Books That Inspire 2013

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town
John Grisham

Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award (2005).

I have been an avid reader of John Grisham, winner of the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award in 2005, since the initial publication of A Time to Kill. But it was his 2006 nonfiction work, The Innocent Man, which inspired me.

I grew up in Ada, Oklahoma, the setting of the 1982 rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter. The places Carter frequented and Grisham’s description of Ada in the 1980s were all familiar to me.

Grisham is at his most compelling when he describes the trial against Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, who were convicted and then exonerated in 1999 based on newly available DNA testing. Both men were freed after the determined efforts of The Innocence Project, which continues to work for the release of wrongfully convicted, often death row, inmates who may benefit from DNA testing.

It's a cautionary tale and inspirational story that happened all too close to home for those of us who are native Oklahomans.

Rhonda Dean Kyncl
Assistant Dean
College of Arts & Sciences