Breaking from his go to genre of legal thriller, in The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town John Grisham turns his sight on a true legal debacle. Ron Williamson was a local baseball star who seemed destined to make it in the big leagues. Along the way however, his journey was derailed by drugs, alcohol, partying, rape allegations, and a personality disorder. On a winter night in 1982 a woman named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The local authorities were baffled and had no leads. The fearful locals, desiring to be comforted by the arrest and conviction of this murderer demanded action. Thus, the authorities turned their attention to the eccentric, washed up, womanizer, Ron Williamson. Their evidence was flimsy and fabricated. Nevertheless, the prosecutor secured a guilty verdict with penalty of death. For years, Ron would languish and deteriorate mentally on death row, all the while insisting on his innocence. At one point he was just days away from his scheduled execution. Eventually the right people with the right evidence proved that Ron Williamson was innocent and that his arrest, trial, and incarceration were all a sham.
As I read this book, often anger would rise in my heart and soul as blatant miscarriages of justice were carried out. I would curse under my breath as I read about people who should be committed to justice ignore facts and evidence in this case. Furthermore, I could not understand why there was not a more intrinsic motivation to find and convict the real killer who was living as a free man.
How terrible would it be to be arrested, convicted, and put on death row as an innocent man? No wonder Ron Williamson basically went crazy on death row. As a pastor, I know God is a God of justice. God hates injustice. So as my anger rose against the injustices committed throughout the book, I know that my anger was justified.
Proverbs 22:8 “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.”
I also thought about the ultimate innocent man. The one who not only never committed any crime, but never did anything wrong in his entire life. How he was betrayed with a kiss, forced through a mockery of a trial, beaten, abused, and whipped. Sentenced to death row. Then died on a cross. Jesus knows all about injustice. And Jesus knows all about justice. For on the cross, Jesus took on the justified wrath of God against sin that we deserved. He exchanged his life for our lives. He is a God of love, so he died for us. He is a God justice, so he died in our place for crimes he did not commit.