Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Innocent Man by John Grisham



Audio books are a great way to pass the time while driving.

On our recent trip to Nashville, Julie and I listened to John Grisham's latest, yet first book of non-fiction titled The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.

This true story with actual names (except for the names of the murder victims) is hard to hear. Not so much because of the ghastly murder, but because of the fumbling, bumbling of the (in)justice system in the small Oklahoma town of Ada.

Two innocent men, Ron Keith Williamson and Dennis Fritz, are sent to prison, one to death row and one for life, based on incompetent defense, arrogant refuse-to-admit-you're-wrong prosecution, what Grisham calls "junk science," and the testimony of jail-house snitches who are out to save their own hide.

What's serendipitous for Julie and me is that while in seminary, I was assigned to plant a church in this very same Ada, Oklahoma, and for a year Julie and I travelled up there from Dallas each weekend. We know something of the town. To read such a horrendous story about a small town we spent time in was amazing, even a little unsettling to us.

What happens when the justice system is driven by pride, arrogance, fear, desire to be "right" against plain evidence or no evidence, and some of the police are hiding their own crimes? What happens when winning the case is more important than telling the truth? It is a gut-wrenching story. The details are hard and the language is rough. Things are "not the way they ought to be."

I applaud Grisham, a professing Christian, for making this story known. He spent 18 months researching the factual details of the story, particularly Ron Williamson's case. According to Grisham, innocent people are being sent to jail and prison every week in this country.

Even though reading or listening to the unabridged story is hard, hang in to the end. There are hardworking, truth-telling people in the system, too.

14 Comments:

At 12/02/2006 1:43 AM, Anonymous Karen said...

And how daring of Grisham to branch into non-fiction, and work out of his formulic style of bestsellers. Beeb through Ada myself.

 
At 12/02/2006 3:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John,

Yeah. I need to read or listen to this. Thanks.

 
At 12/02/2006 6:45 AM, Anonymous Clay Knick said...

It was a good read too. Hard to
put down.

 
At 12/02/2006 10:11 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Clay,
I did read Grisham's comments at the end of the book about his research and the continuing lives of the people involved. That part of the book was also on the audio version.

 
At 12/16/2006 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grisham's book was Great and I suggest reading the companion book by Dennis Fritz Called Journey Toward Justice
Here is something I wrote:
Journey Toward Justice By Dennis Fritz Publisher Seven Locks Press 2006 The book Journey Toward Justice by Dennis Fritz is a memoir and John Grisham calls Compelling and Fascinating. Dennis Fritz is the real character in John's Grisham's Book The Innocent Man. The Innocent Man mostly is about his codefendant Ronnie Williamson who was sentenced to death. Dennis Fritz who was sentenced to life behind bars and Ronnie Williamson were exonerated in 1999 after 12 desperate and tortuous years in prison, Ronnie Williamson passed away a few years later.. Thanks to The Innocence Project and Barry Scheck who were helpful in getting DNA testing needed that proved Fritz was innocent after serving 12 years in prison.. Dennis Fritz does not want only to be known as the man who was wrongly imprisoned for a murder with NO evidence against him. There is much more to his story never told before in his book. He says he witnessed miracles and actually heard God's voice telling him "TRUST ME". He solely relied on faith in God to make it through. This Book will make you think, This can happen to anyone of us. A Great book showing what Faith, Love and Hope can do. Miracles.

 
At 1/22/2007 5:48 AM, Blogger Barbara's Journey Toward Justice said...

I heard so much about this book. May I suggest putting it on your reading list. Here is something I read about it:. .Who And Where Is Dennis Fritz, You may say after reading John Grisham's Wonderful Book "The Innocent man", Grisham's First non-fiction book. The Other Innocent Man hardly Dennis Fritz wrote his Book Published by Seven Locks Press, to bring awareness about False Convictions, and The Death Penalty. "Journey Toward Justice" is a testimony to the Triumph of the Human Spirit and is a Stunning and Shocking Memoir. Dennis Fritz was wrongfully convicted of murder after a swift trail. The only thing that saved him from the Death Penalty was a lone vote from a juror. "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham is all about Ronnie Williamson, Dennis Fritz's was his co-defendant. Ronnie Williamson was sentenced to the Death Penalty. Both were exonerated after spending 12 years in prison. Both Freed by a simple DNA test, The real killer was one of the Prosecution's Key Witness. John Grisham's "The Innocent Man" tells half the story. Dennis Fritz's Story needs to be heard. Read about how he wrote hundreds of letters and appellate briefs in his own defense and immersed himself in an intense study of law. He was a school teacher and a ordinary man from Ada Oklahoma, whose wife was brutally murdered in 1975. On May 8, 1987 while raising his young daughter alone, he was put under arrest and on his way to jail on charges of rape and murder. Since then, it has been a long hard road filled with twist and turns. Dennis Fritz is now on his "Journey Toward Justice". He never blamed the Lord and soley relied on his faith in God to make it through. He waited for God's time and never gave up.

