December 19, 2007

A Reading Tip for Holidays

by Fernanda W.

Here in Brazil we’re approaching to summer holidays and if you’re looking for a good book to read, don’t miss John Grisham’s The Innocent Man. In fact, this is not really a new book – it was released almost a year ago, but it is his most recent one (at least here) - and didn’t get the coverage it deserves, again, at least in our country. And with the banning of death penalty in New Jersey its central discussion is strengthened.

In his first incursion to non-fictional books John Grisham tells the story of Ron Williamson, a baseball player from Oklahoma, who had a brilliant future, but at some point of his life derailed and started to decline mentally and physically due to drinking and drug abuse. He was arrested and charged with a crime he didn’t commit in a succession of malpractices made by the police and the prosecutor – who were under pressure to find the murderers – and by representatives of the legal system – who refused to acknowledge that he wasn’t mentally capable to face a trial.

Don’t be discouraged by the fact that the book deals with heavy subjects and portrays such a tragic character: John Grisham is absolutely brilliant in catching and holding the attention of any reader. Actually he teaches how a real story can be as thrilling as a fictional one.

Although the book appears to be strongly biased - it doesn't look like that Grisham's journalistic job covered all the angles - it raises issues related to American criminal system which need discussion and surpass the death penalty itself: the false testimonies produced by the possibility of penalty reduction, the weaknesses of polygraph tests and other doubtful tests presented at court room as scientifically consistents, the difficulties of finding the real criminals when the police focus on a single suspect and closes the possibilities of investigating other suspects...

All these questions make this moving and compelling story a must read. And when it comes to the death penalty discussion, if you're against it, you’ll feel that your arguments are validated; if you’re pro, you’ll have second thoughts. Moreover, if you believe in America’s penal system, you’ll be shocked to discover that Ron Williamson’s case is not an exception…

Check also:
An interview with John Grisham on The Innocent Man (video)
DNA tests get man freed after 26 years

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