Netflix, John Grisham, and an Exoneree Changed My Stance on the Death Penalty

SPOILER ALERT! If you intend on reading John Grisham’s The Innocent Man or watching the Netflix original of the same title, the following blog post gives away much of the details to both.

I naturally see things in black and white. There is no gray area. I see most solutions as swift and simple.

This has been my lens regarding the death penalty for many years. I abhor crimes, particularly violent ones. So it has always seemed natural for me to support the death penalty. It just felt right. Justice served. Swift and simple.

I’ve really had to work on my natural proclivities over the years. Because everything is not simple. There definitely are gray areas. And sometimes, the right answer doesn’t necessarily feel right.

The Innocent Man

Just like many of you, I was prepped and ready to watch the Netflix original, The Innocent Man. I had read John Grisham’s novel with the same title several years ago after it was released in 2006. I am a huge fan of John Grisham and he did not disappoint.

The Innocent Man, both the book and the Netflix series, follows the story of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz who were both wrongly convicted for the Ada, Oklahoma rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter in 1982. Both Williamson and Fritz served 11 years in prison for this crime they did not commit.

Williamson was serving on death row and Fritz a life sentence when they were both eventually exonerated through DNA evidence that pointed to the actual rapist and killer, Glen Gore. Gore is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Williamson suffered from depression, personality disorders, alcoholism, and schizophrenia, much as a result of his death sentence and time spent on death row for crimes he didn’t commit. Not quite six years after his release, Ron Williamson died in 2004 of cirrhosis of the liver.

Journey Toward Justice

Unbeknownst to me, Dennis Fritz wrote a book about his harrowing ordeal back in 2006, the same year John Grisham’s book, The Innocent Man, was released.

As soon as I realized his book existed this past January, I purchased it from Amazon and eagerly awaited its arrival.

Journey Toward Justice by Dennis Fritz tipped the scales for me. Somewhere in the middle of his book, a switch flipped. Upon completing this highly recommended read, there was no doubt in my mind that I no longer support the death penalty.

A Changed Mind

I am against the death penalty.

I don’t know why it took me so long to settle this within myself. But, it’s settled.

Surprisingly, I am not only against the death penalty because innocent people have been and will continue to be put to death for crimes they didn’t commit. I am against it also because we are not the givers of life. We also shouldn’t be the takers.

Many obviously don’t agree with me. But many do. Because everything is not simple. There are gray areas. And sometimes, the right answer doesn’t necessarily feel right.