Tuesday, May 22, 2007
NBC Dateline "The Accused" and John Grisham's book An Innocent Man
On Tuesday May 22 NBC "Dateline" presented a one hour report "The Accused" about two separate cases in Ada, Oklahoma, subjects of a new book (nonfiction this time) by John Grisham, "The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town", from Doubleday (2007). The MSNBC account is here.
The cases were quite harrowing. In the first one, baseball draft player Ron Williamson, and Dennis Fritz were convicted of a murder, with one death and one life sentence. A dream by one of the defendants was considered, as it had been in another case in Illinois reported on ABC 20-20 about ten years ago. The idea that an imaginary event or "fictitious" role playing could actually be used is evidence is most disturbing, but it coincides with current law concerning libel, that when fiction includes characters who resemble real people and falsely "incriminates" them, their can be a legal claim for defamation ("Bell Jar", "Touching", etc).
Grisham discussed police interrogation techniques, which can induce confession from innocent subjects in a matter of hours in many cases.
The second case included two more defendants again wrongly convicted. At the end of the broadcast, the prosecutor defended his actions and derided Grisham for his book, claiming that he, as a country prosecutor, cannot compete with a media star like Grisham.
Picture: Johnston PA, site of 1889 flood.