Ghost of the Innocent Man Summary and Reviews

Ghost of the Innocent Man

A True Story of Trial and Redemption

by Benjamin Rachlin

Ghost of the Innocent Man by Benjamin Rachlin X
Ghost of the Innocent Man by Benjamin Rachlin

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Book Summary

During the last two decades, more than two thousand American citizens have been wrongfully convicted. Ghost of the Innocent Man brings us one of the most dramatic of those cases and provides the clearest picture yet of the national scourge of wrongful conviction and of the opportunity for meaningful reform.

When the final gavel clapped in a rural southern courtroom in the summer of 1988, Willie J. Grimes, a gentle spirit with no record of violence, was shocked and devastated to be convicted of first-degree rape and sentenced to life imprisonment. Here is the story of this everyman and his extraordinary quarter-century-long journey to freedom, told in breathtaking and sympathetic detail, from the botched evidence and suspect testimony that led to his incarceration to the tireless efforts to prove his innocence and the identity of the true perpetrator. These were spearheaded by his relentless champion, Christine Mumma, a cofounder of North Carolina's Innocence Inquiry Commission. That commission - unprecedented at its inception in 2006 - remains a model organization unlike any other in the country, and one now responsible for a growing number of exonerations.

With meticulous, prismatic research and pulse-quickening prose, Benjamin Rachlin presents one man's tragedy and triumph. The jarring and unsettling truth is that the story of Willie J. Grimes, for all its outrage, dignity, and grace, is not a unique travesty. But through the harrowing and suspenseful account of one life, told from the inside, we experience the full horror of wrongful conviction on a national scale. Ghost of the Innocent Man is both rare and essential, a masterwork of empathy. The book offers a profound reckoning not only with the shortcomings of our criminal justice system but also with its possibilities for redemption.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An absorbing true-crime saga ... His narrative offers a moving evocation of faith under duress." - Publishers Weekly

"A sprawling, powerful, unsettling longitudinal account of an overdue legal movement." - Kirkus

"Ghost of the Innocent Man is nothing less than a masterpiece of investigative reporting and virtuosic writing ... Benjamin Rachlin's book is Greek drama brought into our own times. It will change readers' lives, I think, and inspire them. It's that good." - Richard Ford

"Ghost of the Innocent Man is deeply researched and, more importantly, deeply felt ... Benjamin Rachlin takes us through the justice system in all its immutability and shows us the light we can wield should we so choose." - Jeff Hobbs, author of the New York Times bestseller The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

"Enraging, instructive, and profoundly moving ... With judicious compassion, he narrates the errors, omissions, and societal forces that led to this wrongful conviction, setting it all squarely in the context of a persistent national disgrace, and reminding us of our responsibility to work toward true justice. The effect is remarkable and unforgettable." - Eli Sanders, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of While the City Slept

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Author Information

Benjamin Rachlin

Benjamin Rachlin grew up in New Hampshire. He studied English at Bowdoin College, where he won the Sinkinson Prize, and writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he won Schwartz and Brauer fellowships. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the New York Times Magazine, TIME, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. He lives near Boston. Ghost of the Innocent Man is his first book.

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