The Innocent Man Essay

3380 Words Nov 8th, 2012 14 Pages
THE INNOCENT MAN: MURDER AND INJUSTICE IN A SMALL TOWN, by John Grisham. New York: Doubleday, 2006. 368pp. Hardcover. $28.95. ISBN: 9780385517232. Reviewed by Jack E. Call, Department of Criminal Justice, Radford University. Email: jcall [at] RADFORD.EDU. John Grisham’s legal novels are well-known to avid readers of that literary genre. THE INNOCENT MAN is Grisham’s first (and so far only) venture into non-fiction. It tells the story of Ron Williamson, an Oklahoma boy with great promise as a professional baseball player. However, the demons of drink, drugs, and mental illness prevented Williamson from fulfilling that potential. Eventually, Williamson’s demons also destroyed his marriage, prevented him from holding a …show more content…
Although there was little to no evidence suggesting more than one perpetrator, the investigating officers were convinced that there were two murderers. They decided a friend of Williamson, Dennis Fritz, must have been involved. The evidence against him was not strong, but they convinced him to take a polygraph examination. The examiner found his answers evasive. Given the evidence against Fritz, as described by Grisham, it is difficult to see how the police thought they even had probable cause to arrest Fritz, much less proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. Nevertheless, he was arrested, tried (before Williamson), and convicted. The case against Fritz consisted of guilt by association with Williamson (although the case against Williamson was not presented to the Fritz jury); testimony from three jailhouse snitches; forensic evidence that Fritz was a non-secretor (a person whose blood type cannot be determined from bodily fluids, which is true for about 20% of the population); and forensic evidence that hair samples found at the murder scene were consistent with Fritz’ hair. As weak as this evidence was, it was further weakened by the fact that the forensic expert who testified that Fritz was a non-secretor was far from certain that the killer (or killers) were non-secretors. In addition, the first lab analyst to examine the hair samples found at the murder scene concluded that those samples

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