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The Innocent Man (2006)

by John Grisham

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,4801431,037 (3.52)112
John Grisham's first work of nonfiction, an exploration of small town justice gone terribly awry, is his most extraordinary legal thriller yet. In the major league draft of 1971, the first player chosen from the State of Oklahoma was Ron Williamson. When he signed with the Oakland A's, he said goodbye to his hometown of Ada and left to pursue his dreams of big league glory. Six years later he was back, his dreams broken by a bad arm and bad habits-- drinking, drugs, and women. He began to show signs of mental illness. Unable to keep a job, he moved in with his mother and slept twenty hours a day on her sofa. In 1982, a 21-year-old cocktail waitress in Ada named Debra Sue Carter was raped and murdered, and for five years the police could not solve the crime. For reasons that were never clear, they suspected Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz. The two were finally arrested in 1987 and charged with capital murder. With no physical evidence, the prosecution's case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. Dennis Fritz was found guilty and given a life sentence. Ron Williamson was sent to death row. If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you.… (more)
Recently added bydeffebach, AllisonFamily, Stacyleanne12, private library, C989, dmwald, janicearkulisz
  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.
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    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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» See also 112 mentions

English (137)  Italian (2)  German (2)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (143)
Showing 1-5 of 137 (next | show all)
E Book. Read this before and missed recording it. Overly detailed. ( )
  MustangGuy | Jun 13, 2020 |
This is a disgusting and appalling book, not in the sense of the book & its writing, but rather the contents.

Whilst it would be better named The Innocent Men as it contains the course of events surrounding 2 cases involving 4 men, it primarily deals with the cases of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz who were wrongly convicted of the 1982 murder and rape of Debra Carter. They spent 12 years in prison after being convicted in a case that to an independent observer should have never made it to the courthouse.

The actions of the police and prosecution within this book are nothing short of disgusting and appalling. As the book continues you find yourself being immensely infuriated by the actions of those who are meant to act for the benefit of society at large, who instead for their own vanity choose to railroad innocent men into convictions. Rather than admit that they have no solved the cases, they instead choose the 'best' people to pin it on and manipulate and conceal evidence to ensure their convictions.

Then, just as you think things might be heading in the right direction the ending is solemn and a definite downer, Ron Williamson may not have been the best person but he certainly did not deserve what the legal system did to him.

An excellent non fiction crime book. ( )
  HenriMoreaux | May 5, 2020 |
This book was mentioned on Episode 2 of Checking Out. Listen here!
  rachelreading | Apr 20, 2020 |
John Grisham writing non-fiction? That's worth a try. And, worth my time. The well researched, well presented, well reported story is astonishing in its facts. That the criminal justice system could be so egregiously inept and/or corrupt is disheartening. And this is only the story of a few men.....how many more people are unjustly incarcerated because of a broken system? There were more than a few times when I wanted to slam the book shut and throw it across the room at my feeling of helplessness against "the man".

This is an interesting tale of the justice system gone very wrong, mental illness, a family who never gives up, and a man who never got a break. Told in an easy to read, reporterly style, Grisham lays out the facts and lays bare a sad story.

Recommended. ( )
  Terrie2018 | Feb 21, 2020 |
this is another book that would have hit me differently had i read it when i was younger and not already cynical. the self-serving police and their willingness to make up stories and "evidence" just to get a conviction would have shocked me. unfortunately these utter travesties of justice and humanity are all too common. the only remotely unusual thing about this story is that it happened to white people.

the front of my book says this is written like a thriller and i disagree wholeheartedly. the constant egregiousness of the prosecution and police and the mental deterioration of the supposed killer is what kept my attention throughout, not the writing. he could have done a much better job with that aspect, but the facts are interesting enough without good writing. it is pretty remarkable to read how they kept doubling down on their deception and insistence on framing two innocent people (after having already framed two other innocent people) while not even bothering to try to find the real killer. so that's what kept me reading, not the writing. (which was ok, but nothing special.)

according to the book there are still 2 other innocent people serving life terms in prison for a crime they didn't commit. (i mean, there's a ton more than that, but i mean of the crimes discussed in this book.) maybe the book (or at least a section of this one) should have been written about them to help get them cleared.

i do think it's important to call out corruption whenever we see it, so it's good that this book is out there. thank goodness that the innocents project is doing their work and bringing so many of these cases to light. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Jan 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 137 (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)

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Grishamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Biavasco, AnnamariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Heyne (81174)
Gli Oscar Mondadori (Bestsellers, 2084)
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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