The Kentucky Supreme Court has decided it’s OK to use lethal injections on Death Row inmates, though we haven’t seen many executions here. I hope we don’t start seeing them, either. The court ruling came down Wednesday in a case brought by two convicted murderers. It’s a timely ruling, in the little world inside my brain, because I just finished reading John Grisham’s first work of non-fiction, The Innocent Man, in which an innoncent man comes within five days of his execution date in Oklahoma.
Mark Hebert has a good take on lawyerly blunders with the press by the state.
Grisham’s book proves that truth can be stranger than fiction, as he sees bumbling Oklahoma lawyers screwing up in the case of Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson (a former minor league baseball player). After 11 years in prison, including several on death row for Williamson, the pair are proved innocent using DNA testing. In those 11 years, Williamson went from being a odd character in a small town (Ada) to a mental incompetent, from a healthy 220-pound athlete to a skinny and frail ghost of a man.
There were few consequences for the prosecutor, the police, the people who lied at trial, the state’s experts who altered testimony to fit the prosecutor’s vision, the detective who elicited courthouse confessions through questionable interrogation techniques, even the reporters who took the state’s one-sided story to press — all of which shows that even in today’s criminal justice system, a person falsely accused can end up facing a court-ordered murder.
Speaking of “Stranger Than Fiction,” I saw the movie of that title, starring Will Ferrell, whose Harold Crick is a memorable and heroic character. While the premise — that a novelist is narrating Crick’s life story while he’s living it — is absurd, the movie is terrific. The novelist, played by a chain-smoking, feeble Emma Thompson, is known for always killing her characters, and predicts an imminent demise for Crick. Hearing this, Crick sets out to change his life and the outcome of the story. Dustin Hoffman is great as an English professor to whom Crick comes for advice.