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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Innocents abroad
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...
Published on Nov. 27 2006 by Cha-cha lady of Montreal

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Justice Denied
This book cries out for a heartless editor's blue pencil. Mr. Grisham is a wonderful author, but I think he got so frustrated and infuriated by what he saw in the Williamson case that he wrote it as he felt it - not a journalistic attribute for what purports to be a journalistic exercise. Mr. Grisham takes his velvet-wrapped hammer and pounds us on the head with one...
Published on Jan. 30 2007 by David Brennan


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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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4.0 out of 5 stars A Cautionary Tale of Legal Incompetence and Malfeasance, Jan. 19 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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I was trained as a lawyer and am a member of the bar (although I don't take private clients), but I haven't had much contact with criminal law. As a law student, I once assisted in the defense of a mentally handicapped man accused of attempted murder. From that experience, I was struck by how poorly the criminal justice system is designed for handling those who have mental problems. I wrote my J.D. thesis on that subject. This book brought all of those issues back to the front of my mind.

In recent years, many have been astonished to learn that DNA evidence has exonerated large numbers of people who have been convicted of murder and are residing on Death Row in one state or another. The legal theory is that ten should go free rather than one innocent person be misjudged. Clearly, the reality is nothing like that. Although there are many career criminals (that's how they earn their living), those who don't seek to commit crimes daily are often mistaken for those who do. For example, people with various mental problems will "act up" in ways that violate the law. Put them in jail, and they may attack a guard . . . making another law broken. The downward spiral can be pretty fast and dangerous for all involved.

In The Innocent Man, John Grisham has chosen an intriguing subject . . . the life of Ron Williamson, a favored son whose life once spread in potential glory before him as a professional baseball player. Due to chronic mental problems, Mr. Williamson's life began to unravel while he was still an athlete. After his athletic days were over, he often sought solace in alcohol . . . and sometimes drugs. Two women had accused him of rape, but he beat the raps. But when a local woman was murdered not far from his home, the police liked Mr. Williamson for the crime . . . even though he had an alibi from his mother. From there, a frame-up followed . . . for which Mr. Williamson later collected a large sum from the legal authorities. While in the criminal justice system, Mr. Williamson didn't get the treatment for his ills that he needed. As a result, he couldn't help defend himself. His lawyer was blind and seemed to be having a bad week, which made matters worse. Soon, he was convicted based on a faulty "confession" during which he described a dream and misstated descriptions of hair sample "matches." The death penalty was ordered for him. Over the course of many years, he endured inhuman treatment, abuse, and what amounted to torture while his physical and mental states declined.

Thanks to the dedicated work of those who do appeals for Death Row inmates, the conviction was reversed, and he was cleared by DNA evidence on retrial. A parallel story looks at the effects on his family and friends, one of whom was implicated in even flimsier "evidence" and sentenced to life imprisonment (who was also exonerated through the DNA evidence).

So who was the murderer? It was the main accuser who made up the testimony to avoid harassment by the D.A.

So should you read this book? If you think that the criminal justice system works like the show Law and Order on television, you should. Television doesn't capture the reality of what criminal "justice" is all about. There are major problems with how the accused are treated and what happens to those who have been convicted.

Will you enjoy this book like one of Mr. Grisham's thrillers? Probably not. This is a sad, depressing tale. And there's no happy ending. Novels are prettier.

As a nonfiction book, The Innocent Man has some flaws you should be aware of: Mostly, Mr. Grisham tries to tell you too much. For example, you'll read about dozens of instances of mistreatment on Death Row . . . not just enough to give you the idea. The same detail is provided for each aspect of Mr. Williamson's life during his ordeal. At the same time, in places Mr. Grisham tries to tell you with too little information. As a lawyer, he decides he wants you to appreciate the legal wrongs involved. But he doesn't give you enough background to understand what the legal rules are, why they are that way, and why you should care when the rules aren't followed. So you end up knowing more than you ever wanted to know about incompetence issues, but not enough to understand them.

