In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the big leagues, Ron stumbled, his dream broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron’s home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence, it led to Ron Williamson.
The washed-up small-town hero was charged, tried, and sentenced to death–in a trial littered with lying witnesses and tainted evidence that would shatter a man’s already broken life…and let a true killer go free.
Grisham’s expertise in explaining the complicated and convoluted points of the American judicial system to the average reader is renowned through his fiction. It would be a stretch to find anyone who has not read at least one of Grisham’s legal thrillers. Likewise his one non-fiction title found favour with the majority of our group.
His attention to detail and exhaustive research on the finer points of the case made for an extremely thorough investigation of exactly what went wrong (and is wrong) with the justice system in the States. Some found these a little on the tedious side and discovered that to keep going they had to ‘skim’ some of the more repetitive elements.
It would not have been an easy task to piece together the circumstances that led to such an unjust outcome after so many years. And with his legal background, it is understandable that Grisham would have wanted to take his research seriously.
As readers we were appalled at the outrageous process that found Ron Williamson on death row. We had an interesting discussion on the death penalty and the chances of innocent people losing their life in a system that is meant to be fair and lawful. Grisham is quite clear throughout the story that Ron is no angel, but did he deserve to spend half his life on death row? We think not. It was clear to all of us that if the death penalty is to exist, the system needs to be foolproof, otherwise there will always be a chance of this story (or worse) being repeated.