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The Innocent Man [Format Kindle]

John Grisham
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)

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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

Chapter 1

The rolling hills of southeast Oklahoma stretch from Norman across to Arkansas and show little evidence of the vast deposits of crude oil that were once beneath them. Some old rigs dot the countryside; the active ones churn on, pumping out a few gallons with each slow turn and prompting a passerby to ask if the effort is really worth it. Many have simply given up, and sit motionless amid the fields as corroding reminders of the glory days of gushers and wildcatters and instant fortunes.

There are rigs scattered through the farmland around Ada, an old oil town of sixteen thousand with a college and a county courthouse. The rigs are idle, though–the oil is gone. Money is now made in Ada by the hour in factories and feed mills and on pecan farms.

Downtown Ada is a busy place. There are no empty or boarded-up buildings on Main Street. The merchants survive, though much of their business has moved to the edge of town. The cafés are crowded at lunch.

The Pontotoc County Courthouse is old and cramped and full of lawyers and their clients. Around it is the usual hodgepodge of county buildings and law offices. The jail, a squat, windowless bomb shelter, was for some forgotten reason built on the courthouse lawn. The methamphetamine scourge keeps it full.

Main Street ends at the campus of East Central University, home to four thousand students, many of them commuters. The school pumps life into the community with a fresh supply of young people and a faculty that adds some diversity to southeastern Oklahoma.

Few things escape the attention of the Ada Evening News, a lively daily that covers the region and works hard to compete with The Oklahoman, the state’s largest paper. There’s usually world and national news on the front page, then state and regional, then the important items–high school sports, local politics, community calendars, and obituaries.

The people of Ada and Pontotoc County are a pleasant blend of small-town southerners and independent westerners. The accent could be from east Texas or Arkansas, with flat i’s and other long vowels. It’s Chickasaw country. Oklahoma has more Native Americans than any other state, and after a hundred years of mixing many of the white folks have Indian blood. The stigma is fading fast; indeed, there is now pride in the heritage.

The Bible Belt runs hard through Ada. The town has fifty churches from a dozen strains of Christianity. They are active places, and not just on Sundays. There is one Catholic church, and one for the Episcopalians, but no temple or synagogue. Most folks are Christians, or claim to be, and belonging to a church is rather expected. A person’s social status is often determined by religious affiliation.

With sixteen thousand people, Ada is considered large for rural Oklahoma, and it attracts factories and discount stores. Workers and shoppers make the drive from several counties. It is eighty miles south and east of Oklahoma City, and three hours north of Dallas. Everybody knows somebody working or living in Texas.

The biggest source of local pride is the quarter-horse “bidness.” Some of the best horses are bred by Ada ranchers. And when the Ada High Cougars win another state title in football, the town struts for years.

It’s a friendly place, filled with people who speak to strangers and always to each other and are anxious to help anyone in need. Kids play on shaded front lawns. Doors are left open during the day. Teenagers cruise through the night causing little trouble.

Had it not been for two notorious murders in the early 1980s, Ada would have gone unnoticed by the world. And that would have been just fine with the good folks of Pontotoc County.


As if by some unwritten city ordinance, most of the nightclubs and watering holes in Ada were on the periphery of the town, banished to the edges to keep the riffraff and their mischief away from the better folks. The Coachlight was one such place, a cavernous metal building with bad lighting, cheap beer, jukeboxes, a weekend band, a dance floor, and outside a sprawling gravel parking lot where dusty pickups greatly outnumbered sedans. Its regulars were what you would expect–factory workers looking for a drink before heading home, country boys looking for fun, late-night twenty-somethings, and the dance and party crowd there to listen to live music. Vince Gill and Randy Travis passed through early in their careers.

It was a popular and busy place, employing many part-time bartenders and bouncers and cocktail waitresses. One was Debbie Carter, a twenty-one-year-old local girl who’d graduated from Ada High School a few years earlier and was enjoying the single life. She held two other part-time jobs and also worked occasionally as a babysitter. Debbie had her own car and lived by herself in a three-room apartment above a garage on Eighth Street, near East Central University. She was a pretty girl, darkhaired, slender, athletic, popular with the boys, and very independent.

