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The Innocent Man (Limited Edition): Murder and Injustice in a Small Town [Hardcover]

John Grisham
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 5 2006

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.

From the Hardcover edition.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Grisham's first work of nonfiction focuses on the tragedy of Ron Williamson, a baseball hero from a small town in Oklahoma who winds up a dissolute, mentally unstable Major League washout railroaded onto death row for a hometown rape and murder he did not commit. Judging by this author-approved abridgment, Grisham has chosen to present Williamson's painful story (and that of his equally innocent "co-conspirator," Dennis Fritz) as straightforward journalism, eschewing the more familiar "nonfiction novel" approach with its reconstructed dialogues and other adjustments for dramatic purpose. This has resulted in a book that, while it includes such intriguing elements as murder, rape, detection and judicial injustice, consists primarily of objective reportage, albeit shaded by the now-proven fact of Williamson's innocence. The absence of dialogue or character point of view could make for a rather bland audio. Boutsikaris avoids that by reverting to what might be called old-fashioned round-the-campfire storytelling, treating the lengthy exposition to vocal interpretations, subtle and substantial. He narrates the events leading up to the 1982 rape and murder of a young cocktail waitress with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity, moving on to astonishment at the prosecution's use of deceit and false testimony to convict Williamson and Fritz and, eventually, elation at the exoneration of the two innocent men. Throughout, he maintains an appealing conversational tone, an effect made all the more remarkable by the book's nearly total absence of conversation.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A gritty, harrowing, true-crime story.” —Time

“A triumph.” —Seattle Times

“Grisham has crafted a legal thriller every bit as suspenseful and fast-paced as his best-selling fiction.” —Boston Globe

From the Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Innocents abroad Nov. 27 2006
Normally one to stick with a current craze or bestseller such as "The Time Traveler's Wife," or McCrae's "Katzenjammer" I instead opted for Grisham's latest. This was a nice change of pace. Summoning upon his past successes, Grisham crafts a part thriller, part atmospheric literary classic, and part law firm book, throwing in some baseball and a host of believable and interesting characters. The end result is a fantastic read that I could recommend for those of all ages.

This is Grisham's first non fiction book, and I really didn't know what to expect. It is a true story, based on Ron Williamson's experiences, and it exposes the underbelly of crime, corruption, and police antics. In some ways a muckracking novel, the way Sinclair Lewis's books are.

Also recommended MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Described March 3 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kept their promise and very timely-will do business with you again It is nice that no misrepresentation or surprises were in store
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cause for concern Dec 4 2012
By SnowPharoah TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Grisham's talent for writing legal thrillers serves the purpose of detailing the true story of Ron Williamson, a man wrongly accused for the death of a young woman in Ada, Oklahoma. This incredible story hinges on terrible police work, an incredibly blind-sighted (if not wrongly intended) prosecution, the repeated mistakes of a legal system that often seems to simply go through motions when it should be questioning itself, some integrity and the scientific and legal revelation that was DNA analysis. A harrowing story that will keep you turning pages well into the night.

Grisham mentions in several interviews that this was perhaps one of the more difficult books he has written simply because he needed to work much harder to check facts and verify information. As it deals with fairly recent events, the book has attracted quite a bit of media attention and the response of several prominent actors, namely the Ada District Attorney who has launched a self-published website to respond to some of the insinuations that are made about him and it is indeed plausible that in spite of Grisham's work, some of the information is presented in slanted ways. Nevertheless, I found myself puzzled and troubled by the potential errors of the legal system: How can the system get so wrapped up in itself to allow individuals who cannot be guilty to be sentenced to death? The book details some of the rubber stamping that goes on in the courts by the different courts and attorneys who refuse to question judgements made at other levels and makes the system look like a great monster that one is powerless to address properly. After reading this Grisham, you don't want to be falsely accused, you are grateful for DNA analysis, and you wonder how it too can be wrongly or poorly misused.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and Remarkable. Grisham's Best Yet! Oct. 4 2006
John Grisham has demonstrated once again why he is one of the greatest writers of our time in his courageous study of the American Legal System in this thrilling yet disturbing expose' titled 'The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town'. With great insight and a sharp direction to the blindness of injustice, Grisham portrays not just the life of two innocent men, Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, both convicted of a crime they were not guilty of, but more importantly, the author demonstrates how our criminal justice system, though considered by many to be the best in the world, is filled with great fault and injustice due to the fact that the very same system we trust is at times run and operated by individuals who are not concerned with the truth but with self promoting record keeping . . . for some law enforcement - getting the arrest . . . for some prosecutors - getting a conviction. In directing his overall efforts at the discrepancy and faults of the U.S. criminal justice system, author Grisham is very clever in picking the heartbreaking stories of Mr. Williamson and Mr. Fritz since the small town politics and "cowboying" of law enforcement that unfortunately occurs from time to time is not immune to larger populated cities. Ada, Oklahoma, the town where Mr. Williamson and Mr. Fritz were tried allowed the author to put the local system under a careful microscope . . . and just like politics being local with a grander scheme, so too is this country's legal system.

