REVIEW: "The Innocent Man", John Grisham
- BKINCTMN.RVW 20080715
"The Innocent Man", John Grisham, 2006, 0-385-51723-8, U$28.95/C$35.95
%A John Grisham www.jgrisham.com
%C 666 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10103
%I Bantam Books/Doubleday/Dell
%O U$28.95/C$35.95 800-323-9872 www.bdd.com www.doubleday.com
%O Audience n+ Tech 2 Writing 3 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P 360 p.
%T "The Innocent Man: murder and injustice in a small town"
In seminars dealing with forensics and investigation, I stress to my
students that it is important to be scrupulous, unprejudiced, and
honest in your investigation. This is not only to give the suspect a
"fair chance," but also because when you become fixated on proving the
guilt of an individual, you may fail to determine the identity of the
person who actually committed the crime.
"The Innocent Man" is the story of the improper conviction of Ron
Williamson for murder, as well as the interrelated stories of other
improper convictions around the same time and place.
John Grisham's popular novels have demonstrated his ability to write.
They have also established his knowledge of the law and competence in
research. This, the author's first non-fiction text, puts that
expertise to good work. The ground is covered thoroughly, noting
limitations on the part of all involved. Grisham is, in fact, very
careful to be fair, and avoids imputations of motive (which is rather
at odds with the descriptions of motivation he must make in his
fictional works). United States case law in regard to investigations,
confessions, and aspects of forensic evidence and presentation is
introduced carefully at every point.
There are, of course, a great many books written about specific crimes
and their outcomes. A number have been written about wrongful
convictions. However, "The Innocent Man" is particularly relevant to
those interested in the management of investigations, especially where
forensic, rather than direct, evidence plays a major part in the case.
In one sense, it is an excellent primer on how not to conduct an
The justice system is created and staffed by people, and people make
mistakes. This is why structures have been created to catch possible
errors. The adversarial system itself, and various appeals processes,
is intended to act as audits, checks, and balances for the system. It
is, therefore, critical to note one other disturbing point that arises
from the events in the book. There are numerous layers of appeals,
but a consistency of personnel and direction between the various
offices. As any student of internal controls knows, weak separation
of duties creates the possibility of all kinds of problems.
This book is entertaining, readable, distressing, and important.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2008 BKINCTMN.RVW 20080715
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