 
At 3/07/2007 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to read another view of Grisham' book An Innoncent Man that you all praise. You can find out about the truth at www.billpetersondistrictattorney.com--it is an eye opener. Dean

 
At 4/24/2007 2:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ho quasi terminato la lettura, fatta quasi tutta d'un fiato, di questo nuovo best seller di John. La sensazione più frequente, mentre scorrevano le parole e le pagine, il dispiacere, la sofferenza interiore e fisica, il disgusto per aver permesso alle persone di "giocare" con la vita di altri esseri umani, la pietà per coloro che non hanno saputo capire e tendere la mano verso chi era nel bisogno estremo.Grazie a John.
Francesca, Italy

 
At 6/12/2007 10:09 PM, Blogger JimS said...

John Frye--I just finished listening to The Innocent Man tonight and found it quite unnerving. I popped Ronnie's name into google and up came your name. I was ordained into ECCA in 1975. A lot of water under bridge since then. Love to hear from you. JimS at jcpdk@bellsouth.net

 
At 6/22/2007 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I read your comment about the book "The Innocent Man" I want to thank you with all my heart. I too know some of what goes on in the legal system. I didn't say all of it, I'm sure it would scare me to death because I have to live in this town. You are right about the police hiding their own crimes. they hang the ones that get caught for what they do them selves. This town needs a total cleaning beginning with police dept.Head on over to DA's office or which ever comes first.
That office still uses jail house snithes, to try to get a conviction.They will go as far to set you up and take the snitches testimony as good. This book has hit the hard truth. I hope that someday these people will answer to the injustice that they are doing (and knowing they are wrong) I would leave my name but to scared to. Thank You

 
At 10/31/2007 1:42 AM, Blogger ayten said...

masum adam kitabını bugün bitirdim. gerçekten etkileyici bir yapıt.dünyada böyle adaletsizliklerin olması ne kadar acı olsada malesef yaşnabilmekte. temennimiz gelecektede suçsuz insanların zarar görmemesidir. dennis fritze sewgiler :):)

 
At 3/05/2008 3:18 AM, Anonymous John Brown said...

Having just finished reading "The Innocent Man", which I found compelling, I was left with a sense of disbelief at the seemingly incompetent and corrupt local law enforcement and legal system. I was surprised that nobody seemed to have lost their job and that District Attorney Bill Peterson still held that position today.
My interest piqued I sought out more information about the case and found a website set up by Mr Peterson addressing John Grishams book. His section on “Exposing The Truth” is a must read for those who wish to be able to take a balanced view of the investigation and prosecution of Ron Williams and Dennis Fritz. He is clearly bitter towards Grisham, and I don't accept several of his ascertains and their significance, but I do think he makes some very valid points regarding “The Innocent Man” and how the facts are spun for dramatic effect. The bottom line is that 2 men were undoubtedly wrongly convicted so there had to be problems with the system, but while John Grisham would leave you with ideas of incompetence, corruption and a vendetta against the 2 defendants, I now believe this to be far from reality.
The Innocent Man puts the Ada law enforcement and legal system itself on trial and puts the case for the prosecution; it’s only fair that you should also hear the case for the defence before making up your mind.
http://www.billpetersondistrictattorney.com/

 
At 4/21/2009 5:04 AM, Blogger xtna said...

hei there:) i'm also JG's fan!!! he's so amazing author!!! i would like to ask if you have the book "The innocent man"? I have the bulgarian translation (coz i'm from bulgaria). i need the first chapter of the book, but the original english version...If you can scan it for me and send me it will be great! dont be shy to write or search me, thanks :))
iamhristina@abv.bg

 
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