Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bill Moyer's Journal: John Grisham on our Legal and Political System

John Grisham
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.

To Watch/Listen/Read


david santos said...

Thanks for your posting and have a good weekend.

Barbara's Journey Toward Justice said...

DENNIS FRITZ - "Journey Toward Justice".
Dennis Fritz started his "Journey Toward Justice" July 2005.
July is when he started writing his book "Journey Toward Justice" in which he details his arrest and subsequent imprisonment until his release April 15, 1999.

Dennis Fritz was Ron Williamson's friend and co-defendant in the Debra Sue Carter murder case. John Grisham wrote about the case in his book,The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town. Grisham writes about Ron Williamson and his role in the case. He does an excellent job and is a Great Book.
Dennis Fritz was close to Ron Williamson, and I am sure Dennis has his own stories about their life and times together.
John Grisham announced in 2005 he was going to write a book I decided then that if he could do it so could I", said Dennis Fritz. I am now on a Mission, and that is to bring about public awareness of false convictions." Dennis said, "It was a 12-year nightmare I suffered with my family for not doing anything and being completely innocent.
That's a large part of the book, the obstacles and hurdles we had to go through. The harm that it did to me was that it took 12 years out of my life and away from my family members.I think the strongest part of my book is the total anguish and misery that I go through from being totally excluded from family, including my daughter," Fritz said. "I would not let her come and visit me because of the activities that were going on in the visiting rooms.
I could not bear for Elizabeth to see what went on in that prison, so I restricted her from visiting me. It was not the kind of thing that any 11-year-old girl should see, and it tore my heart out by not being able to see her."
Fritz said. "I was subjected to indignities that no person should have to suffer, let alone a person who was innocent of the crime."
"Just the fact that I was a suspect in a murder got me fired from my job," Fritz told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Five years after the murder Fritz was arrested, there was a delay by state exhumation of Debra Sue Carter after an incorrect analysis of finger prints at the scene was noted. Also, an inmate that Fritz was paired with eventually came forward and stated that Fritz had confessed to the murder.
This jailhouse snitch gave a two hour taped interview revealing what Fritz had allegedly confessed to him.
This confession came one day before the prosecution would have been forced to drop the charges against Fritz. According to Fritz, when they went to trial, an overzealous District Attorney, Bill Peterson, had a case built on flawed hair evidence and jailhouse snitches who received reduced sentences for their testimony.

The detectives then told me they knew I had not committed the crime, but they believed I knew who did it. From the very beginning, I always told them I was innocent, but it made no difference."

"My family, my mother my aunt and daughter stuck behind me the whole way," Fritz said. "Through our faith and their belief in my innocence, that is what busted those prison gates wide open. If it was left up to man himself, I would still be in their today."

"Our love prevailed over the mighty forces of the evil prosecutions that went on then," Fritz said. "Love itself is the most powerful thing. No matter what circumstances love always prevails. It just took 12 years for it to happen. We would not let go that the good Lord would set me free one day."

Dennis Fritz now works with the Innocence Project in Kansas City, Missouri. He makes appearances related to "the innocence movement" nationwide. He is using a book he recently published, "Journey Toward Justice", as a vehicle to bring awareness of the overall, devastating effects of how false convictions can destroy people's lives and how mistakes can be made in cases.
He travels the United States speaking to law schools and also hopes to reach prosecutors and judges.