Her mother, Peggy Stillwell, worried that she was spending too much time at the Coachlight and other clubs. She had not raised her daughter to live such a life; in fact, Debbie had been raised in the church. After high school, though, she began partying and keeping later hours. Peggy objected and they fought occasionally over the new lifestyle. Debbie became determined to have her independence. She found an apartment, left home, but remained very close to her mother.

On the night of December 7, 1982, Debbie was working at the Coachlight, serving drinks and watching the clock. It was a slow night, and she asked her boss if she could go off-duty and hang out with some friends. He did not object, and she was soon sitting at a table having a drink with Gina Vietta, a close friend from high school, and some others. Another friend from high school, Glen Gore, stopped by and asked Debbie to dance. She did, but halfway through the song she suddenly stopped and angrily walked away from Gore. Later, in the ladies’ restroom, she said she would feel safer if one of her girlfriends would spend the night at her place, but she did not say what worried her.

The Coachlight began closing early, around 12:30 a.m., and Gina Vietta invited several of their group to have another drink at her apartment. Most said yes; Debbie, though, was tired and hungry and just wanted to go home. They drifted out of the club, in no particular hurry.
Several people saw Debbie in the parking lot chatting with Glen Gore as the Coachlight was shutting down. Tommy Glover knew Debbie well because he worked with her at a local glass company. He also knew Gore. As he was getting in his pickup truck to leave, he saw Debbie open the driver’s door of her car. Gore appeared from nowhere, they talked for a few seconds, then she pushed him away.

Mike and Terri Carpenter both worked at the Coachlight, he as a bouncer, she as a waitress. As they were walking to their car, they passed Debbie’s. She was in the driver’s seat, talking to Glen Gore, who was standing beside her door. The Carpenters waved good-bye and kept walking. A month earlier Debbie had told Mike that she was afraid of Gore because of his temper.

Toni Ramsey worked at the club as a shoe-shine girl. The oil business was still booming in Oklahoma in 1982. There were plenty of nice boots being worn around Ada. Someone had to shine them, and Toni picked up some much-needed cash. She knew Gore well. As Toni left that night, she saw Debbie sitting behind the wheel of her car. Gore was on the passenger’s side, crouching by the open door, outside the car. They were talking in what seemed to be a civilized manner. Nothing appeared to be wrong.

Gore, who didn’t own a car, had bummed a ride to the Coachlight with an acquaintance named Ron West, arriving there around 11:30. West ordered beers and settled in to relax while Gore made the rounds. He seemed to know everyone. When last call was announced, West grabbed Gore and asked him if he still needed a ride. Yes, Gore said, so West went to the parking lot and waited for him. A few minutes passed, then Gore appeared in a rush and got in.

They decided they were hungry, so West drove to a downtown café called the Waffler, where they ordered a quick breakfast. West paid for the meal, just as he’d paid for the drinks at the Coachlight. He had started the night at Harold’s, another club where he’d gone looking for some business associates. Instead, he bumped into Gore, who worked there as an occasional bartender and disc jockey. The two hardly knew each oher, but when Gore asked for a ride to the Coachlight, West couldn’t say no.

West was a happily married father with two young daughters and didn’t routinely keep late hours in bars. He wanted to go home but was stuck with Gore, who was becoming more expensive by the hour. When they left the café, West asked his passenger where he wanted to go. To his mother’s house, Gore said, on Oak Street, just a few blocks to the north. West knew the town well and headed that way, but before they made it to Oak Street, Gore suddenly changed his mind. After riding around with West for several hours, Gore wanted to walk. The temperature was frigid and falling, with a raw wind. A cold front was moving in.

They stopped near the Oak Avenue Baptist Church, not far from where Gore said his mother lived. He jumped out, said thanks for everything, and began walking west.

