Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption
During the last two decades, more than two thousand American citizens have been wrongfully convicted. Ghost of the Innocent Man brings us one of the most dramatic of those cases and provides the clearest picture yet of the national scourge of wrongful conviction and of the opportunity for meaningful reform.
When the final gavel clapped in a rural southern courtroom in the summer of 1988, Willie J. Grimes, a gentle spirit with no record of violence, was shocked and devastated to be convicted of first-degree rape and sentenced to life imprisonment. Here is the story of this everyman and his extraordinary quarter-century-long journey to freedom, told in breathtaking and sympathetic detail, from the botched evidence and suspect testimony that led to his incarceration to the tireless efforts to prove his innocence and the identity of the true perpetrator. These were spearheaded by his relentless champion, Christine Mumma, a cofounder of North Carolina's Innocence Inquiry Commission. That commission-unprecedented at its inception in 2006-remains a model organization unlike any other in the country, and one now responsible for a growing number of exonerations.
With meticulous, prismatic research and pulse-quickening prose, Benjamin Rachlin presents one man's tragedy and triumph. The jarring and unsettling truth is that the story of Willie J. Grimes, for all its outrage, dignity, and grace, is not a unique travesty. But through the harrowing and suspenseful account of one life, told from the inside, we experience the full horror of wrongful conviction on a national scale. Ghost of the Innocent Man is both rare and essential, a masterwork of empathy. The book offers a profound reckoning not only with the shortcomings of our criminal justice system but also with its possibilities for redemption.
This is a gripping story from start to finish. The author did a great job braiding the two narratives of Willie Grimes and the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. You witness Willie's 24 years of torment, his pain being shuffled through the labyrinth of NC prisons, all the while insisting on his innocence. You then meet the team of incredible lawyers with Christine Mumma at the helm who work to form the commission with bipartisan support. This story will make you wonder why such an office does not exist in every state and why our country isn't doing more for the men and women wrongfully incarcerated like Willie. Rachlin did an amazing job bringing this story to life and is definitely worth the read.
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