It is a six part series based upon John Grisham’s non-fiction novel with the same title.
Open spoilers ahead:
I’m sure there are two sides to any story and this one only presented one, but man it hit too close to home. I guess prosecutor’s do some shady shit everywhere.
Regarding Williamson and Fritz: They were able to convince a jury that those two guys did it with absolutely ZERO evidence. That is shocking. I want to ask where did the concept of reasonable doubt go to in America, but I have to first ask where did the concept of evidence go? Not to look at Glen Gore?!? Shocking!
If I am the last guy to be seen with a murder victim, all I have to do is blame it on the local crazy guy and his friend? Terrible!
Regarding Ward/Fontenot: Their confession is troubling, but I do understand false confessions. Especially how they described her blouse (which was not at all what her blouse looks like) No guy in the world could describe what she was wearing in the detail that those guys did. Hell, I couldn’t tell you what my wife was wearing yesterday.
I think that there is more than enough doubt there, given this prosecutor and the police, that those guys should go home.
Dreams of Ada deals with the Ward/Fontenot case. I also read the Grisham book and the book dealt mainly with Williamson and had a bit about Ward/Fontenot.
The series gives equal play to both, probably concentrating more on Ward/Fontenot.
I was appalled that the police interrogated Ward for 8 hours and only then turned on the video camera. The camera didn’t work before? Record the whole thing so we can see an honest rendition of what was said. Don’t (emotionally) beat him up for 8 hours and then pretend that we are seeing his first statements.
Grisham didn’t “deal” with the Williamson/Fritz case in that he did not participate in the efforts to free the men. He “dealt” with the case in the sense of covering it in his book. After doing research for his book, he came across the Ward/Fontenot case.
The problem with the Ward/Fontenot case is that there is no DNA evidence to compare to possibly get them a new trial.
This series, the MofaM series, and my own experience as a criminal defense attorney makes me very disappointed in the quality and quantity of evidence needed to put someone in prison for life: especially those of limited means like the four in this series.
The main objection is that if you are O.J. Simpson, Bill Cosby, or William Kennedy Smith, you can afford high quality attorneys and experts to help prove your case. This is only part of it. With these four lower class and lower intelligence guys in the series, the police are able to jerk them around (consensually) and then once the questioning begins, they are woefully outsmarted, get angry, and get tongue tied.
And these low class “white trash” qualities are not lost on a jury. Subconsciously they see that “their” police officers and prosecutors believe this guy is guilty, he seems like a piece of shit, so that is good enough for us.
Think about how a jury convicted Williamson/Fritz. The state absolutely lied about the hair evidence, used a jailhouse snitch who they used regularly and she had gotten out of at least two felony convictions because of it, and (knowingly?) used an eyewitness who turned out to be the actual murderer. Williamson, being mentally unhinged, devastated himself by lashing out to the judge (as it turned out in righteous protest of his innocence) but it looked to the jury as if he could very easily have the temperment of a murderer.
This cannot be chalked up to “the system is not perfect and sometimes we make mistakes.” This was a deliberate attempt to win at all costs and to destroy anyone to prove the case.
I was not sure what he meant by the term “prosecutorial file.” The state is obliged to turn over any piece of evidence that they intended to use at trial AND also turn over whatever material may be potentially helpful or exculpatory to the defense (Brady material). They are not required to turn over investigative notes and those items related to strategy.
Any prosecutor I have ever worked with has what is called an “open file policy” meaning that whatever they have, they turn it over (minus the strategy notes) so as not to even take the chance of running afoul of Brady. Further, I don’t need to go to their office to review the file. They are courteous enough to provide me with copies.
If there is something in those 650 pages not provided to the defense that is helpful or exculpatory, then that is a Brady violation. It was Peterson’s obligation to disclose it, not just point to a file cabinet. If there is nothing worthwhile in there, then he was not required to turn it over.