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Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  510 ratings  ·  103 reviews
"A crisply written page turner."-NPR

During the last two decades, more than two thousand American citizens have been wrongfully convicted. Ghost of the Innocent Man brings us one of the most dramatic of those cases and provides the clearest picture yet of the national scourge of wrongful conviction and of the opportunity for meaningful reform.

When the final gavel clapped i
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published August 15th 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
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4.36  · 
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 ·  510 ratings  ·  103 reviews

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Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption by Benjamin Rachlin is a 2017 Little, Brown and Co. Publication.

"Our dangers do not lie in too little tenderness to the accused. Our procedure has been always haunted by the ghost of the Innocent man convicted. It is an unreal dream.”

This is an astounding nonfiction accounting of a Willie J. Grimes’ wrongful conviction in 1988, the beginning of ‘The Innocence Project’, and the long, hard fought battle to free an innocent man of a
♥ Sandi ❣
3.75 stars

This non-fiction book deals with the bad conviction of Willie "Woot" Grimes in 1988 for the rape of an elderly white woman in North Carolina. Grimes, a black man, had plenty of alibis for the time frame of the crime, but the prosecution chose to go on the ever changing eye witness testimony of the victim, who was also unable to recognize the alleged perpetrator's picture. Willie was incarcerated from 1988 until his release in 2012 for a crime he did not commit.

DNA was not available i
Martha Toll
Here is my review of this book on NPR.
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Library Biography #23 (My library shelves this as a biography but I wouldn't put it in that category)

This book is really a two-for-one. Rachlin tells the story of Willie Grimes, alternating chapters describe Chris Mumma's inception and formation of North Carolina's Innocence Inquiry Commission. At first, I did not like the alternating chapters, because neither story had anything to do with the other. As the book progresses, the reader is able to see how both stories intertwine and then become on
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is not often I read a book that is so moving that I am fighting tears throughout. It is hard to believe that the book is not fiction, as it is heart-breaking reading about all that Willie Grimes endured. Would highly recommend this book.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The case of Willie Grimes is shocking, how he was ever convicted in the first place is beyond me! This book opens with the horrendous crime and quickly after follows the arrest of Grimes – I was gripped from the very first page! The treatment of Grimes in his arrest was appalling, the trial itself, and the evidence presented (and not presented) was shocking, to the point where it’s hard to believe this is a true story. With no legal training, you can see from a mile off, this was a miscarriage o ...more
David Quinn
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll be surprised if this book doesn't make it to the big screen some day because it has award-winning-Hollywood-movie written all over it.

I've read a fair share of true crime stories revolving around problems with the criminal justice system and this book holds up very well with the rest; each book I've read seems to highlight a different issue. Here the story is mainly about weaknesses in the system itself and how they were exacerbated by laziness (possibly greed) and system rigidity. (An exce
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Injustices with a quiet giant, Willie J Grimes.
Unsettling on its revelations, informative on the history of injustices.
Will Grimes will stay with the reader for some time for his patience against the injustice.
This work will have you ruminate on the ones that have been sentenced to death innocents unjustly lost.
They may be some respite in knowing Grimes was one of the lucky ones that was freed eventually.
The life to and fro from prison to prison, the inadequate representations and care, and lack
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What I wish I had selected as my book club pick.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book shares a lot of elements with other stories of exoneration. Willie Grimes was abused by our justice system the way so many others have been. It really does make me wonder what if anything can be done to put more safe-guards in place to protect citizens. It is tragic.

It took me a long time to connect with this book. So much fact finding but so little outrage. Finally the lawyers that assisted in Grimes's exoneration displayed the outrage I was feeling and I was able to connect.

Maggie Holmes
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Edelweiss, I read this as a pre-pub. I have always been interested in the justice system and was fascinated by Picking Cotton and Grisham's Innocent Man. Legally, innocence is not enough to overturn a jury conviction. What kind of sense does that make?
What makes this book different from the other two books is that it tells the story of the development of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission along side the story of Willie Grimes. Willie's story is sad but with a good ending.
Catherine Read
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a remarkable book. The entire gripping story is gleaned from 25 years worth of notes, transcripts, forms, files, interviews and testimony. No one's name has been changed because it's all a matter of public record. If transparency is what you want, then this style of non-fiction investigative journalism will deliver that on every page.

The book starts off telling two stories: The conviction of Willie James Grimes in 1989 for a rape in Hickory, NC; and the formation of North Carolina's Innocen
John Wood
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
By telling the story of Willie Grimes, mistakenly imprisoned for a rape he didn't commit, this book illustrates the rampant problem of innocent people incarcerated in error. The groundbreaking North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission (NCIIC) has also freed countless innocent prisoners since, as have similar groups in other states. This book illuminates the problem and the devastating consequences. Each case not only ruins the lives of the wrongfully convicted but allows the guilty to remain f ...more
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this. I expected it to go through the facts of Willie Grimes' imprisoned life and the case to free him. This book does that and more. The book alternates between the life of Willie Grimes and the story of the formation of the Center on Actual Innocence. The level of detail on meetings of the center was fascinating. I loved that part of the story.
As for the story of Willie Grimes, you get a deep sense of the life of a long term prisoner: moving between prisons, caseworkers, medi
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the story of the Innocence Inquiry Commission in North Carolina and the case of Willie Grimes who was imprisoned for 25 years for a rape that he did not commit. He was not allowed to attend the SOAR classes for sex offenders because he would never admit to a crime that he was innocent of. He is finally free. This book shows how an innocent man was convicted on the flimsiest of evidence and on no investigation of the crime.

