The Innocent Man is now a true crime docu-series on Netflix, but before that it was author John Grisham’s first and only true-crime bestselling book, titled The Innocent Man: Murder & Injustice in a Small Town.
Though Grisham admits freely that he wasn’t directly involved in the making of the docu-series, he has spoken about the show in the days leading up to its release. He is also featured in the show’s trailer, in which he says, “You just don’t expect the police to play dirty. It’s all about winning. And along the way, if the truth gets blurred or twisted, too bad.”
He continues in another trailer, “If I wrote The Innocent Man as a novel, folks probably wouldn’t believe it. In small towns like Ada, prosecutors…were under enormous pressure to solve two murders.” What happens next, both in Grisham’s book and the docu-series based upon it, is close to unbelievable.
Here’s what Grisham has had to say about the new Netflix docu-series:
WATCH: John Grisham Talks About ‘The Innocent Man’ Docu-Series on ‘CBS This Morning’
“You can’t believe a system can break down so badly,” author John Grisham said to CBS This Morning about The Innocent Man. Grisham continued, “”There’s a complete breakdown in the police investigation, the prosecution. One mistake after another. One injustice after another. And I can’t create that stuff in fiction.”
When Grisham was asked why he decided to allow his book to be turned into a docu-series, he said, “First of all, I had almost nothing to do with the movie, even though I’m the executie producer, whatever that means. I’ve had about nine or ten movies made. I don’t get near them…I meet the people making the movie, but I don’t make movies.”
He continued, “But we always deal with good people who know what they’re doing…in this case it’s [director] Clay Tweel…I said go with it. He had a great idea for it, they had a great script…and here we are.”
The author went on to say that he hoped it would generate a wider audience around these two crime mysteries.
Grisham Was First Inspired to Write the Non-Fiction Book After Coming Across Ron Williamson’s Obituary
In a speech at the University of Virginia School of Law in 2013, Grisham shared that he first became interested in what would become the topic of the only non-fiction book he would ever write after flipping through the New York Times obituary section and coming across Williamson’s obituary.
Grisham noted how exceptionally interesting the first paragraph of the obituary for Williamson: “Ronald Keith Williamson, who left his small town in Oklahoma as a high school baseball star with hopes of a major league career but was later sent to death row and came within five days of execution for a murder he did not commit, died on Saturday at a nursing home near Tulsa. He was 51.”
Grisham said, “I read the whole obituary, and when I got finished with it, I immediately knew it had the makings of a bigger story.” Grisham next called Williamson’s sister and ironed out a “deal” to write Williamson’s story. Williamson was, in essence, the original “Innocent Man”, Grisham explained.