The Oak Avenue Baptist Church was about a mile from Debbie Carter’s apartment.

Gore’s mother actually lived on the other side of town, nowhere near the church.

Around 2:30 a.m., Gina Vietta was in her apartment with some friends when she received two unusual phone calls, both from Debbie Carter. In the first call, Debbie asked Gina to drive over and pick her up because someone, a visitor, was in her apartment and he was making her feel uncomfortable. Gina asked who it was, who was there? The conversation was cut short by muffled voices and the sounds of a struggle over the use of the phone. Gina was rightfully worried and thought the request strange. Debbie had her own car, a 1975 Oldsmobile, and could certainly drive herself anywhere. As Gina was hurriedly leaving her apartment, the phone rang again. It was Debbie, saying that she had changed her mind, things were fine on her end, don’t bother. Gina again asked who the visitor was, but Debbie changed the subject and would not give his name. She asked Gina to call her in the morning, to wake her so she wouldn’t be late for work. It was an odd request, one Debbie had never made before.

Gina started to drive over anyway, but had second thoughts. She had guests in her apartment. It was very late. Debbie Carter could take care of herself, and besides, if she had a guy in her room, Gina didn’t want to intrude. Gina went to bed and forgot to call Debbie a few hours later.

Around 11:00 a.m. on December 8, Donna Johnson stopped by to say hello to Debbie. The two had been close in high school before Donna moved to Shawnee, an hour away. She was in town for the day to see her parents and catch up with some friends. As she bounced up the narrow outdoor staircase to Debbie’s garage apartment, she slowed when she realized she was stepping on broken glass. The small window in the door was broken. For some reason, her first thought was that Debbie had locked her keys inside and been forced to break a window to get in.
Donna knocked on the door. There was no answer. Then she heard music from a radio inside. When she turned the knob, she realized the door was not locked. One step inside, and she knew something was wrong.

The small den was a wreck–sofa cushions thrown on the floor, clothing scattered about. Across the wall to the right someone had scrawled, with some type of reddish liquid, the words “Jim Smith next will die.”

Donna yelled Debbie’s name; no response. She had been in the apartment once before, so she moved quickly to the bedroom, still calling for her friend. The bed had been moved, yanked out of place, all the covers pulled off. She saw a foot, then on the floor on the other side of the bed she saw Debbie–facedown, nude, bloody, with something written on her back.
Donna froze in horror, unable to step forward, instead staring at her friend and waiting for her to breathe. Maybe it was just a dream, she thought.

She backed away and stepped into the kitchen, where, on a small white table, she saw more words scribbled and left behind by the killer. He could still be there, she suddenly thought, then ran from the apartment to her car. She sped down the street to a convenience store where she found a phone and called Debbie’s mother.

Peggy Stillwell heard the words, but could not believe them. Her daughter was lying on the floor nude, bloodied, not moving. She made Donna repeat what she had said, then ran to her car. The battery was dead. Numb with fear, she ran back inside and called Charlie Carter, Debbie’s father and her ex-husband. The divorce a few years earlier had not been amicable, and the two rarely spoke.

No one answered at Charlie Carter’s. A friend named Carol Edwards lived across the street from Debbie. Peggy called her, told her something was terribly wrong, and asked her to run and check on her daughter. Then Peggy waited and waited. Finally she called Charlie again, and he answered the phone.

Carol Edwards ran down the street to the apartment, noticed the same broken glass and the open front door. She stepped inside and saw the body.

Charlie Carter was a thick-chested brick mason who occasionally worked as a bouncer at the Coachlight. He jumped in his pickup and raced toward his daughter’s apartment, along the way thinking every horrible thought a father could have. The scene was worse than anything he could have imagined.

