Wednesday, October 11, 2006

John Grisham takes on wrongful convictions

Bestselling novelist John Grisham's first non-fiction book, The Innocent Man, tells the story of a wrongful conviction based on mendacious testimony by a jailhouse snitch. The accused was exonerated 11 years later based on DNA evidence. Grisham discussed the book with the Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger:
Grisham's passion about wrongful convictions and the death penalty is no laughing matter to him. In an online note to readers of The Innocent Man, he described the writing of Williamson's story as "a journey."

"The journey also exposed me to the world of wrongful convictions, something that I, even as a former lawyer, had never spent much time thinking about. This is not a problem peculiar to Oklahoma, far from it.

"Wrongful convictions occur every month in every state in this country, and the reasons are all varied and all the same - bad police work, junk science, faulty eyewitness identifications, bad defense lawyers, lazy prosecutors, arrogant prosecutors.

"Murders and rapes are still shocking events and people want justice, and quickly. They, citizens and jurors, trust their authorities to behave properly. When they don't, the result is Ron Williamson ... the obvious question is: 'When will the good guys clean house?' "

Bully for John Grisham - he's taking a professional risk (though perhaps not a great one) by dabbling outside his usual genre, and it sounds like he's developed a real passion on the subject of wrongful convictions. His novels have been so immensely popular, one would expect this book to earn a much wider audience than most books on similar topics.

UPDATE: No sooner did I blog on this than somebody gave me a review copy of this book. I've got a few ahead of it on the list, but I may bump it up a little closer to the top of the stack, just out of curiosity's sake. NUTHER UPDATE: See NPR's coverage of the book's release.

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