Monday, August 29, 2011

The Confession by John Grisham

I’ve just finished listening to The Confession by John Grisham on audiobook. If you’ve ever listened to a book, you are probably aware that at the end of the reading there is a recitation of credits that nearly always starts with “We hope you have enjoyed this recording of…”I usually turn book off before I reach this point, but today I was painting the porch while listening and was standing on a ladder with a paint cup in one hand and a brush in the other, so I wasn’t really in a position to turn this one off right away.

That sentence, “We hope you have enjoyed this recording of The Confession by John Grisham…”got me to thinking. Had I, in fact, enjoyed the story? While it engendered many reactions from me, enjoyment would probably not make the list. This book saddened me, horrified me, frightened me, angered me and disgusted me. It also made me hope that I could be as honest, gallant, brave and principled as some of the characters. It kept me up late several nights as I listened impatiently to hear whether righteousness and justice had prevailed.

A high school cheerleader in Texas disappears without a trace. Through teenage pique and shoddy police work, an innocent young black man is sent to death row. Now, years later, on the eve of the execution, in another part of the country, a parolee comes to visit a minister and confesses to the murder of the cheerleader.

The minister is now faced with the moral imperative to attempt to stop the execution. But how? The real murderer refuses to assist in any way, including admitting where the body is buried. The innocent convict’s lawyer thinks the minister is just one of the whack jobs that come out of the wood work on the cusp of an execution, and is not taking him seriously. Which way should he turn now?

The minister ultimately does the right, albeit illegal, thing, convincing the real killer to break parole in Kansas and accompany him to Texas to confess and stop the execution. He convinces the defense lawyer that he cannot only produce the real killer, but lead authorities to the body of the cheerleader which had heretofore not been found. But due to circumstances beyond his control and the callous disregard for life and justice of members of the state judicial system, the execution proceeds. He is too late.

Eventually, all is put right – with two exceptions. The innocent man executed for a crime he did not commit, while exonerated, is still dead. And for all the committees and commissions and special legislative sessions, nothing about the death penalty process that went so horrible astray changed.

I did not “enjoy” The Confession by John Grisham. But I think it is worth reading. It made me think. And the author did a very good job at pointing out that right does not equal legal and legal does not equal right.

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