For Christmas in 2006 my mother-in-law gave me the hard back best seller "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham. The book covers the murder of Debra Sue Carter and the wrongful conviction and incarceration of Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson. She knew that I enjoyed reading true crime and heard of this book because it was the first non-fiction book published by the author under his name (alone) and had received excellent reviews. Its been 8 years and I still remember details from the book, I think I read front to back all 368 pages in 2 days. I couldn't put it down.
Until this point I'd only read books about officers and officials catching the bad guy and defending the innocent! Parts of the book were so upsetting, I think I even slammed the book down at one point saying it was too upsetting to finish only to pick it up 5 minutes later and continue reading.
It was bewildering that something so horrible and unjust could happen to two innocent men. It happened at the hands of officials sworn to protect them, only because these officials had made up their minds. I don't believe that Government Officials purposely incarcerate innocent defendants (mostly) but in many cases, they jump to conclusions and do whatever necessary to get the conviction; too stubborn to change their minds when evidence is introduced or discovered later or sometimes, even before the trial.
The men in these cases were tried and found guilty in the eyes of the investigators, the State and most of the time, the public eye long before jury was selected and trial began. I won't ruin the book, its a closed case and I think everybody that is interested in the story should read it for themselves.
On the last page of the book they gave a short description of another book with similar circumstances, "Dreams of Ada" by Robert Mayer. The book told the story of the 1984 disappearance of Donna Denice Haraway and how defendants Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot were charged and found guilty of raping and murdering her. Again, I read through the pages in horror and disgust but this book left me feeling even more unsettled because the defendants are still incarcerated today.
Its also worth mentioning that the 'officials' making the calls in this case are the same officials learned about reading the 'The Innocent Man'. The same bullying, feeding of information and "dream" interrogation tactics were used during both cases. In both cases the defendants confessed to crimes that they did not commit and immediately recanted the confessions upon being released from the interrogation. Further the details of the confession did not coincide with the physical evidence or known facts from from the case.
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