John Grishams 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 As, 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 habitsdrinking, 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 prosecutions 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.
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. Some old rigs dot the countryside; the active ones churn on, pumping out a few gallons with each slow turn and prompting a passerby to ask if the effort is really worth it. Many have simply given up, and sit motionless amid the fields as corroding reminders of the glory days of gushers and wildcatters and instant fortunes.
There are rigs scattered through the farmland around Ada, an old oil town of sixteen thousand with a college and a county courthouse. The rigs are idle, thoughthe oil is gone. Money is now made in Ada by the hour in factories and feed mills and on pecan farms.
Downtown Ada is a busy place. There are no empty or boarded-up buildings on Main Street. The merchants survive, though much of their business has moved to the edge of town. The cafés are crowded at lunch.
The Pontotoc County ...
Judged against Grisham's fictional works, The Innocent Man compares well, his prose style is tight and fast-paced, the extremely large cast of characters are sketched succinctly and courtroom legalities are explained in a style simple enough for the layman to follow, and we're left in little doubt about who are the good guys and who are the bad .... However, Grisham's black and white approach to the real world which, unlike fiction, is always drawn in shades of gray, is the weakness of The Innocent Man when judged as a work of nonfiction.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (570 words).
The sad tale of Ron Williamson & Dennis Fritz
Ada, Oklahoma local boy Ron Williamson achieved hero status when drafted by baseball's Oakland Athletics in 1971, but within a couple of seasons his baseball dreams had been dashed and he took to drowning his sorrows in alcohol. In 1978, having twice been charged with rape and found not guilty, and having been left by his wife and having been in and out of mental institutions, he returned to Ada to live with his mother, where he became known around town as a drifter. One of his few friends was Dennis Fritz, a high school science teacher, who was raising his 8-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, whose mother had been murdered by a deranged neighbor six years earlier...
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