Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The Innocent Man
I read this John Grisham true-crime story in a couple of days. It was a compelling story, and the author makes you feel for the "innocent man," Ron Williamson, who suffers so much at the hands of police and unscrupulous people in the prison system. Ron Williamson is prosecuted and convicted of murder and assigned the death penalty based on what the book describes as pretty flimsy evidence. He ultimately is exonerated by the efforts of a federal judge's legal team (spurred by a defense attorney's brief), and the Innocence Project spearheaded by Barry Scheck of OJ fame. There is irreparable damage done to the man when he is prosecuted and sentenced to death, and it is a true case of injustice in America. The book tells a one-sided story, though, that doesn't come close to explaining why the Oklahoma system of justice failed to address what Grisham sees as glaring errors in both the prosecution and defense of the case. Sarcastic comments throughout the book show that the author's sympathies extend only to Ron and his family. I get the feeling that Grisham never interviewed the chief prosecutor in the case, and he doesn't really attempt to get inside his head or explore the reasons for the police seizing on Ron Williamson as their chief suspect. He is mostly concerned with telling Ron's story. That story is dramatic and painful, and it gives those who staunchly defend the death penalty as justice some reasons to think again, but I wanted a few more answers about the prosecutors and police, and I think the author could have attempted a little more empathy with them.