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The innocent man : murder and injustice in a small town
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John Grisham's 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 A's, 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 habits--drinking, 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 prosecution's 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.
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Booklist Review
Grisham turns his considerable procedural skills to nonfiction with this examination of a wrongful-conviction case that incarcerated a man on Death Row for 11 years, breaking him in body and spirit. Grisham decided to try his hand at true crime after reading a 2004 New York Times obituary for Ron Williamson, a former Oakland A’s baseball player and Death Row inmate who was one of nearly 200 people exonerated through the efforts of the Innocence Project. Grisham begins with the backstory to the murder of a young cocktail waitress in Ada, Oklahoma, in 1982, moving on to the crime scene and the life of Williamson, who was convicted of the murder. Off to a flying start with the murder itself, the narrative starts to sag with Grisham’s overly long examination of Williamson’s life prior to his arrest. It picks up again with the trial (Grisham’s wheelhouse, of course) and the litany of junk science, jailhouse snitches, and shoddy police work that led to Williamson’s conviction. Unfortunately, the rollercoaster slows once again with Grisham’s lengthy recital of what happened to Williamson in prison and what led to his exoneration. Ironically, the very qualities that make Grisham’s legal thrillers compelling make this nonfiction work often tedious. Painstaking accounts of procedure and delineation of character are better suited to a venue supported by a spine of suspense. Grisham’s plot-driven fiction fans may find themselves more than a little bored by this poorly paced account."--"Fletcher, Connie" Copyright 2007 Booklist
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