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The Innocent Man

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The Innocent Man, by John Grisham, is a nonfiction account of an Oklahoma man who went through what no person should have to deal with. Ron Williamson was a Major League Baseball prospect right out of high school. He was dubbed to be the next Mickey Mantle, who was also from Oklahoma. Ron had many psychological problems including anxiety, depression and alcoholism. All of these problems, along with the abrupt ending to his baseball career, sent Ron down a spiraling pattern of crime and false accusations. Ron and his drinking buddy, Dennis Fritz, were arrested for the rape and murder of Debra Carter, a resident of Ada. After two outrageous trials, both men were sentenced to death. Not until April 15th, 1995 were both exonerated by DNA evidence.

I found the book to be a very good and detailed account of what happened to this seemingly unknown town. I was first appalled by the inability of Ron's family to get him help. I don't care if he doesn't want to get help, it shouldn't be up to him. He should have been deemed unfit to take care of himself immediately but no one seemed to want to get him permanent help. He is obviously suffering from some sort of disorder that I think everybody just turned a blind eye to. This does not take all of the blame off of Ron, because he obviously caused a lot of unnecessary harm and embarrassment, but not everything was entirely his fault.

The corruption from the Ada police is evident throughout the book.
Detectives Dennis Smith and Gary Rogers manipulated every detail, confession and helped manipulate every piece of evidence to the point where it all landed on Fritz and Williamson. I don't know what drives a man to try and pin a murder on somebody, when it is pretty obvious they did not do it. Proper legal procedure was not used during the interrogation of the suspects nor the witnesses. The OSBI agents were also to blame. Not only did they bullocks the whole thing up by losing evidence, they too manipulated it to where evidence pointed right at Fritz and Williamson. The biggest debauchery in the book has got to be Melvin Hett. He alone probably persuaded the jury to convict Ron and Dennis on absolutely no concrete evidence. Hett, the hair expert, graced everybody in the courtroom with his extensive knowledge, and then told everybody how the hair 'matched'. This opened the eyes of the courtroom and now everybody was convinced who murdered Debbie Carter.

John Grisham does a fantastic job describing just how outrageous the process was to find Debbie's killer. He also makes a very conceited effort to point out certain details that make the whole situation more ridiculous. He points out many a time how Glen Gore, Debbie's real killer and the last person seen with her, was not interviewed until 2 years after the murder, and how his hair samples were just 'lost' twice. I know the town wanted a conviction, but how egotistical must you be to break down a man mentally, make everybody seem like he is crazy enough to do this, and then sentence him to death with the evidence of dream confessions, snitches, and some hair that falls in the same category. A truly inconceivable happening of events that just goes to show how corrupt and unjust some people can be.





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