The Innocent Man:

February 10, 2009
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John Grisham's The Innocent Man is the story of the mistrials of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, who were wrongly implicated for the murder and rape of a young girl. Grisham chronicles the life of Ron Williamson from the time he was a young boy up until the incidents leading to his conviction and subsequent imprisonment. The book covers the errors made by both the Ada Police and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and the fabricated evidence that both agencies and the federal prosecutors presented. Eventually, Ron is released after being exonerated via DNA evidence, but was still robbed of 11 years of his life while on death row.
Grisham wrote the book with a very serious, analytical style more conducive to reports than to most other books written by the famous author. He focuses on presenting the evidence in a clear and concise manner, ensuring that the reader has no doubt about Ron's innocence and the way in which the authorities mishandled the case. At times Grisham is very sarcastic and exhibits a very cold sense of humor when discussing the errors of the very incompetent investigators. He does an excellent job of conveying his opinion to the reader, which is clearly one of disgust in regards to the investigators, while he was nothing but pity for Ron and his family.
The author uses straight factual evidence to support his arguments and presents information in an irrefutable manner which leaves no room for debate. Grisham comes up with numerous eyewitness accounts and first person interviews that prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ron was indeed screwed by the system and in no way received fair treatment.
The Innocent Man was indeed a groundbreaking work as it showcased the immense flaws that often plague small town justice systems and go unnoticed by the larger world. The main idea that Grisham seems to want to convey to the reader is that many people do not get justice, despite the fact that our government pledges 'liberty, and justice for all'.
There are numerous quotes from Grisham that serve to illustrate his point, but I was most moved when Judge Frank Seay said 'God help us, if ever in this great country we turn our heads while those that have not had fair trials are executed. That almost happened in this case.' (Grisham 214) This quote highlights the incredible failures of the legal system, and how close they were to killing an innocent man. Anyone that respects the laws of this country should be sickened by the injustices portrayed in the book.

The Innocent Man was Mr. Grisham's first foray into nonfiction, and he received mostly positive reviews upon its publication and it is regarded as a top-notch legal thriller. The target audience of the work is anyone in America that thought that you were always innocent until proven guilty in this country. The Innocent Man serves as a stark reminder that this is not always true.

The title of the book clearly defines what it's about, and thus fits in perfectly with the work as a whole. In addition to perfectly encapsulating the overall message of the text, it's captivating and grabs the reader's attention.

The Innocent Man touches on some very sensitive issues in the American legal system, such as the constitutionality of having partisan elections of judges and district attorneys in certain states. Would Judge Miller and DA Bill Peterson have so vigorously pursued such a weak case had they not been fighting for reelection? Would the OSBI have fabricated and exaggerated flimsy evidence if they weren't under intense pressure to get things done? It seems as thought 'justice' in America is often reduced to looking like your putting away murderers and rapists in order to merely secure votes, not because it's the right thing to do. The most disturbing of all the crimes committed by the authorities in this case was the illegal and unconstitutional way in which the OSBI agents secured their 'dream confessions' which consisted of 'confessions' procured from exhausted individuals who had been subject to long hours of brutal (and illegal) police interrogations. One of the poor men mentioned having a dream similar to the crime the police were describing, and the officers took that and turned it into a full blown legal confession. This in itself is extremely illegal for an officer to do, not to mention the methods that they used to acquire them. The horrific violations of constitutional rights that the authorities committed in this case would sicken anyone involved in Law or Law Enforcement. Professional book critic Michael Harris commented on how 'Researching this book, Grisham says, 'exposed me to the world of wrongful convictions, something that I, even as a former lawyer, had never spent much time thinking about. This is not a problem peculiar to Oklahoma, far from it. Wrongful convictions occur every month in every state in the country, and the reasons are all varied and all the same ' bad police work, junk science, faulty eyewitness identifications, bad defense lawyers, lazy prosecutors, arrogant prosecutors.'' Grisham clearly states that improper trials have become something of an epidemic in America today, and we must work at all costs to stop them from continuing. Critic Stuart Shiffman also iterates the issue when he says that 'Two of America's greatest courtroom novelists are John Grisham and Scott Turow, who have written about murder and death in our halls of justice. How ironic that both have begun now to speak out about the injustice of capital punishment. Grisham does so in a voice loud and clear and through a book that fully explains why the nation needs to reexamine the process by which we sentence criminals to be executed.' These calls to arms must not be ignored, lest such injustices continue to plague our great nation with improper convictions and executions.
As a whole, The Innocent Man introduced several themes regarding justice in America, and also presented a challenge to future lawmakers to ensure that such atrocities do not occur again in the future. The book is essentially a wake-up call, bringing to light the fact that even in a nation as just as ours, injustice still runs rampant and must be stamped out at all costs in order for us to preserve the ideals of liberty and justice that our country was founded on.

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