This would have been a better story if it had focused on what it felt like to be Ron Williamson . . . but that wasn't really possible because of his mental problems. So the book's ultimate weakness as writing comes down to having selected the wrong person to write about . . . to some extent. But I'm glad that Mr. Grisham did write about Mr. Williamson. The story should be told, and most people will pick up the subliminal message in the book: This could happen to you!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Described, March 3 2014
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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
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This review is from: The Innocent Man (Paperback)
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. Williamson, Grisham shows the beauty of the American dream: the pursuit of your dreams followed by the efforts in obtaining your goals followed by the inevitable fall from grace and the limited support of an unforgiving society at times keen on the blind eye of injustice. After his departure from Ada, Oklahoma to the major league baseball farm systems of the Oakland A's and the New York Yankees to peruse a potential big-league career, Mr. Williamson eventually returns home due to a career ending injury (a great statement made by Grisham to young athletes pursuing their dreams; get your education). Broken with shattered dreams, Williamson ignites himself by embarking on a world of self-destruction many former athletes are all too familiar with: drugs, booze, unemployment, etc. Soon after, Williamson along with his partying friend, Dennis Fritz, is arrested for the murder of a local waitress and are essentially railroaded with great urgency through the justice system: the local prosecutor and corrupt police officers not interested in finding out the truth. With precision, Grisham shows how a limited investigation by local police and prosecutors interested in furthering their own career by obtaining guilty convictions for both Williamson and Fritz. Williamson is order to be executed and Fritz ordered to spend his life in prison. The prosecutors were able to obtain the convictions despite no credible evidence. This is nothing new to our legal system. It darn well should be, though.

And so it goes in today's American legal system; too many innocent persons being found guilty of crimes they didn't commit and too many individuals are being coerced to take a plea for something they did not do in order to stop the insanity of prosecution . . . especially when the prosecutor's office has an unlimited amount of funding to make the charge, and the typically charged person has limited financial resources to defend themselves. I also want to point out Mr. Grisham rightfully makes it a point that the vast majority of those who work in the legal system are honest men and women trying to make a positive difference in the world. Not all players are self-egomaniacs: but their negligent influence on the system has deformed the very nature of 'blind justice'. Earlier today, and to my surprise and shock, I just read a fascinating story coming out of Chicago about two brothers, Brian Gaughan Jr. and Kevin Gaughan, who were being charged by local law enforcement with minor crimes of trespassing that were eventually turned into assault on a police officer. The facts appear that the two boys were victims of police brutality, as indicated by the fact the arresting police officers resigned from their job. ABC, CBS, and NBC news have all reported that the Gaughan brothers soon after their arrests filed a civil suit against the local Marengo, Illinois police and the State police of Illinois in juxtaposition with their ongoing and two year old legal battle defending their innocence. Once this happened, the State of Illinois police involvement in this small-town case elevated to mind-boggling levels, as both prosecutors from Illinois and the State Police of Illinois began to throw wave after wave of financially crippling motions and actions against the two young boys - and shockingly threatened the stand-up civil servant parents of the two boys: Brian Gaughan, Sr. (a well respected firefighter and local IAFF president working in Cook County, Illinois), and Carolyn Gaughan (a corrections officer working in McHenry County, Illinois) with criminal prosecution of their own unless the large and seemingly rightful lawsuit against the State of Illinois is dropped. In correlation to what Mr. Grisham has clearly written in 'The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town', the Gaughan brothers case and many others like it across this great nation scream out: Where is the accountability of out of control prosecutors and law enforcement officers? What system or controls can be put into effect to better serve those who have been victims of crimes (remembering that if an innocent man is convicted of a crime, then the guilty party is still at large)? What can, if anything, individuals facing tsunami like prosecution do in retrospect to a system set up more like a cattle ranch interested in getting the steer off the land and into a cage than seeking out full justice? Where is the accountability in a system so many individuals in society believe in and why is it that many citizens are freely willing to simply take as final truth what is reported by police or on in the news?

I applaud Mr. Grisham in his aim at the big picture that is the injustices of the American legal system and in taking aim at demonstrating how the system itself is in need of great reform and how without a more checks and balance system in place, there exists an all too much frequency for innocent men and women to be convicted of a crime regardless of their innocence. An interesting point by Grisham and one that I feel must be addressed, is how at times self-serving prosecutors use the financial inability of a criminally charged individual to plea to a conviction of a lesser charge in order to better serve their own prosecutorial record. In many ways, Grisham takes a giant swing at the machine that is the criminal justice system and the multi-billion dollar industry that has been created. Clearly, prosecuting crime in the U.S. has become a big business in this country, as opposed to much more needed efforts geared at rehabilitation and social re-entry. A second issue that Grisham brings out is how the use of DNA has changed the landscape of this country's prosecution of those who have been charged with a crime. With legal advocates such as lawyers Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld bringing out DNA oriented truth vehicles such as 'The Innocent Project', the issue of prosecutors using more purposefully and openly DNA is widely held as an important part of the investigation process for certain crimes.