In raising the benchmark by citing the horrendous case of former baseball star-in-waiting, Mr.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another great Grisham novel Oct. 22 2006
I wouldn't go as far as saying this is Grisham's best novel, but it is certainly one of his best. A very taut and gripping thriller that will keep you guessing from the start to the finish. A great read that I highly recommend. Also recommended is David DeMello's Dead Scare and James Patterson's Along Came a Spider.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We get the point Oct. 29 2006
By Amanda Richards HALL OF FAME TOP 1000 REVIEWER
As I eagerly began reading Grisham's first non-fiction book, I recall saying to myself that he should write more of the same. The true story of Ron Williamson clearly needed to be told, if only to expose some of the "behind the scenes" and "under the table" actions of the police investigators, prosecutors, trial lawyers and prison system that process our suspected and convicted criminals and maintain law and order.

The book reveals real-life examples of guilt by association, conviction by circumstantial evidence, the ease with which corroborating witnesses can be obtained, the unreliability of certain types of forensic evidence (regardless of what Grissom does on CSI), and how innocent men (and women) sometimes find themselves languishing on death row (or are even executed) due to shoddy practices by those who are supposed to presume them innocent. It also offers insights into the disease of mental illness, and goes into depth about what happens if the illness is not diagnosed and the person given the correct treatment.

Grisham indicates that he could have written five hundred pages on this case, and though he certainly caught my interest, I'm thanking my lucky stars that he resisted the urge. The writers on CSI or Cold Case could easily wrap this story in an hour with commercial breaks, but not Mr. Grisham. He rambles on and on, repeating the same testimony and crazy behavior of Williamson, the endless sacrifice of his family, and stressing over and over the ineffectiveness and ineptitude of the police investigation.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Great book about how corrupt some people in law enforcement are. Too bad they weren't the ones put in jail sentenced to die!
Published 3 months ago by MMS
2.0 out of 5 stars The innocent man
The story was interesting , although it dragged out often
Making it difficult to stay focused on the story line
Published 6 months ago by Wesley
5.0 out of 5 stars alex cross
great book with a great ending was glued to it every day any time I had a chance alex cross is a great series
Published 19 months ago by gerald Hillis
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a true story you need to know about!
There are many, many arguments on both sides of the capital punishment issue. But perhaps one of the most powerful arguments against the use of capital punishment is that, every... Read more
Published on July 26 2009 by Paul Weiss
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poignant and Compelling Story!
What would you do if you were suspected by the police of the rape and murder of a young woman? Whom would you turn to if you were convicted of a crime based on circumstantial... Read more
Published on May 9 2008 by Cheryl Tardif
3.0 out of 5 stars too much for a book
Well, this story we all agree is terrible, a young man who had a single dream, failed to achieve it, and collapsed and found himself in the center of a crime he didn't commit, in a... Read more
Published on April 27 2008 by Kaes Ali
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Horror Story
Forget Chucky or A Nightmare on Elm Street. This is a true horror story. It is amazing how the police and legal system in Ada, OK screwed up and then persecuted innocent men. Read more
Published on March 14 2008 by David W. Wildeboer
4.0 out of 5 stars A story that needs to be told
I'm currently reading The Innocent Man, about two thirds done, loving every page and feel compelled to comment. Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2008 by Dan C. Hull
5.0 out of 5 stars It's not about who did it, it's about who didn't do it
I feel obligated to review this book and let John Grisham fans know that this book was a great read. Yes, you know who the real killer is very quickly. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2008 by J. A. Broad
3.0 out of 5 stars Innocent Man by John Grisham
As I read the book it was easy to know who was the real murderer very early in the book. Although this was given away at the beginning of the book I continued to read as I was very... Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2008 by Harleyrider
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