December 8, 2021

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John Grisham on Judges, Innocence and the Judgments He Ignores

John Grisham on Judges, Innocence and the Judgments He Ignores

You talked about your work with the Innocence Mission. Say somewhat extra about what that have has taught you concerning the American prison justice system.

It was not one thing I ever thought I’d get entangled in. I practiced prison legislation for 10 years, and we had a very good system in my little rural neck of the woods in Mississippi. I knew the cops, I knew the prosecutors, I knew the judges, and it was a really environment friendly system. All people performed truthful. I had loads of shoppers who went to jail. They deserved it. I by no means had a shopper who I believed was wrongfully convicted. It simply by no means occurred to me that these items had been occurring till — have you learnt Jim Dwyer?

Jim was a large.

He wrote this obituary in December of 2004. I like the New York Occasions obituaries. And it was a weekday obituary. The lead story was a man my age, my race, my background, my faith, my neck of the woods — he was from Oklahoma, I’m from Arkansas — small city, rural. And he was a second-round draft choose of the Oakland A’s in 1973, a 12 months I believed I would get drafted. My identify was by no means referred to as. This man bought drafted excessive however, anyway, didn’t make it. And he went again to his hometown in Oklahoma and was convicted of capital homicide and despatched to demise row by the identical city that at all times idolized him as a sports activities hero. He served 11 years, got here inside 5 days of being executed.

So I’m studying his obituary. He had simply died after being exonerated by DNA. The story simply slapped me within the face. Earlier than lengthy, I used to be in Oklahoma, in a small city. That is my solely nonfiction e-book. It was revealed in 2006, and it actually took me into the world of wrongful convictions, one thing I’ve by no means actually considered. As soon as I bought into researching “The Innocent Man,” I simply realized what number of harmless persons are really in jail, and there are literally thousands of them, tens of hundreds of them. Barry Scheck requested me to affix the board of the Innocence Mission, and I did. We litigate coast to coast getting our harmless shoppers out of jail by DNA testing. And now we have 375 DNA exonerations, and a few of these had been on demise row.

The work is addictive since you get caught up with these shoppers. You’ve come to know that they’re harmless and but they’ve spent 20 or 30 years in jail for any person else’s crime, and so the injustice is actually one thing that also nags at me. It’s a unending battle that I hope I’ll be doing for the remainder of my life.

It’s nice to see somebody, after reaching your degree of success, leverage it to do essential, priceless work like that.

I’ll let you know one thing, Adam. Each wrongful conviction case needs to be a e-book, as a result of these are improbable tales from a storytelling perspective due to the unbelievable struggling, the injustice, the wasted lives, the wasted time, the wasted cash, the wasted all the things that goes right into a single wrongful conviction, whereas the actual rapist, the actual assassin goes free.

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