Highly recommended.
Chris Cole
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It was extremely educational - our criminal justice system has some serious issues. Might be the best in the world, but that doesn’t make it perfect by a long stretch.

Reading about Willie Grimes broke my heart. I found myself wishing I’d volunteered for the Innocence Project in law school. There are WAY too many Willie Grimeses out there.

Great read if you’re interested in criminal justice, wrongful conviction, perseverance or the human condition.
This book is the dual story of the creation of North Carolina's Innocence Inquiry Commission, the first state agency of its kind, and that of Willie Grimes, one of the wrongfully convicted people the commission freed. Reading this made me anxious even though I knew the outcome. It is appalling how long Mr. Grimes spent in prison and I am amazed by how he handled this wrong against him. It made me proud of North Carolina for establishing this commission, which was established in 2006 and has resu ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When the book started, I was not impressed. The story felt fractured with too many characters. Once I got into the story and figured out the main players, I could not but the book down. I was not familiar with this story, so the details of it were so tragic to me. Looking forward to more books by this author
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is by far the most interesting book I've read (well, technically, I listened to it) on the subject of wrongful convictions. I would highly recommend it!
Kathleen Kline
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Amazing story. Unbelievable. Didn't realize the statistics of how many innocent people have been convicted. But a story of hope of how things can be corrected and changed.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book deserves 10 stars. Heavy but worth it.
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Riveting read about a man who was wrongly convicted for a crime, his time in prison, and how his innocence was finally proven.
Lynn Huntington
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely one of the best books I have read this year. It is the story of Willie Grimes who was wrongly convicted and incarcerated for twenty four years. His story alone is amazing. But the book also covers advances in investigative techniques and most importantly, the creation of North Carolina's unique Innocence Inquiry Commission. Christine Mumma is the unsung heroine of this story. Highly recommend.
A great read about the perseverance of one man, his family and a program called “NCIIC” to get a wrongful conviction overturned. I won a free copy of this book from LitHub. Thanks, truly enjoyed.
Deborah  Cleaves
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It doesn’t take much for a life to go to hell. When folks are overwhelmed and don’t do their jobs as they ought, in some professions, people pay for their lethargy with their lives.
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
GHOST OF THE INNOCENT MAN, basically reportage, in not the kind of thing I generally read. Which is paradoxically a big part of the reason I bought and read it. Something of an impulse buy. It certainly helped that the hardcover has a gushing blurb from Richard Ford on the back (evidently Rachlin studied under Ford). I have often said that I think documentary films that are primarily informational in nature would have their stories better served by books. GHOST OF THE INNOCENT MAN is precisely t ...more
Katie Bee
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-books-read
I think this book did a really good job of not only telling the story of the horrible miscarriage of justice in Grimes's particular case, but also highlighting how he is one of the very few who saw that miscarriage rectified, and that there are surely so, so many more wrongfully convicted yet to find justice. The fact that at the time of writing North Carolina's Innocence Commission had not been copied by other states is so galling! There should be a similar system in every state in the country. ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a horror story that could happen to anyone.

And it did. To blacks and whites, professionals and laborers, men and women.

No-one seems to be safe from a justice system that obstructs justice without consequence, rushes convictions without proper investigation, destroys evidence, fails to provide information to defense attorneys and is probably overburdened and underfinanced.

There are heroes in this story, from Willie himself who refused parole or release under the condition of confessing to
Chris Demer
In 1988 Willie Grimes was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison in North Carolina.

After 24 years in prison he was exonerated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, initiated by Chris Mumma in 2006.

Willie was innocent of the crime and was convicted on very flimsy evidence. The elderly white victim identified him as the attacker, although she was shown two different photo arrays, one of which showed the actual rapist and another which showed Willie Grimes in the same posit
In 1987, Willie Grimes was arrested for the violent rape of an elderly woman. Like other people arrested, Grimes protested his innocence, unlike others, he actually was innocent. Convicted by a jury in 1987 on nothing but eyewitness identification, Grimes would spend the next 24 years of his life in prison fighting to get his conviction overturned. This is the story of his fight and how a group of lawyers fought to establish a state agency to investigate claims of post-conviction innocence.

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Benjamin Rachlin grew up in New Hampshire. He studied English at Bowdoin College, where he won the Sinkinson Prize, and writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he won Schwartz and Brauer fellowships. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The New York Times Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, TIME, Orion, Pacific Standard, LitHub, and Five Dials. He lives near Boston.