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The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  45,341 Ratings  ·  3,662 Reviews
John Grisham tackles nonfiction for the first time with The Innocent Man, a true tale about murder and injustice in a small town (that reads like one of his own bestselling novels). The Innocent Man chronicles the story of Ron Williamson, how he was arrested and charged with a crime he did not commit, how his case was (mis)handled and how an innocent man was sent to death ...more
Hardcover, Limited Edition, 368 pages
Published December 5th 2006 by Doubleday (first published October 10th 2006)
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Dec 28, 2007 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The World!
I've enjoyed a few Grisham's in my day, and of course seen a few of the films... But this book is stunning, and it's his first non-fiction.

I myself practice criminal law, and of course if you asked me, I'd say there are bad cops out there, and bad prosecutors, and bad defense attorneys and bad judges, but I would not have imagined the devastating travesty that unfolds on these pages.

This is a story of small town justice going way south. It wasn't vigilante but it wasn't far off. They used the "s
Nov 21, 2008 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I preface this review by saying that John Grisham is one of my favorite authors of all time. Despite that, this was possible the worst book I have ever forced myself to finish. I finished it only because it was a Grisham novel, but it was downright awful. It is my understanding that this was Grisham’s first non-fiction book. It is his research and retelling of a man who is wrongly convicted of murder and put on death row. The book reads like a poorly written legal memo with insane amounts of unn ...more
If you're going to read this, don't stop there. Go online and read Bill Petersen's account as well. It's only fair. And after all, "fair" is what this book is all about, right?http://www.billpetersondistrictattorn...

The Innocent Man alternates between a compelling account of a murder investigation and a tedious account of a man's stupidity/petty criminal activity/insanity.

I had great respect for John Grisham until I read both this book and responses to the book by Ada prosecutor Bill Petersen,
Mar 31, 2009 Nenette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The pull of this story is the fact that it is not fiction. The book was tagged as something every American should read…..but this is not happening only across the USA. It is a very sad fact that applies globally. After I’ve read this, I am left with a couple of thoughts about law enforcement personnel who would go to extreme measures to solve a case even at the expense of prosecuting the non-guilty – can they really be that bad to the core, or are they just so much in a hurry to resolve a case, ...more
Karen & Gerard
This is a very disturbing nonfiction book about our judicial system, a heinous crime and a wasted life. It showed how several innocent men were convicted of murder and that in reality, one is really guilty until proven innocent rather than the other way around. It is a very sad documentary about a talented high school athlete who really ruined his life with drinking, drugs and got framed for murder, and developed mental and physical illness. It's unbelievable how these innocent men spent 12 year ...more

3.5 stars

In this non-fiction book John Grisham tells the shocking and disheartening story of two men who were wrongfully convicted of rape and murder in Oklahoma.

Ron Williamson, born in 1953, grew up in a loving Christian family in Ada, Oklahoma. He was a star on his high school baseball team and played for several professional minor league teams, hoping to make it to the majors. Injuries and health problems shattered these dreams however, and a short unsuccessful marriage added to Ron's woes.
Aug 15, 2008 Bonnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-books
I preferred this (and Time to Kill) because he deviated from his usual "prescriptive" writing.
Jan 20, 2008 Basham! rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't going to put this book here because, well, it's Grisham and I'm just reading it for class. Still, for those unfamiliar with the criminal justice system, who despise public defenders, or take their liberty for granted, this book is a good introduction.

Early in his book, Grisham relates a 1909 incident from the “colorful” history of the small Oklahoma town of Ada (the main setting in the book). It is striking story of vigilante action triggered by the murder of a local farmer. Four men a
You are great Grisham and I love you, but this was probably one of the worst books I have ever forced myself to finish.
Despite that, I want to give this book five stars for the research and relevance.

Nice try for doing a non-fiction novel though! :)
Trevor Poe
Dec 07, 2008 Trevor Poe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who like true stories
Recommended to Trevor by: My mother

Set in the quiet Bible Belt town of Ada, Oklahoma, The Innocent Man is a very well written novel about a man named Ronald Williamson, who was wrongly accused of a murder. Grisham describes the town perfectly when he says, “Had it not been for two notorious murders in the early 1980s, Ada would have gone unnoticed by the world.” In this book, the author, John Grisham, takes you through all of the details of the murder and explains why Ron Williamson was wrongly accused.