'The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town' is more than a case study of the faults of the American legal system. This is a story of strength and perseverance. It is a skillfully crafted story written in Grisham's familiar southern style of the nature of the human soul and spirit. It is a story of right v. wrong and good v. evil. Mr. Grisham has outdone himself in this non-fiction story of the wonderment, pain, and most of all the fragileness of human life. An absolute must read . . . a must think . . . and critically, a call for dialogue to make a change for better accountability in the policing system we need to trust. The brotherhood and sisterhood of the men and women who wear a shield are made up of some of the finest individuals and leaders in our society. I am personally most grateful to many and have family members who work in different areas of law enforcement. What John Grisham has pointed out is that the limited actions of individuals not acting on their duty as members of the court can and will continue to jeopardize the legal system in the United States. It is up to both those who work in law enforcement and those who work independently outside of the system, including the press, to point to issues that can change the system for the better. Similar to what George Washington said the night of his first presidential inauguration on the steps of Federal Hall in New York City that `liberty is a great experiment entrusted to the American people', it is clear that the American justice system is a continual experiment continually evolving. It is up to the keen efforts of individuals working within and from outside the system to hold accountable this great experiment called liberty - which the criminal justice system is a part of. In John Grisham's The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town we have an extraordinary book by an extraordinary man who happens to write - and make us think a bit more.
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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 (Georgetown, Guyana) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
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. While he hammers home the issues of negligence, I would have hoped for a little balance, maybe giving a little credit here and there to the "good" officers of Ada who I'm sure continue to keep the peace, day after day, but as it is, it seems biased against law enforcement in general, and the local police in particular.

Grisham skillfully skirts around the rights and wrongs of the death penalty, but certainly makes a point for the need for rehabilitation of the judicial system in cases of mental incapacity, and compensation for wrongful conviction. His leading man starts off life as a talented but extremely spoiled child, and ends it through illness brought about by his own demons, and although his sad story will undoubtedly leave a nasty taste in your mouth after you've turned the last page, you'll be wishing that Grisham would be more like Grissom and cut straight to the chase.

Rated: 5 stars for the story and 2 for the tedious telling, averaging out to 3.5 stars overall.

Amanda Richards
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read, June 10 2014
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Great book about how corrupt some people in law enforcement are. Too bad they weren't the ones put in jail sentenced to die!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Justice Denied, Jan. 30 2007
By 
David Brennan (Brampton, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book cries out for a heartless editor's blue pencil. Mr. Grisham is a wonderful author, but I think he got so frustrated and infuriated by what he saw in the Williamson case that he wrote it as he felt it - not a journalistic attribute for what purports to be a journalistic exercise. Mr. Grisham takes his velvet-wrapped hammer and pounds us on the head with one example after another of legal boondogglery, skulduggery and plain old railroading - the point was very clear after 50 pages, but he felt we needed more. I have some questions, though, concerniing the prosecution in the trials Mr. Grisham wrote about. The DA is still in office in Ada, OK, in spite of what amounts to repeated and outright acts of deception before the court - how come? Why were the police officers involved not charged with perjury? Why were some of those witnesses not charged with perjury? Why are the first two judges in the case still allowed to practice after such obvious and prejudiced conduct of the trial - e.g. allowing the former police chief to sit on the jury???? How can there be justice with no truth? And how could the citizens of Ada allow themselves to be so badly duped? Terrible story, told well if a little too heavily.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A story that needs to be told, Jan. 28 2008
By 
Dan C. Hull (Ontario) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I'm currently reading The Innocent Man, about two thirds done, loving every page and feel compelled to comment. It's amusing at times, but more so frustrating and upsetting to see how the main character was treated by the police, the judges, lawyers and jury. Yes I agree the book is a little slanted against the police, but it has every right to be. Ron Williamson had his problems, but no one deserved to be treated as he was, and I commend John Grisham for shedding light on his story. Great book.
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The Innocent Man
The Innocent Man by John Grisham (Mass Market Paperback - Nov. 20 2007)
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