Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Excellent Reads: John Grisham's "The Innocent Man: Murder And Injustice In A Small Town

I wrote seventy-five articles throughout my time with my high school's newsletter, twenty-three of them being Caponomics columns. The seventy-five article I wrote then were written within a time period of about four years. I made it to seventy-five on this blog is just a little less than six months (my six month anniversary is on Friday). To celebrate seventy-five posts and National Read A Book Day (I'm currently reading George Orwell's 1984), I will be naming my "Excellent Read" of September 2011.

John Grisham is the most well known author in the law fiction genre from his first book, A Time To Kill, to today. I myself read and enjoyed The Brethren and read another one of his books that didn't have to do with law, called Playing For Pizza. However, he wrote a more emotional read back in 2006 called The Innocent Man: Murder And Injustice In A Small Town. What made it so emotional is that it was a nonfictional piece about Ron Williamson, a baseball player whose career went straight down the toilet, followed by his ethics, and then his entire future soon followed when he was accused of murder.

Ron Williamson was a baseball player who was a star athlete as a high schooler, but his career went downhill in the minor leagues. His career ultimately ended when he began taking drugs and alcohol. However, that was only the beginning of the problems he had to live through. He was framed for the murder of Debra Sue Carter, who was murdered on December 8, 1982. Dennis Fritz, a drinking partner of his, was also accused. Williamson had mental conditions, and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder before this whole situation exploded. This also caused him to be belligerent during court sessions and he was very often removed from the court. Ultimately, in 1988, he was sentenced to death. His time in prison was a living hell and it caused him to age drastically. Eleven years later, he, along with Fritz (who was sentenced to life), were freed from prison due to the DNA evidence showing that neither of them committed the murder. It turned out Glen Gore, who was last seen with Carter, was confirmed to be the one who murdered her. While his death sentence was overturned at first, he was proven guilty on the second attempt and sentenced to life in prison without parole. While Williamson was a free man in 1999, he returned to heavy drinking and died from cirrhosis in 2004 at the age of 51. I would generally not spoil the ending for you, but it was his obituary that convinced Grisham to write this book in the first place. The way that everything is described and how Grisham tells you the story of Williamson's life is incredible in itself.

I read this book back in 2008 and it was just a strong summary on such a tortured life. This is living proof that there are people that are innocent, but proven guilty in the court of law. Once that happens, their time behind bars is a living hell for either the rest of their lives or when they are finally declared innocent. Even though things are resolved and everything is supposed to be back to normal, it isn't. For eleven years, Ron Williamson was deemed a murderer and had to live a life in an aggressive prison system and any day, could be sentenced to death. However, it wasn't just the eleven years, you can count the extra six years in which he was being tried with Dennis Fritz, and even Dennis Fritz was equally innocent. It's the most unfortunate thing to see an innocent person scarred for life for being accused of doing something so extreme. Dennis Fritz came out with his own book, Journey Toward Justice, telling the story of the same event from his perspective.

John Grisham's biography was such a thought-inducing read. If you have read Grisham's law fiction, this book is something you have to check out. I guarantee you that you will be left with a reaction of some kind. For most people like myself, it will be a thought of shock and disturbance. Events like this where people are wrongfully deemed innocent or wrongfully deemed guilty occur everyday. This happens to be an unfortunate event where somebody was wrongfully deemed guilty and had to suffer the consequences. Then when you think about it, anger flows out when you realize that guilty people who are declared innocent get away with engaging in an act that would surely send them to their death or a life behind bars. Many thoughts will flow from your mind, as Grisham's The Innocent Man: Murder And Injustice In A Small Town is such an incredible and poignant biography.

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