Ron Williamson lived in Ad
Sep 12, 2009 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It is obvious from the title of the book whose side the author is on here. And it is hard not to be on the side of the wrongly convicted. I just wish that the author had taken the approach of presenting both sides of the story rather turning it into a soapbox against the wrongdoers - i.e. the Prosecutors, Police and Prison Staff. It would have brought better balance and made the book more respectable in telling this very important story.

In the early '80's in Oklahoma a young woman is raped and m
Jan 05, 2010 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Tedious. Interesting, but nearly boring in tedium.

While Grisham states that he could have written a thousand pages about this story, it really could have been told in about 100. Also, the non-fiction nature of the story compels Grisham to tell the story rather like a reporter, reporting all of the facts in excruciating detail. Many of the details are indeed interesting, but the sheer number of them becomes overwhelming. There is very little dialogue (as one might expect from a non-fiction report
May 27, 2011 booklady rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to booklady by: Joyce Hopper
Originally I wanted to give this book five stars for its readability, research and relevance. My primary reservation was the overall disturbing nature of the book. It's about an horrendous travesty of justice in my own state against two innocent men which explored the all-too common occurance of incarceration and even execution of those who never had anything to do with the crime(s) in question.

Upon doing a little more research, I discovered that the author Mr. Grisham, may not have not done the
Tim The Enchanter
The best Grisham novel in years. As a criminal defense lawyer myself, I am interested in reading of miscarriages of justice. My father in-law on the other hand, is a retired police officer and he simply found the book to be distasteful. In my practice I have found that most people do not believe that people can be wrongfully convicted or that crown attorneys (district attorneys in the us) or police officers may press matters through the system for reasons that are not related to justice. This wo ...more
Una Tiers
A tragic non-fiction story that dragged on.
The Book Disciple (Samantha)
Link to full review below! Good, but struggled to stay focused and got very tangental at times, distracting the reader from the main case of the story. See full review on The Book Disciple
Richard Ward
Feb 12, 2016 Richard Ward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Libertarians like me. Americans who value basic human rights for all.
Novelist John Grisham tries his hand at non-fiction and gives his readers a disturbing tale of government employees ruining lives. The cruel myth of "innocent until proven guilty" is utterly demolished. While the baddest bad guys are all government employees, Grisham shows how the goverment-compliant news media and public share blame. If you're not familiar with the Innocence Project this book will introduce you to those American heroes. The book will make you look again at related issues, such ...more
The Innocent Man begins by describing the rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter, a cocktail waitress living in Ada, Oklahoma. The case went unsolved until 1987, when Ron Williamson and a friend, Dennis Fritz, were arrested and charged with the murder. The prosecution's main witness claimed that the pair had been at the club where Carter worked on the night of her murder. The author proceeds to document a horrible abuse committed by the prosecutors in this trial. It's horrible to read about such a ...more
Eric Althoff
Nov 04, 2009 Eric Althoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one the best books I have EVER read! Like Stephen King, John Grisham is often labeled as a pop hack, but "The Firm" being one of my other favorite books, I will be his first defender, as one writer admiring another who combines his legal expertise with a thoroughly natural and maturely developed narrative voice. Grisham is both expert and storyteller, and he also happens to sell a helluva lot of books (and for good reason).

"The Innocent Man" is the true crime tale of a murder in small-to
Sep 20, 2014 Tûba rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
İnanılmaz bir kitap...Amerikan ve kim bilir hangi diğer ülkelerdeki aslında 'adil' olmayan adalet sistemi üzerine harika bir örnek...
Özellikle de 'adalet','doğru yargılama','önyargısız dava' gibi kavramlardan yoksun,ego manyağı,insanlıktan nasibini almamış savcılarca mahkum edilen pek çok masum hükümlü için iyi bir kaynak diyebilirim.Lütfen okuyun.
Ara vermeyi unutmayın zira benim sinirlerimi bozdu :)

Apr 26, 2014 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
John Grisham, normally known for his best seller legal novels, took a turn at nonfiction when he wrote this story about two young Oklahomans wrongly convicted for murder in the 1980s.

A small town justice system used questionable evidence to try the accussed and incompetent defense counsel were unable to use available evidence to get an innocent vertict. As a result these men spent years in prison and were not freed until DNA evidence was able to proof they were not guilty.

