I had to spend more than little time in public transport recently and had no other reading with me except John Grisham’s book The Innocent Man, Murder and Injustice in a Small Town which is apparently based on facts. It’s not the type of a book I probably would have read if I had done more planning but actually it seems to tie in quite well with the topic of America’s ongoing decline. Like the title implies, it tells a story of rather criminal sort of injustice in a small town in Oklahoma — Ada to be specific.
First a young woman is found dead in 1982 after enduring savage abuse but that’s just the start of criminality since the book implies that the local police had been running drug sales and had to protect the real perpetrator(s) as they were actually working for the police who then lead the investigation of the crime. After much foul play the judicial system eventually manages to incarcerate not just one but two innocent local men who end up spending some 11 years in prison. The other one, Ron Williamson, who was a mentally ill former wannabe star baseball player, also faced the death penalty, before DNA evidence (in 1997) was finally used to prove his and the other guy’s innocence (not that there should have been any need for such evidence as the previous foul play should have spoken for itself if the judicial system had proper checks and balances).
In short, the book paints a rather sorry picture of ignorance and cultural decline. The small town people are preoccupied with baseball and praying while organized crime takes control of their system (or maybe keeps on controlling it?) and slowly but surely bankrupts the local finances. The judicial system relies on unreliable evidence provided by polygraphs and hair analysis and the “experts” and does little to keep tabs on the corrupt investigators who continuously abuse their position. The evangelical Christians refuse to ever consider they might have been wrong and continue to rely on the liars. No authorities ever get punished even though at least two more innocent men were wrongly incarcerated after a similar crime based on the details provided in the book.
So much waste, so little real accountability. In other words pretty much exactly what is going on right now everywhere though on a much larger scale. The only “good” thing in the story is that it appears that at least Mr. Williamson would probably not have done much good for the general society even if he had not been spending time in prison and mental institutions.
A quick internet search also indicates that either Grisham or the book’s publisher did not want to include the detail that the real savage identified in the book, Glen Gore, is apparently half-indian, half-white.