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 a picture of the national scourge of wrongful conviction and of the opportunity for meaningful reform.
A crisply written page turner ... Deploying the same precision with which he documents Grimes' prison life, Rachlin recounts the arduous and complex work to move the wheels of justice. 19 years after Grimes' arrest, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to establish an Innocence Inquiry Commission; Chris Mumma's fingerprints were all over it. Read Rachlin's Ghost of the Innocent Man to follow the twisted path that led Chris Mumma to pick up Grimes' file, ultimately exposing the use of outdated photos to mis-identify the perpetrator, the failure to fingerprint relevant parts of the crime scene, exculpatory evidence destroyed, contorted "science" involving a single hair, and more. But don't read for the gripping story alone. Willie Grimes spent 24 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, while the real perpetrator continued to offend. Shouldn't we be better than this?
Ghost of the Innocent Man reads like an inverted police procedural, where the criminal conviction comes first, before the detectives discover the facts and where justice arrives only at the end — long delayed and therefore, in an important sense, forever denied. Willie Grimes, convicted on flimsy evidence for a rape he did not commit, gives the victims of our overconfident and needlessly punitive criminal justice system a human face ... offers a hopeful story of bipartisan support for the Innocence Inquiry Commission and its mission to correct wrongful convictions. It also chronicles the skepticism and resistance of some prosecutors, judges and victims’ rights advocates ... By showing us that the specter of wrongful convictions involves flesh and blood human beings, Ghost of the Innocent Man confronts us with the cruelest injustices of the criminal justice system, even as it also holds out hope for a more humane future.
...a captivating, intimate profile of one man’s stubbornly persistent efforts to convince others of his innocence ... Rachlin is a skilled storyteller, but what’s not sufficiently clear is why he chose to tell this particular story. Over the past 28 years and as of this writing, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 2,102 people whom the courts or government officials have found to be wrongfully convicted...Grimes’s conviction, in the end, appears to have been the result of sloppy and lazy police work, and as a reader I’m not sure what to take away from this ... Where Rachlin fully succeeds is in his rich, intimate portrait of Grimes, who is isolated and alone, whose soul is cracking...Amazingly, he came out as dignified a man as when he went in. It’s in these chapters that this story becomes remarkable. That, I suppose, is reason enough to tell this tale.