When he saw her body, he called her name twice. He knelt beside her, gently lifted her shoulder so he could see her face. A bloody washcloth was stuck in her mouth. He was certain his daughter was dead, but he waited anyway, hoping for some sign of life. When there was none, he stood slowly and looked around. The bed had been moved, shoved away from the wall, the covers were missing, the room was in disarray. Obviously, there had been a struggle. He walked to the den and saw the words on the wall, then he went to the kitchen and looked around. It was a crime scene now. Charlie stuffed his hands in his pockets and left.

Donna Johnson and Carol Edwards were on the landing outside the front door, crying and waiting. They heard Charlie say good-bye to his daughter and tell her how sorry he was for what had happened to her. When he stumbled outside, he was crying, too.

“Should I call an ambulance?” Donna asked.

“No,” he said. “Ambulance won’t do no good. Call the police.”


From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

“A gritty, harrowing, true-crime story.” —Time

“A triumph.” —Seattle Times

“Grisham has crafted a legal thriller every bit as suspenseful and fast-paced as his best-selling fiction.” —Boston Globe


From the Paperback edition.

Détails sur le produit


En savoir plus sur l'auteur

Né en 1955, John Grisham a commencé sa carrière comme avocat dans une petite ville du Mississippi. Avec La Firme, parue en 1991, il a rencontré son premier grand succès de romancier. Depuis, il a vendu plus de soixante millions d'exemplaires dans le monde au travers de nombreux romans dont L'Affaire Pélican, Le Maître du jeu, L'Associé, La Loi du plus faible, Le Testament, L'Héritage, Le Dernier Juré, Le Clandestin, L'Accusé, Le Contrat, La Revanche, L'Infiltré et, plus récemment, Chroniques de Ford County, tous publiés chez Robert Laffont.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 WHAT A SHAM!!! 5 juillet 2007
Format:Relié
"If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you."

Whenever I think of John Grisham, I think of all the joy that he has brought to me through his writing, and I am always happy to see his new arrivals.

An Innocent Man is a work of non-fiction taking place in the state of Oklahoma, in the small town of Ada, in the eighties.

When Debra Sue Carter, a cocktail waitress is raped and murdered one night after leaving a bar, the police pounce immediately on Dennis Fritz, and Ron Williamson; two young men of Ada. With no evidence or witnesses, it seems as though the Law wanted to have someone to bring before the courts to prove they were doing their job. These two unfortunate men kept claiming their innocence over and over again, but all to no avail. Their appeals fell on death ears. Eventually, Mr. Fritz was given a life sentence and Mr. Williamson sent to death row.

How did the judicial system work that out? Why did they not spend some more time trying to get at the truth of what really happened that night? They spend their hopeless lives behind bars until one day; someone gets the guts to tear this charade to pieces, bit by bit, revealing the plain truth of that night.

What makes you mad about this case is to see the amount of precious time these guys wasted in jail. It took a toll on their mental and physical health, and someone should have to pay for incriminating these poor guys.
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (SUGAR-CANE 24-03-2010)
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Excellent comme toujours !!! 31 janvier 2014
Par Betty
Format:Poche|Achat vérifié
Moments de détente et d'évasion assurés...lecture facile et agréable, intrigue bien ficelée comme toujours, je recommande cet excellent John Grisham
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 j'adore 23 mars 2014
Par sony
Format:Poche|Achat vérifié
Voici encore un livre digne de John Grisham. L'histoire est superbement écrite, et c'est surtout son premier roman non fictif.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  1.219 commentaires
241 internautes sur 251 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Guilty Until Proven Innocent? 7 décembre 2007
Par David Zimmerman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
The phrase "Grisham book" and word "important" aren't often found in the same sentence, but John Grisham's 2006 non-fiction book, "The Innocent Man", allows me to state that Grisham has now written the most important book of his mega-successful career, and one of the most important I've read by any author.

The book recounts two murders in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma. Both victims are young women. In both cases, the local and state police investigating the case are stumped. But with a toxic blend of extremely circumstantial "evidence", shocking crime scene photos, junk science, inexpert experts, jailhouse snitches and critical "dream confessions" induced by near-torture tactics, the police pin the murders on four young men of the area, two per murder.

