Matt's Reviews > The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town

The Innocent Man by John Grisham
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M 50x66
's review
Jul 09, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: grisham-collection

First a disclaimer, i would really rate this as a 4.5 but couldnt give it 5 stars because of its too obvious slant. I understand its an exposé, but I felt it could have been written with a little more balance. It was probably difficult since the "bad guys" didnt really respond to Grisham's interview requests.

Anyhow, this book is an important read for those millions of ignorant American who forget the foundation that our criminal justice system was founded on: innocent until proven guilty.

Given the education of the average police detective (college degree is not required in many departments) and the enormous pressure they are to put as many criminals away for as long as possible its amazing the public can assume a person is guilty simply because they have been arrested. This bias can not be understated because the courts have recognized it and allow defendants to wear suits as opposed to the prison jumpsuits in an effort to prevent that bias.

Understandably the victims want justice as quickly as possible to help heal the wounds and justice should be served, but a conviction based on incomplete and circumstantial evidence is almost as criminal as the crimes they are accused of. Depriving a person of their liberty for more than decade when there is clear reasonable doubt (which happens in this book) violates everything this country is supposed to stand for.

I think the most heinous aspect of wrongful convictions is the noticeable lack of relief for those who have been incarcerated wrongly. The officers, detectives, prosecutors and judges are largely immune to any civil suit that can be brought against them for their gross negligence in the wrongful conviction. There are exceptions and Ron Williamson was lucky to be able to recover damages but his case is very rare. In addition, the governments themselves do not have adequate relief programs in place for those who are freed from prison. These men leave with little skills, are socially underdeveloped and will continue to have to endure the stigma of being convicted of whatever criems they were accused of, regardless of the dismissal of their case. Their lives once out will be almost as difficult as their lives inside prison without help from the same government that so zealously put them away without any due diligence.

All in all, if this remains Grisham's only foray into non-fiction he couldnt have chosen a more important legal issue to explore and reveal to the unknowing public.

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