Bill Moyer's Journal (PBS)
Critics have acclaimed John Grisham's novels for their detailed portrayal of the intricacies of our legal and political systems — with a sinister twist. Grisham's ability to portray the worlds of law and politics comes from experience — he has been both a trial lawyer and served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from January 1984 to September of 1990. As Grisham notes "All my books are based, in some degree on something that really happened. There's an element in truth in all these books."
After 18 novels, John Grisham turned to non-fiction for the first time in his career. THE INNOCENT MAN was Grisham's investigation into why Ron Williamson and another man were wrongly convicted of a 1982 murder, and why he spent eleven years on death row before D.N.A. evidence finally set him free. Grisham has lent his talents to the Mississippi branch of The Innocence Project and speaks on this issue around the country:
We've sent 130 men to death row to be executed in this country, at least 130 that we know of, who have later have been exonerated because they were either innocent, or they were not fairly tried. That's 130 people that we've locked down on death row. And they've spent years there, including Ron Williamson, the guy I wrote about. Well, you know, if that doesn't bother you, go to death row. Go see a death row. Go look at one.
In his latest novel Grisham has turned his attention to the issue of judicial selection in America. He says THE APPEAL has more politics in it than any previous novel — and plenty of legal intrigue too, of course.
This is about the election of a Supreme Court justice in the state of Mississippi. Thirty some odd states elect their judges, which is a bad system. Because if they allow private money, just like the campaign we're watching now for president, you got corporate people throwing money in. You got big individuals. You got cash coming in to elect a judge who may hear your case. Think about that. You've got a case pending before the court and you want to reshape the structure of the court, well, just to get your guy elected.