The "innocent man" of the title is 30-something ne'er-do-well Ron Williamson, a schoolboy baseball star whose dreams of playing in Yankee Stadium dissolve in the low minors in a mix of arm injuries, booze and the onset of mental illness. By the time of the murder that consumes most of Grisham's tale, Williamson has washed up back home in Ada, and deservedly earned a reputation as a loudmouth loose cannon of sorts. Still his worst crime is passing a $300 phony check.

Skipping forward quickly, Williamson becomes the focus of the police's investigation and ultimately finds himself on death row in an Oklahoma criminal justice system whose aim seems to be to continuously reduce the amount of respect shown to death row inmates until it reaches zero. Shrewd detectives that they are, the police "know" that there's a second killer because of a misspelled warning message written in catsup at the scene, "dont chase us or ealse." Enter suspect two, single father Dennis Fritz, whose main crime is to be a friend of Williamson.

I'll stop here regarding the "plot", even though this is a news story and you could look it up. While novelistic in format, "The Innocent Man" reads more like a newspaper report, or like a lawyer dispassionately recounting the facts of a case. (Well after awhile not so dispassionately, as the injustices against the accused and then convicted men pile up.) The issues raised by the case and brought to light by Grisham cover the gamut of criminal justice - abuse of police power, single-minded focus on particular suspects and deliberate ignorance of others, near-torture-induced confessions, prosecutorial arrogance, lack of resources provided to defendants, mishandling of evidence, coercion of expert witnesses, use of junk science to dazzle a jury, the general and mistaken belief by the community that the police only arrest guilty parties, and most compellingly in Williamson's case, the inability of the criminal justice system to recognize and deal humanely with mentally ill prisoners.

My wife read the almost 450-page paperback version in one day. She then bugged me to read it for several days until I interrupted my second attempt at Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer: A Novel and dove in. Even while sick, I finished it in a day-and-a-half. After his disappointing novella "Bleachers", I'd pretty much written off Grisham (never have considered him much better an airplane read in the first place), but I'm deeply grateful to him to recognizing the power of this story and bringing to the attention of so many people with this fine book. I also salute him for sticking to the non-fiction format, resisting the novelist's urge to fictionalize the story and embellish it with tie-ins to the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11 and the like. "The Innocent Man" may not stand up as literature to recently-deceased Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, but it's still a great book--the best true-crime story I've read with the most important messages about America's criminal justice system and its generally unrecognized threat to innocent men and women everywhere (and especially in Ada, OK where the DA that prosecuted the cases is still in office).
189 internautes sur 214 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 AMBIVALENCE 18 octobre 2006
Par Robert C. Olson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Ambivalence really sums up my feelings toward Mr. Grisham's latest book. Depressing is another. I applaud Mr. Grisham in his attempt to analyze the hows and whys of just what happened to Ron Williamson during his hectic, confusing, and sometimes just unlucky life. From outstanding major league baseball prospect, to drug and alcohol abuser, to mentally unstable convict, to exonerated felon, Ron Williamson never really knew any peace off the baseball diamond. His dream of a major league career shattered he simply withdrew into his own private hell of dope, booze, loose women, honky tonks, and insanity.

Sometimes a difficult book to follow, the darkness that Mr. Grisham maintains throughout the book is at times oppressive. How many times must Ron Williamson have to exhibit mental instability before someone, anyone, gets him real help and not just temporary "band-aid" his CHRONIC mental problems. It is a wonder that he didn't harm someone during his drunken, drug induced haze. Finally convicted of a murder he never committed, the complex judicial process to free him was very well told by Mr. Grisham. Ron's years spent on "death row" were both illuminating, sad, and frightening all at the same time. His eventual release and exoneration was the ONLY happy point in an otherwise sad biography of a profoundly unhappy life.

