The Innocent Man was the book that kept me company on my trips to the hospital in the past few weeks (oh and also French Women Don’t Get Fat). Since we don’t have our TV here in the living room in the aftermath of Ondoy, and the PC wasn’t setup yet (like I’ve said before, we’re still not done with the cleanup and our living room is still a mess), I had the chance to sit down and finish Grisham’s first work of non-fiction on Saturday last week.
In the beginning, it was dragging. It’s a lot like reading a legal brief, as I would imagine it (though I wouldn’t really know). But as the story unfolds even further, you would really want to read it through to find out how the truth will eventually come out.
My thoughts? If this injustice can happen in small town America – what of those suffering in the Philippine justice system?
Here, there was no graft and corruption included. Simple incompetence. Or law enforcement’s sheer will to find their scapegoat to get the public off their backs. In the Philippines, you have cops, lawyers and judges on payola (allegedly).
One of the most oft used arguments for the death penalty is its power as a crime deterrent. But how many of those executed in the past really were guilty beyond reasonable doubt? Until the state can guarantee a fair justice system, more so for the poor, then the death penalty will not be effective. Then of course there’s the right to life argument.
The book does not talk about the death penalty though it did give us a glimpse of Ron Williamson’s horrifying experience at The Row and the H Unit. It also shows how dreams are accepted as confessions, and how jail house snitches will say just about anything just to get off their own crimes.
It’s also about prejudice. And how some people on trial are presumed guilty until proven innocent.
The stories of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, as well as of Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, should be an example of how law enforcement and the prosecutors ought not to act.