In today’s society the criminal justice system that we live in is flawed in so many ways. Some say that it works while others go to prison or jail for crimes that they didn’t commit. In this paper I will be covering specific examples from the book, The Innocent Man, where the defendant’s rights were violated. John Grisham talks about innocent men being innocent and convicted for murder and sent to unlawful court proceedings. In this paper I will be focusing mainly on the violations of his 6th amendment.
The 6th amendment is the right to effective assistance of counsel. Now Mr. Williamson was a very indigent or poor man and because of that he couldn’t afford a great attorney. Therefore he was assigned Barney Ward as his attorney. Barney Ward was not seen as a good attorney because of the many mistakes and shortcuts that he took while defending Mr. Williamson. One of the key factors that Mr. Williamson’s attorney (Barney Ward) had known was that his defendant Ron Williamson was a diagnosed schizophrenic and sociopath. Yet even though he knew this information Mr. Ward failed to present any of this information to the court. While in prison, Ron was improperly treated for his mental illness. He was given “neuroleptic drugs which are mainly seen in tranquilizers and anti-psychotics and are primarily used on schizophrenics” (Grisham, p. 172). During his stay in prison Mr. Williamson was clearly expressing signs of his schizophrenia through periods of loud and obnoxious behavior. It was only during these periods of unruly behavior the he would be given this medicine in order to calm him down.
However being a diagnosed schizophrenic the prison should have been giving this medicine to him on a daily or regular basis, not just when he was being unruly. This is clearly unlawful behavior by the prison, and if they couldn’t handle Mr. Williamson or had the funds to provide him with this medication then Mr. Williamson should have been moved to a mental hospital. Mr. Williamson’s schizophrenia also brings up another violation by his attorney Barney Ward. This violation being in the form of a videotape, which could have completely changed the outcome of the case.
On this videotape there was a full confession from Ricky Simmons. Barney Ward knew all about this videotape (as it was shared with him along with all other information) yet he chose not to bring this evidence to the table and share it with the jury. Judge Jones ruled that the tape was not a Brady violation. “The tape was not really hidden; it was handed over after the trial, sort of a delayed submission (Grisham pg. 258)”. This one piece of evidence alone would have been enough to change the opinions of the jury and change the outcome of the trail.
However because Barney Ward did NOT show this video, this is a clear violation of Mr. Williamson’s 6th Amendment, which guarantees that in all criminal prosecutions there must be an “effective” assistance of counsel (Cole and Smith pg. 84). In my opinion at no point in this trial was Ron Williamson’s attorney an “effective assistance of counsel”. Now the last example of how Ron Williamson’s 6th Amendment was violated was as the very beginning of all this. During the investigation of the crime scene, the police conducting the search had found two hair samples.
There was no proof that either of these belonged to Mr. Williamson, however they still claimed that it had come from the scalp of Mr. Williamson. However this is just a claim and Barney Ward knew that and should have jumped on this opportunity. Mr. Ward had the opportunity to bring in a professional forensic hair specialist (Melvin Het) to testify on behalf of Mr. Williamson and prove that the hair did not belong to him. Yet Mr. Ward failed yet again to do so (Grisham pg. 244). This is yet again a clear violation of Mr. Williamson’s 6th Amendment.
In closing I hope that you will find that it is clear that in today’s society our criminal justice system is somewhat working but is clearly Very flawed. This is clearly evident through the evidence in this paper, which covers in detail the whole case of Mr. Williamson. As well as how his Constitutional rights as a United States citizen where clearly violated by his attorney Barney Ward. Mr. Williamson was an innocent man who was wrongly accused and had the will power to fight back and win. Ron eventually won the case after ten years of living on death row, and was finally released from prison.