Again, I was ambivalent about this book. I can not say I enjoyed it but I did learn from it. This is not your typical light Grisham reading so be very careful. Be ready for a heavy, dark, oppressive book that while educating about the legal system, at the same time leaves one empty about the sad state of this nation's mental health programs. This up close and personal view of America's seamy underbelly will stay with you for quite awhile.
86 internautes sur 99 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The True Nightmare 17 octobre 2006
Par G. Ware Cornell Jr. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Justice sometimes get to be a commodity, rationed not by need but by wealth. This dirty secret is something all lawyers, including myself, know.

The justice system itself is designed to protect the truly innocent even at the cost of protecting the guilty. Thus a lot of safeguards are built into the system because experience has shown that once an injustice is done, it is very difficult to undo it.

Criminal lawyers, and although I am a trial lawyer I practice solely in the civil courts, will tell you that their greatest nightmare is to represent the truly innocent client. This is because although the law presumes the client is innocent, trial counsel, jaded by thousands of lies from clients, does not. If your lawyer does not truly believe in you, and you are truly innocent, can you get a fair trial?

The answer to this question is explored in what may be the best true-crime work since In Cold Blood. Ron Williamson, former minor league prospect, now burdened with incurable mental illness is targeted by the police and prosecutors in Ada, Oklahoma as the killer of Debbie Carter. Another man Dennis Fritz, whose real crime was to be a friend to Ron, is also targeted.

When the police fail to turn up a killer in nearly five years of investigation and an author puts the spotlight on the local police for a highly questionable conviction in another murder case, the cops and prosecutors press forward against Fritz and Williamson, using perjured evidence, discredited forensics, high emotion, and active concealment of exculpatory evidence. The trial judge tolerated the abuse of the defendants constitutional rights to the point of scheduling a Brady motion ( a hearing to punish the state for not turning over exculpatory evidence) after the trial, when it could do no good. The appellate courts, perhaps overwhelmed with appeals from the truly guilty, showed little evidence of ever having read the record.

So it came down to the federal courts for the system to correct itself. A federal magistrate judge carefully considered the briefs, and the trial record and was persuaded that Williamson had been denied a fair trial. The district judge, exercising the same degree of care as his magistrate and law clerks concurred, ordering the state to retry Williamson, who at one point was five days away from a date with death.

It was that order for a new trial that set into motion the events that would lead to the total exoneration of Williamson and Fritz.
When the DNA results were provided, they not only showed that Williamson and Fritz were not involved and also that the chief prosecution witness against them was in fact the real killer.
71 internautes sur 81 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Somewhat Disappointing 7 janvier 2008
Par K Montgomery - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
The fact that this is a true story is both the book's greatest asset and it's biggest liability as well. To think that such irresponsible legal shenanigans could occur in America is truly a sobering thought. The manner in which the Williamson case and others described in the book were handled by the parties involved is disgusting. That aspect of the story makes the book an intriguing read.

On the flip side, the true nature of the story also holds Grisham back. In sticking with the facts, his creativity was limited. Among Grisham's greatest strengths as a writer are character development and intricate setting of the locale. In both of these instances, the facts limit what Grisham can do. Simply put, at times I felt I was reading the daily news, not a book.

Grisham should be applauded for writing a book that helped bring this injustice to a larger audience. The book may not entertain, certainly not to the degree of his best work, but what he did here was more important than anything else he could have written. Somewhere, at some point in the future, this book will prevent another innocent individual from being unfairly railroaded. If nothing else, Grisham should be proud of that fact, and we all should be grateful to him.
24 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Nice Change... 27 novembre 2006
Par Fine - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
To be honest, I had grown tired of John Grishom's books. They seemed to all have the same plot after a while. But this book...WOW. I was very impressed. What a scary thing to think that this goes on in our judicial systems, however, I have seen first hand that it does happen, everyday in our court systems. While some may feel that they were weighed down in too many facts, most true crime stories do this, but I didn't find it to be boring in the least. It was a great book, one of his best.
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