyricism — but his spare, direct style serves him well here. He expertly dissects each judicial and constitutional outrage with cool precision.
added by stephmo | editSeattle Times, Andrea Simakis (Oct 12, 2006)
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Dedicated to Annette Hudson and Renee Simmons and to the memory of their brother
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The rolling hills of southeast Oklahoma stretch from Norman across to Arkansas and show little evidence of the vast deposits of crude oil that were once beneath them.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440243831, Mass Market Paperback)

John Grisham tackles nonfiction for the first time with The Innocent Man, a true tale about murder and injustice in a small town (that reads like one of his own bestselling novels). The Innocent Man chronicles the story of Ron Williamson, how he was arrested and charged with a crime he did not commit, how his case was (mis)handled and how an innocent man was sent to death row. Grisham's first work of nonfiction is shocking, disturbing, and enthralling--a must read for fiction and nonfiction fans. We had the opportunity to talk with John Grisham about the case and the book, read his responses below. --Daphne Durham 20 Second Interview: A Few Words with John Grisham

Q: After almost two decades of writing fiction, what compelled you to write non-fiction, particularly investigative journalism?
A: I was never tempted to write non-fiction, primarily because it's too much work. However, obviously, I love a good legal thriller, and the story of Ron Williamson has all the elements of a great suspenseful story.

Q: Why this case?
A: Ron Williamson and I are about the same age and we both grew up in small towns in the south. We both dreamed of being major league baseball players. Ron had the talent, I did not. When he left a small town in 1971 to pursue his dreams of major league glory, many thought he would be the next Mickey Mantle, the next great one from the state of Oklahoma. The story of Ron ending up on Death Row and almost being executed for a murder he did not commit was simply too good to pass up.

Q: How did you go about your research?
A: I started with his family. Ron is survived by two sisters who took care of him for most of his life. They gave me complete access to the family records, photographs, Ron's mental health records, and so on. There was also a truckload of trial transcripts, depositions, appeals, etc., that took about 18 months to organize and review. Many of the characters in the story are still alive and I traveled to Oklahoma countless times to interview them.

Q: Did your training as a lawyer help you?
A: Very much so. It enabled me to understand the legal issues involved in Ron's trial and his appeals. It also allowed me, as it always does, to be able to speak the language with lawyers and judges.

Q: Throughout your book you mention, The Dreams of Ada: A True Story of Murder, Obsession, and a Small Town. How did you come across that book, and how did it impact your writing The Innocent Man?
A: Several of the people in Oklahoma I met mentioned The Dreams of Ada to me, and I read it early on in the process. It is an astounding book, a great example of true crime writing, and I relied upon it heavily during my research. Robert Mayer, the author, was completely cooperative, and kept meticulous notes from his research 20 years earlier. Many of the same characters are involved in his story and mine.

Q: You take on some pretty controversial and heated topics in your book--the death penalty, prisoner’s rights, DNA analysis, police conduct, and more--were any of your own beliefs challenged by this story and its outcome?
A: None were challenged, but my eyes were open to the world of wrongful convictions. Even as a former criminal defense attorney, I had never spent much time worrying about wrongful convictions. But, unfortunately, they happen all the time in this country, and with increasing frequency.

Q: So many of the key players in this case are either still in office or practicing attorneys. Many family members and friends still live in the same small town. How do you think The Innocent Man will impact this community and other small rural towns as they struggle with the realities of the justice system?
A: Exonerations seem to be happening weekly. And with each one of them, the question is asked--how can an innocent man be convicted and kept in prison for 20 years? My book is the story of only one man, but it is a good example of how things can go terribly wrong with our judicial system. I have no idea how the book will be received in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma, or any other town.

Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from The Innocent Man?
A: A better understanding of how innocent people can be convicted, and a greater concern for the need to reimburse and rehabilitate innocent men after they have been released.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:16 -0400)

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Presents the real-life case of Ron Williamson, a mentally ill former baseball player who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the 1982 murder of a 21-year-old woman in his Oklahoma hometown.

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