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The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  37,512 ratings  ·  3,130 reviews
In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the big leagues, Ron stumbled, his dream broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron's home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence,...more
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Doubleday (first published 2006)
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Best True Crime
22nd out of 438 books — 689 voters
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Community Reviews

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Dec 28, 2007 Daniel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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,...more
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
I preferred this (and Time to Kill) because he deviated from his usual "prescriptive" writing.
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
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...more
May 27, 2011 booklady rated it 3 of 5 stars
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...more
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 2 of 5 stars
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...more
Jason P
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...more
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 :)

Howdy YAL
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
Annette Prall
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...more
Book Concierge
Book on CD read by Craig Wasson

In 1971 Ron Williamson was signed by the Oakland A’s and left Ada, Oklahoma to pursue his dreams of big-league glory. But an injury and bad habits (drinking, drugs and women), ended his career. Back in Ada he began to show signs of mental illness. He moved in with his mother, and slept up to 20 hours a day on the sofa. In 1982 a young woman was raped and murdered, and for five years the police could not solve the crime. For reasons that were never clear they suspec...more
I will preface this with saying that I am/was a closeted John Grisham fan. I read a lot of his books over summer vacations. They are intense thrillers. When I found out (admittedly way after the fact) that he had written a non-fiction book, I was intrigued. The subject matter is right up my alley: innocent men convicted of murder and sentenced to death because of small town incompetence. However, this book was just not written in a grab you by the throat way. It's much more high school journalis...more
Jan 25, 2014 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: true crime fans
Recommended to Judy by: Lisa Trent
This is John Grisham's only true crime book. I found it very compelling. It's the story of two innocent men convicted of murder in a small town in Oklahoma. The details of the miscarriages of justice by the police, the judges, the prosecutor and the defense attorney are too bizarre to imagine, and yet they are absolutely true. One of the men was very much mentally ill when not medicated, and his treatment (and denial of treatment) by the prison system while he was on death row was pitiful. I don...more
Marcio Tomazela
One of the most touching histories based on reality.
Similar to Papillon, this case shows how Justice sometimes slips away and take years to stand the freedom back.
This was an actual event that happened in the 1980's. It was a story about two guys that was convicted and one put on death row for a murder that they never committed. They were coveted on nothing but flimsy witnesses (mainly jail house snitches), corrupt cops, Judges, prosecutors, and bias jury and zero physical evidence on the men trialed for the crime, but yet they spent 12 years in prison for the murder. Why? Because of threats on the part of the cops, the sear fact that the Judge ignored th...more
Steven Peterson
The Innocent Man, by novelist John Grisham, is an important and dispiriting work. At one level, it shows how the American system of justice can, on occasion, malfunction. At another level, it suggests that we ought to have some skepticism about our law enforcement system, since there are certain incentives to actors in the judicial system to twist facts to produce a favored outcome.

This is a book that focuses on a trumped up murder charge being lodged against Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz. Th...more
I think one of the things I missed most about this book was the John Grisham charm. He still added his touches to the story, but you could tell it wasn't his story.

Still, I am shocked and saddened at what happened in this story. Not only the inhumane treatment that Ron suffered at the hands of the guards at McAlester, but just in general that he and Dennis sat in jail and on Death Row for almost twelve years before they were proven innocent. I was outraged everytime I saw Bill Peterson's name,...more
Larry Bassett
Jul 04, 2011 Larry Bassett rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers interested in the death penalty
As the book jacket says, “John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction, an exploration of small-town justice gone terribly awry…” The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham tells the very detailed story of Ron Williamson, a boy in a small Oklahoma town who has dreams of becoming a major league baseball player but instead finds himself on death row for murder. It tells of his growing up, the murder, the trial, the eleven years on death row, the exoneration and the life afte...more
This book is a change from John Grisham's normal books, it is the account of a true event that was lived by the people in a small town in Oklahoma.
The characters in this book were wonderful, interesting, multi-layered and very engaging or very horrible. The fact that these are real people not fictional characters makes them even more interesting.
Two women within a very short time were murdered in this small town, the main goal of the police and D.A. was to find someone to blame not - to solve...more
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
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...more
John Grisham's first nonfiction work was conceived when Grisham read Ron Williamson's obituary in the New York Times. A few phone calls to Williamson's sisters were followed by 18 months of extensive travel and research. This book was difficult to put down, unsettling me in the same way I am disturbed anytime I hear about someone's release from prison due to DNA evidence. It is hard to imagine the agony and suffering of the innocent in being tried, convicted, and punished. I suspect most readers...more
This is John Grisham's first and only non-fiction book. It is about the injustice experienced by Ron Williamson who was wrongly convicted of murder and consequently spent 11 years on Oklahoma's death row before advances in DNA technology proved him innocent. This book highlights the flaws in America's death penalty laws. Grisham meticulously documents the harrowing and deplorable treatment experienced by death row inmates by cruel and sadistic prison guards. This book invoked a lot of anger and...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Cozy Mysteries : innocent people on death row 5 54 May 21, 2014 07:24PM  
Ada, Oklahoma 6 101 May 10, 2013 11:03AM  
A Real Snooze 22 131 Oct 15, 2012 04:32PM  
More Injustice? 9 60 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
More about John Grisham...
A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance, #1) The Firm The Client The Pelican Brief The Runaway Jury

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