John Grisham Online: Grisham supports changes to the criminal justice system

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green and white leafed plantsNovelist John Grisham, master of the legal thriller, went to Hope Valley Country Club on September 29, 2009 to support The North Carolina Center On Actual Innocence. He also detailed plans for his next two books and recalled earlier dreams of a baseball career.

Grisham said his next book, “Ford County,’‘ will be his first collection of short stories, half of which will deal with lawyers. “It’s a lot of small-town color, a lot of small-town humor and a lot of small-town law,’‘ he said. He said the book takes place in a fictional location he created in his first book, “A Time to Kill.’‘

After that, he plans another “big, thick legal thriller’‘ which he’ll work on this winter and next spring and summer. It’s set for publication in November 2010.

In an interview before his talk, Grisham, a former lawyer who has written extensively about the criminal justice system, said he favors three changes to reduce the chance of wrongful convictions:

1. Require police to videotape their interrogations in serious crimes. “They have the video and audio equipment, but they don’t use it until they’ve had the suspect in the basement of the police department for 15 hours and they’ve got a confession,’‘ he said. “Video the whole thing. Show us what you did.’‘

2. Tighten up laws and police procedures in witness identification. “Eyewitness identification is notoriously inaccurate,’‘ he said, ‘‘because the poor victim is so traumatized.’‘

3. Provide national certification for forensic experts. “There’s so much junk science out there. Some of our courts still use hair analysis and bite marks analysis, and it’s total junk.’‘

On a lighter note, Grisham said his childhood dream of a baseball career fizzled in his teens, but added that it was for the best.

“Well, you know, it takes a lot of time to get that dream out of your blood,’‘ he said. “But when I was 19 years old, I tried to play college baseball and I saw my first 90 mph fastball. And I never want to see another one. I mean, you can barely see the ball. I knew I was in way over my head, so I knew it was over.’‘

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