The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, is a nonfiction book written by John Grisham in 2006 telling the false arrest story of a former minor league baseball player, Ronald ‘Ron’ Keith Williamson from Ada, Oklahoma . He was falsely convicted in 1988 for murdering and raping Debra ‘Debby’ Sue Carter in Ada and sentenced to death. After serving for 11 years in prison as a convict on death row, he was found not guilty after new technology DNA tests were done and other materials introduced by Innocence Project in 1999.Before Debra’s death Ron Williamson had returned in his hometown of Ada after several failed attempts to be enlisted in various minor league baseball clubs. These failures had led to or aggravated his drinking problems and depression. On 8 December 1982, Debra Sue Carter’s body was found under the garage. Forensic tests showed that she had been beaten, suffocated and raped by two accomplices. After five years of policy’s shoddy work, although they had not involved in the murder, Williamson and his fellow drinking buddy were arrested, tried and convicted of the crimes that related to her death presumably because of their heavy drinking habits. Fritz was arrested because his hair resembled the hair sample that was found at the crime scene, and that he had several criminal charges concerning marijuana. Ron was clumsily arrested because he had merely confessed that he had had a dream of killing Debbie Carter. As Williamson received a death sentence, Fritz got a life sentence (Grisham, 2006; Cosgove, 2013).
Just like in the murder of Donna Denise Haraway, Karl Fontenot becomes easily convicted to be her murderer due to the unconscious statement that Tommy Ward makes to the police. The Tommy Ward’s statement unknowingly inculpates Fontenot, Titsworth and to a slight degree himself. In both cases, police did take maximum possible efforts to uncover evidences. In The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, although the DNA technology reveals that it was Glen Gore who was the true murder, despite the victim having reported that he had endangered him, regardless of being known to be a serial killer, the police show little interest. When he is eventually brought before the law, he is not given maximum sentence, but he receives life sentence due to the jury’s deadlock on sentencing. In the Fontenot and Ward’s case, the detail provided by investigators seemed to be false or unsubstantiated. Post conviction review showed that first, there were little law enforcement efforts during her abduction and therefore the high level of abduction could not enhance such immediate evidence. Secondly, the woman’s body could not belong to Ms. Haraway, because its birth canal showed that the woman had given birth. Secondly, since Haraway was pregnant, there could have been physical evidences of a child in the womb. The same way, just as the law enforcers did not consider Glen Gore as the murder of Debby, in this case, due to the policy’s shoddy investigative procedures, Odell Titsworth was released because of the police’s lack of clear proof that he was not an accomplice (Grisham, 2006; Turvey, 2013).
When Jerry Peters completed his finger print evidence analysis, the palm print on the Sheetrock did not belong to the Dennis Fritz, Ron Williamson or Debbie Carter. The police did not find a person that matched the finger print, and despite the fact that they were irrefutable evidence that neither Dennis nor Ron committed the crime, they just ignored. The fact that police hung on such weak evidence, it showed that they needed a rest and therefore they just pinned the crime on the two suspects. 12 years later, when the case was revisited, using the new DNA technology, Glen Gore was found to be the true murderer. Regardless of the DNA test, Gore had threatened the victim and had had a criminal history of violence against women prior to the Debbie’s murder. When the issue was brought in court, afresh, as already mentioned, despite having committed numerous crimes that involved murders and violence against women, his death sentence was overturned, and he was convicted of life sentence due to the jury’s deadlock on sentencing. As it can be noted the police and hence, the prosecutors, did not consider any Brady disclosure in all cases. For the case of Ron and Dennis, despite lack of clear evidence that they had participated in the murder, the police picks weak evidences such as hair resemblance and unconscious dream confessions to sentence them to death and life sentence respectively. Moreover, the court did not consider the fact that Ron suffered from mild schzzophrenia and maniac psychological disorder, which are defences against prosecution. However, for someone with criminal record of killing women, despite the DNA results and prior threats to the victim’s death, he is awarded life sentence without considering such clear culpable evidence materials (Grisham, 2006).
What Should have been done from the Crime Scene to the Courts
The first thing police could have done once they realised that the crime had happened was to protect the scene. The next step would involve conducting preliminary survey to determine the most salient physical evidences. Thereafter, there would be evaluation of the physical evidences to determine the victim’s physical characteristics, how the body was moved, the shooting involved on the body, signs of struggle, visible foot and finger prints and so forth. These evidences would lead to preparing a narrative of the whole scene, after a photograph had been taken. The next stage would involve a detailed survey that includes collecting potential micro particles such as DNA, messages in computers or cell phone, among others. Final survey could involve collecting any potential physical evidences and recording excerpts prior and before the incidence. There would be a final review of all evidences to realise how coherent and intact they may be before releasing the crime scene investigation report. In court, with the guidelines provided by Brady disclosure, there is no doubt the investigation report will provide evidences that are material to the guilt of the murderer. In this case DNA samples from the new technology and background information about the relationship between Debby and Glen Gore would have made the latter to receive a death sentence (Penven, 2014).
Cosgove, J. (2013).Report sparks debate over innocence of Karl Fontenot. NewsOk.
Retrieved on 29 November 2014 from http://newsok.com/report-sparks-debate-over-innocence-of-karl-fontenot/article/3868927
Grisham, J. (2006). The Innocent Man; Murder and Injustice in a Small Town. New York:
Penven, D. (2014).Basic stages for a crime scene investigation — possible homicide.
Crime Scene Investigator Network. Retrieved on 29 November 2014 from http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/possiblehomicide.html
Turvey, B. (2013).The Denice Haraway case: abduction, murder, and a missing child.
Crime Reconstruction. Retrieved on 29 November 2014 from http://crimereconstruction.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-denice-haraway-case-abduction.html