The Innocent Man, by John Grisham

Second paragraph of third chapter:

After graduating from Asher, they went their separate ways and lost touch. Bruce played baseball for two years at a junior college, then quit when his knees finally gave out. Ron’s career had not fared much better. Each had notched one divorce; neither knew the other had been married. Neither was surprised to learn that the other had continued a fondness for the nightlife.

I had thought this was one of Grisham’s famously tightly paced thrillers (of which I have read, I think, precisely one), and was surprised therefore to find that it is a true story – the account of the wrongful convictions for rape and murder of two Oklahoma men, and the fight to prove their innocence.

To be honest, for anyone who’s paid much attention to the operations of the United States’ legal system, there much to be shocked about here but sadly little to be surprised about. Public pressure is for conviction of convenient suspects rather than for justice. Small town courts are very under-resourced, particularly for defendants without means to pay for their own counsel. Rules were repeatedly broken by many people who were supposedly paid to enforce them. One of the unjustly sentenced defendants came within days of execution. Both served eleven years for a crime that they did not commit. Williamson, broken in mind and body by the trial and the long time he spent in solitary confinement waiting to die, lived only another few years after his release. Of course, no compensation was paid.

Grisham is making the point to white readers that this could happen to them too, or to their friends or relatives. Black readers will hardly need to be told.

It’s a grim story, and at least it has been told.

This reached the top of two piles simultaneously – the most popular book on the unread shelves that I acquired in 2016, and (as I thought, but incorrectly) the most popular non-genre fiction book on the unread shelves, when in fact it was non-fiction. (NB that I made the reverse error with The Parrot’s Theorem.) The next book in each of those piles respectively are Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women.

One thought on “The Innocent Man, by John Grisham

  1. We’ve eaten breakfast at Tom’s. We stayed with friends living in an apartment opposite it. I think I had the eggs sunny side up.

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