It is too bad law enfor
Howdy YAL
Oct 16, 2014 Howdy YAL rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Somehow, I don't really think this has the unbias-ness I hoped it did after recent comments (unrelated to the book). The sad thing is, now based on the recent comments I've been rethinking all of Grishman's titles (such included: The Innocent Predator: What the NBC Show Is Not True according to Grisham, The Runaway Mouth: When to Shut Up Before Making an Ass of Yourself, A Time to Just Zip It...I could go on but I'm not).

The sad thing this is the sort of book we need. The justice system is not p
Oct 12, 2016 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most disturbing reads one can imagine. John Grisham's only work of non-fiction (and according to him, the only one, took 18 months to complete), set in the small Oklahoma town of Ada. Ron Williamson was the dusty town's favorite son because of his extraordinary baseball talent and recruitment to the big leagues. Unfortunately, the ride did not go as planned so he returned to Ada with many psychological issues which had manifested for many years. The civil injustices to follow are trul ...more
Listened to in audio format.

The Innocent Man was the true story of Ron Williamson who was sent to death row for the rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter.

Ron was a talented baseball player who played professionally until he had to retire due to a shoulder injury. When Ron returned to his home town of Ada he became depressed and started drinking heavily. Debra Sue Carter worked as a barmaid, one morning Debra was found murdered in her apartment, Debra had been savagely beaten and suffocated.

The Ada
Hoa Nguyen
The Innocent Man

In the beginning of the book, Ron Williamson is a popular teenage boy in high school who dreams of becoming a professional baseball story. Ron though life would be easy for him because he was always the top notch. As he went on to adulthood, life was not the way Ron had expected it. He wasted all his money and did drugs. In the middle of the book, a girl is raped and killed and Ron and his friend Dennis Fritz were accused. Even though they didn’t do it, Ron was sentenced to death
Mar 07, 2014 Martha☀ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, own
Ron Williamson's story is a nightmare. When the police of Ada, Oklahoma are stumped by a brutal murder, they resort to fabricating evidence and framing Ron just to ease the pressure of having an unresolved case. The lengths that the police and the prosecution go are astounding - from relying on jail snitch's heresay, the bogus science of hair analysis and submitting dreams as evidence, to waiting for Ron's alibi to die and to exhuming the victim's body in order to change crime scene evidence. Un ...more
Aug 01, 2008 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seems like everyone I know has been reading this nonfiction book by John Grisham about a pair of men unjustly convicted of murder. I don't normally read Grisham , but after hearing about the book from Geralyn, my mom, and others I got curious enough to take a look. It also kind of helped that the plot takes place in parts of my home state of Oklahoma that I've been to or seen: Ada, Tulsa, McAlister State Prison (only seen that one from a distance, never lived there thankfully), Broken Arrow, and ...more
Feb 19, 2008 Tynan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Annette Prall
Dec 03, 2011 Annette Prall rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a gripper. But please, please, please, do not read it without committing to follow it up by reading the rebuttal by the main antagonist as has been suggested by another reviewer:


This book should not be classified as non-fiction. Grisham is an amazing novelist, but apparently failed to do thorough research for this book. Grisham's anti-death penalty agenda is obvious. However, I couldn't help but note the irony that the only reason the two inno
Jason P
Mar 20, 2016 Jason P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I should first say that this was my first John Grisham novel. I should also say that one of the main reasons, if not the reason, I decided on picking this up was that Craig Wasson was the narrator. I know, not a great reason, but who’s asking?

I would love to go into the whole in-depth details, but I can honestly say I can’t without leaving a chunk out. The story of Ron Williamson was a bitter sweet one, a story of an underdog(s) – a man who has made mistakes, but not the one he was tried and co
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the Year i...: The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, by John Grisham 4 12 May 06, 2016 11:20PM  
Cozy Mysteries : innocent people on death row 5 63 May 21, 2014 07:24PM  
Ada, Oklahoma 6 106 May 10, 2013 11:03AM  
A Real Snooze 22 133 Oct 15, 2012 04:32PM  
More Injustice? 9 63 May 26, 2012 11:17AM  
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"Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of
More about John Grisham...

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“No star fades faster than that of a high school athlete.” 3 likes
“A hundred years earlier, in Hopt v. Utah, the Supreme Court ruled that a confession is not admissible if it is obtained by operating on the hopes or fears of the accused, and in doing so deprives him of the freedom of will or self-control necessary to make a voluntary statement. In 1897, the Court, in Bram v. United States, said that a statement must be free and voluntary, not extracted by any sorts of threats or violence or promises, however slight. A” 1 likes
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