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jesus the radical pastor | exploring the life and mission of the 1st century Jesus for our 21st century » Blog Archive » The Innocent Man by John Grisham


Audio books are a great way to pass the time while driving.

On our recent trip to Nashville, Julie and I listened to John Grisham’s latest, yet first book of non-fiction titled The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.

This true story with actual names (except for the names of the murder victims) is hard to hear. Not so much because of the ghastly murder, but because of the fumbling, bumbling of the (in)justice system in the small Oklahoma town of Ada.

Two innocent men, Ron Keith Williamson and Dennis Fritz, are sent to prison, one to death row and one for life, based on incompetent defense, arrogant refuse-to-admit-you’re-wrong prosecution, what Grisham calls “junk science,” and the testimony of jail-house snitches who are out to save their own hide.

What’s serendipitous for Julie and me is that while in seminary, I was assigned to plant a church in this very same Ada, Oklahoma, and for a year Julie and I travelled up there from Dallas each weekend. We know something of the town. To read such a horrendous story about a small town we spent time in was amazing, even a little unsettling to us.

What happens when the justice system is driven by pride, arrogance, fear, desire to be “right” against plain evidence or no evidence, and some of the police are hiding their own crimes? What happens when winning the case is more important than telling the truth? It is a gut-wrenching story. The details are hard and the language is rough. Things are “not the way they ought to be.”

I applaud Grisham, a professing Christian, for making this story known. He spent 18 months researching the factual details of the story, particularly Ron Williamson’s case. According to Grisham, innocent people are being sent to jail and prison every week in this country.

Even though reading or listening to the unabridged story is hard, hang in to the end. There are hardworking, truth-telling people in the system, too.

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