Skip to main content
PBS logo

Book Review of The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town

The Innocent Man:  Murder and Injustice in a Small Town
KaysCMAlbums avatar reviewed on + 97 more book reviews

It was a long, sometimes tedious read, but I was compelled to see it through to the end even though I knew the outcome. I found myself getting angrier as I read the fabricated evidence against these men (Williamson/Fritz and Ward/Fontenot), but continually asked myself what I would have believed had I been a citizen of Ada at that time. Hindsight is 20-20; John Grisham didnt build this case overnight and it certainly didnt come to him in a dream. Along with Robert Mayers The Dreams of Ada, Grisham spent endless hours seeking out court records and reading volumes of testimony about the original accounts of the evidence and trials in these two murders. In addition, he interviewed many of the people mentioned in his book and toured the prisons as well. Once all the facts were gathered he was able to put them together so that the end result was ALL the evidence, whether hidden, fabricated, manipulated or true. We, as judge and jury after the fact, are able to see the whole story whereas residents and jurors at that time only had the facts as presented to them by people, educators and expert witnesses of their town and surrounding counties people trusted for seeking truth and justice. Im appalled that these men (all four of them) were found guilty, but not surprised. My hope and prayer, as well as Mayers and Grishams, is that Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot will also have an opportunity for a fair retrial where all the facts can be presented and the truth revealed, whatever that truth is. Of course, as Grisham mentions at the end, there is no forensic evidence so DNA testing cannot be done.

Sadder still is the tragic deterioration of Williamsons mental health. Granted, he was his own worst enemy, but surely somewhere in the system he fell through the cracks over and over again when he was unable to care for himself properly and when his meds were administered NOT for his benefit, but to manipulate his behavior to suit those who were in control to use his outbursts to their advantage during the trials. This is a very sad tale of injustice and social out casting.

Oh, that we could only learn from the experiences of others.