Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption

The following book review was submitted by patron Janice Gintzler:

I just finished Ghost of the Innocent Man, by Benjamin Rachlin. In 1988, Mr Willie Grimes, of Hickory, North Carolina, is imprisoned after the real culprit of a rape gets off free and eventually attacks a dozen others.

If there is a moral to the story, it is that any District Attorney, police district, or prosecutor who does not act with justice in mind, and sloppily does not test evidence in a national database, nor gives fingerprints in evidence may be putting the community at great risk, by taking the easy way out and summarily fingering an innocent person.

The trial is a sham, the defense attorney is not provided any evidence that police collected, which was not much at all. But two fingerprints are recovered. They match the real real culprit, but are never analyzed to figure out to whom they belong. The main "evidence" is an ID of Willie by the raped woman's neighbor, who gets $1000 for IDing a person she thinks did the rape.

Willie has a watertight alibi, but the jury focuses instead on the paid ID, and convicts Willie.

A woman who was a juror at Willie's trial later becomes a lawyer. Clerking for a judge, she sees evidence of injustice in the court system. So she begins the North Carolina Innocence project. It takes a while, but eventually, the commission she creates turns to those already in jail. Willie Grimes writes to any and all organizations he can to get help with his fake conviction. Chris Mumma, the innocence lawyer, finally hears about Willie. Meanwhile, in prison, Willie joins a Bible Study organized by Jehovah's Witnesses. He is baptized into the religion. This helps him immensely to deal with his life in prison for a crime he never committed. Willie keeps getting penalized for never "coming clean" about his crime in prison.

After 25 years, an investigation begins by the Innocence Project. The investigation is thorough.

Please read this mesmerizing book.