This story is about Ron Williamson, a man falsely accused of murder. When a local woman was raped and killed in her own home, Ron became the first suspect. Because he was known as a strange character around town that partied alot and wandered the streets late at night as well as living close to the victim he was the easiest suspect for the local police to focus their efforts on. Due to the severity of the crime, the police believed there were two perpetrators and they arrested Ron and his buddy Dennis in connection with the crime. With numerous witnesses willing to lie for the prosecution, Ron and Dennis were soon charged with the rape and murder and facing a murder trial the story follows his life from a brush with professional baseball, to an increasing mental illness, to a false arrest, conviction and death row sentence. It concludes with his release from prison and continues until Ron''s death from failed health. The story also follows, in much less detail, others around Ron like his sister and lawyers and other inmates. The stories main focus is on how justice became injustice in a small town. It argues that there are flaws in our justice system and it describes one example of that from beginning to end. The story also details life with mental illness and also some detail about life on one death row prison in Oklahoma. "
Now with new technology that deal with DNA specialization, evidence can enable innocent convicts to be exonerated at appeals. This looked hopeful for Ron and Dennis since no forensic evidence in the past had been adequately used against them. The issue of Ron''s mental capacity to stand trial had never been brought before the court as well.
The details Grisham provides about incorrect convictions, shoddy police work and poor prosecution certainly make a case for some sort of judicial reform. Unfortunately, Grisham gets bogged down with the story and ends up repeating the same facts over and over. He also goes off on tangents--including jailhouse conditions, death row cases, etc. Ron Williamson''s battles with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are very depressing. Perhaps even more compelling is the story of Williamson''s mental decline and society''s inability to deal with his mental illness. In many ways, Williamson''s story before and after his imprisonment is just as tragic as the time he spent on death row. The justice system itself is designed to protect the truly innocent even at the cost of protecting the guilty. Thus a lot of safeguards are built into the system because experience has shown that once an injustice is done, it is very difficult to undo it.