Netflix is still on a quest for justice, and this time it’s alongside bestselling author John Grisham.
The Innocent Man is a docuseries inspired by Grisham’s only non-fiction novel that focuses on two murders and four wrongful convictions in the 80s in Ada, Oklahoma. In the clip above, exclusive to E! News, Grisham explains how the case of Ronald Williamson came to his attention ahead of writing the book in 2006.
“December 4, 2004, I was flipping through the New York Times and I saw Ron’s obituary. There was a picture of Ron in court that day on April the 15th, 1999 when he was exonerated and set free, and I was struck by the question how could a guy like this end up on death row and almost get executed for a murder he didn’t commit?”
Grisham says he immediately called his editor and said he had found his next book.
Grisham has always been known for writing fiction, but he knew he had to go a different direction with this particular story.
“If I wrote the Innocent Man as a novel, folks probably wouldn’t believe it,” Grisham says. “Every trip to Ada introduced me to more and more characters. The documents, the paperwork itself was overwhelming. I had tons of sworn testimony, so it made my job easier in that I didn’t have to go chase witnesses around. I knew what every witness would say in the trial.”
Williamson was a former minor league baseball player who was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter in 1988. He served 11 years on death row before being exonerated thanks to DNA evidence, and Grisham’s book chronicles the Ada police department’s desperate attempt to solve Carter’s murder that eventually led to such a botched conviction, including tactics like forced dream confessions.
The book also covers other wrongful convictions that landed men on death row.
Per Netflix: “From coerced confessions and mishandling of evidence to crime scene snafus and false eyewitness accounts, the series exposes how bias—conscious and unconscious—can change the course of the lives of both the victims and the accused. Two of the men were exonerated and two are still appealing their cases from more than 20 years ago.”
Grisham executive produces and makes appearances in the series, which also includes interviews with the victims’ friends and families as well as other Ada residents and many people involved in the cases.
The five-episode series is now available to stream on Netflix.