Thursday, March 10, 2005

John Grisham, the Death Penalty and Exoneration

USA Today reports that John Grisham is writing his first non-fiction book, the story of Ronald Keith Williamson, a one-time promising baseball player who was wrongly convicted of murder, spent 12 years in prison, and came within 5 days of execution before being exonerated in 1999 by DNA evidence.
Maybe treatment of a story like this by a writer as popular as Mr. Grisham will help to change thinking about capital punishment. Mr. Grisham has dealt with the death penalty before, in The Chamber, but that was fiction and was really the story of a family rather than a piece on the death penalty itself.
Exoneration cases have become a popular argument against the death penalty, and have even been the subject of a play that was recently televised. I know that innocent people have been wrongly convicted, and if showcasing these is what it takes to bring the unfairness of capital punishment into focus, so be it.
Execution by the state of even a single innocent person should be enough to stop the practice.
With the recent decision by the Supreme Court on execution of minors, and now Mr. Grisham's account, maybe the problems with capital punishment will gain greater understanding.