Ronald Keith Williamson's early life appeared charmed. A successful school and college baseball player, he seemed to have a world of opportunity at his feet. But, after injury put paid to his sporting career, he slowly began to show signs of mental illness, and drifted into a life of petty crime and misdemeanour.
When in 1982 a local girl was found raped and murdered, he was in prison serving time for kiting cheques. Whilst there, another prisoner, looking for release, alleged he had overheard him confessing to the killing, and Williamson was arrested for the crime. What followed was one of the most appalling cases of a miscarriage of justice America has ever seen.
From the point of his arrest, Williamson was taunted by prison guards who held back the medicines he was prescribed to control his psychiatric problems, meaning that when it came to trial he was distressed and not lucid. At the trial itself he was never given fair representation - his lawyer was not only blind, but had also never handled a criminal case before, and never entered a plea on Williamson's behalf, that he was not fit to stand trial.
Williamson was found guilty, and sentenced to death. Despite many appeals, he was final given a date for his execution - Sept 24th 1994. It was only due to the last minute intervention by a group of appellate lawyers working on his behalf, who sought a writ from the district court judge, that he was given a stay of execution of five days.
Here, for the first time, Grisham delves into this story, tracing the man, the case and the trial, and showing how, thanks to this team of dedicated legal professionals, the real truth about the case came to light. Evidence surfaced to completely exhonorate Williamson, and he was freed in April 1999.
He later won a settlement in court for his conviction, but sadly passed away last year.
- Published 10th October 2006
- 353 Minutes
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