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The Innocent Man

Cover of The Innocent Man

The Innocent Man

Murder and Injustice in a Small Town
Borrow Borrow
When Ron Williamson signed with the Oakland A's in 1971, he said goodbye to his hometown of Ada and left to pursue his dreams of big-league glory. Six years later he was back, his dreams broken by a bad arm and bad habits. He moved in with his mother and slept twenty hours a day on her sofa.
In 1982, a twenty-one-year-old cocktail waitress in Ada named Debra Sue Carter was raped and murdered, and for reasons that were never clear, they suspected Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz. The two were arrested and charged with capital murder.
The prosecution's case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. Dennis Fritz was found guilty and given a life sentence. Ron Williamson was sent to death row.
If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this audiobook will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you.
When Ron Williamson signed with the Oakland A's in 1971, he said goodbye to his hometown of Ada and left to pursue his dreams of big-league glory. Six years later he was back, his dreams broken by a bad arm and bad habits. He moved in with his mother and slept twenty hours a day on her sofa.
In 1982, a twenty-one-year-old cocktail waitress in Ada named Debra Sue Carter was raped and murdered, and for reasons that were never clear, they suspected Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz. The two were arrested and charged with capital murder.
The prosecution's case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. Dennis Fritz was found guilty and given a life sentence. Ron Williamson was sent to death row.
If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this audiobook will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you.
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    Chapter 1

    The rolling hills of southeast Oklahoma stretch from Norman across to Arkansas and show little evidence of the vast deposits of crude oil that were once beneath them. Some old rigs dot the countryside; the active ones churn on, pumping out a few gallons with each slow turn and prompting a passerby to ask if the effort is really worth it. Many have simply given up, and sit motionless amid the fields as corroding reminders of the glory days of gushers and wildcatters and instant fortunes.

    There are rigs scattered through the farmland around Ada, an old oil town of sixteen thousand with a college and a county courthouse. The rigs are idle, though--the oil is gone. Money is now made in Ada by the hour in factories and feed mills and on pecan farms.

    Downtown Ada is a busy place. There are no empty or boarded-up buildings on Main Street. The merchants survive, though much of their business has moved to the edge of town. The cafés are crowded at lunch.

    The Pontotoc County Courthouse is old and cramped and full of lawyers and their clients. Around it is the usual hodgepodge of county buildings and law offices. The jail, a squat, windowless bomb shelter, was for some forgotten reason built on the courthouse lawn. The methamphetamine scourge keeps it full.

    Main Street ends at the campus of East Central University, home to four thousand students, many of them commuters. The school pumps life into the community with a fresh supply of young people and a faculty that adds some diversity to southeastern Oklahoma.

    Few things escape the attention of the Ada Evening News, a lively daily that covers the region and works hard to compete with The Oklahoman, the state's largest paper. There's usually world and national news on the front page, then state and regional, then the important items--high school sports, local politics, community calendars, and obituaries.

    The people of Ada and Pontotoc County are a pleasant blend of small-town southerners and independent westerners. The accent could be from east Texas or Arkansas, with flat i's and other long vowels. It's Chickasaw country. Oklahoma has more Native Americans than any other state, and after a hundred years of mixing many of the white folks have Indian blood. The stigma is fading fast; indeed, there is now pride in the heritage.

    The Bible Belt runs hard through Ada. The town has fifty churches from a dozen strains of Christianity. They are active places, and not just on Sundays. There is one Catholic church, and one for the Episcopalians, but no temple or synagogue. Most folks are Christians, or claim to be, and belonging to a church is rather expected. A person's social status is often determined by religious affiliation.

    With sixteen thousand people, Ada is considered large for rural Oklahoma, and it attracts factories and discount stores. Workers and shoppers make the drive from several counties. It is eighty miles south and east of Oklahoma City, and three hours north of Dallas. Everybody knows somebody working or living in Texas.

    The biggest source of local pride is the quarter-horse "bidness." Some of the best horses are bred by Ada ranchers. And when the Ada High Cougars win another state title in football, the town struts for years.

    It's a friendly place, filled with people who speak to strangers and always to each other and are anxious to help anyone in need. Kids play on shaded front lawns. Doors are left open during the day. Teenagers cruise through the night causing little trouble.

    Had it not been for two notorious murders in the early 1980s, Ada would have gone unnoticed by the world. And that would...

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine John Grisham steps back from his tried-and-true courtroom dramas with this look at a real-life murder. Actor Craig Wasson narrates the story of ill-fated loser Ron Williamson, the man that a pair of small-town police detectives are convinced raped and murdered a young woman in 1982. Wasson is straightforward in his reading, seldom letting out the actor within. And like a newspaper reporter, Grisham uses a bare-bones factual approach that lacks the twists and turns of his novels. The listener will be outraged by the frailties of the criminal justice system portrayed, which is not as malleable as its fictitious counterparts, and more prone to error. Reality ain't pretty. M.S. (c) AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine
  • Time "A gritty, harrowing, true-crime story."
  • Seattle Times "A triumph."
  • Boston Globe "Grisham has crafted a legal thriller every bit as suspenseful and fast-paced as his best-selling fiction."
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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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The Innocent Man
The Innocent Man
Murder and Injustice in a Small Town
John Grisham
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