“I'd rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”
― Lucille Ball

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Innocent Man

It is unbelievable what I read in one of the latest books of John Grisham that I still had to read. I even was not aware until half way the book that this was non-fiction, as I know John as a fiction writer.

Below is a citation from John's website describing the feelings that popped up when I was reading the book.

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.
While reading the book, I recognized suddenly that we have in The Netherlands similar cases, although we have luckily not the death penalty.

But first let's see what the story is about, again cited from John's site:

In the major league draft of 1971, the first player chosen from the State of Oklahoma was Ron Williamson. When he signed with the Oakland A’s, he said goodbye to his hometown of Ada and left to pursue his dreams of big league glory.
Six years later he was back, his dreams broken by a bad arm and bad habits—drinking, drugs, and women. He began to show signs of mental illness. Unable to keep a job, he moved in with his mother and slept twenty hours a day on her sofa.
In 1982, a 21-year-old cocktail waitress in Ada named Debra Sue Carter was raped and murdered, and for five years the police could not solve the crime. For reasons that were never clear, they suspected Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz. The two were finally arrested in 1987 and charged with capital murder.
With no physical evidence, the prosecution’s case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. Dennis Fritz was found guilty and given a life sentence. Ron Williamson was sent to death row.

The book tells another story as well, from two other guys originating from the same place Ada, who were victims of the same police officers and prosecutor, for a death crime they were not responsible for or at least there was no single evidence found that could hint at a possible involvement.

Let's be clear, I am not a juridically educated person, but a technical engineer with enough intellectual ability to understand the basics of proving a fact that might lead to the conviction of a suspect, or the other way around, to disapprove a suspect being involved in the crime to safeguard him/her from conviction.

I am not sure if everyone is able to do so, intellectually and emotionally. I believe not and therefore I think a juridical system with juries is something that seems democratic, but it is a monster. And what means democratic in this sense, who will benefit from democracy? Society, victim, suspect?

Just to show that not only the USA has juridically mistakes, I will list below some well known similar cases we had in the Netherlands. However, be advised that we have no juries and no death penalties.

For those who can read Dutch, the following site has the details. Please note that all convicted people have been acquitted from their conviction, however most have been imprisoned for the time convicted in part or full and in one case quittance was after the persons dead.
  1. Murder of station manager in Giessen-Nieuwkerk (1923)
  2. Carnival murder of "cocaine king" in Rotterdam (1984)
  3. Fitting room murder of sales lady in Zaandam (1984)
  4. Care-giver Ina Post murdering a client (1986)
  5. Murder of stewardess in Putten (1994)
  6. Hendrik W. convicted for murder during a party in Almelo (1997)
  7. Park murder in Schiedam raping/killing 2 children (2000)
  8. Care-giver Lucia de Berk murdering elderly people (2003)
I recommend to read John's book and judge yourself. The book is from 2006. Interestingly John wrote a fiction novel on the same subject, called  The Confession which is from 2010, is also worthwhile to read.

I have no info on the juridically system in the Philippines, although I know it is based on the US system, so no mistake cases available or known, but perhaps one of my Filipino readers of this blog have  them, in which case please use the comment option at the bottom of this post. 



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