This story is about Ron Williamson, a man falsely accused of murder. The story follows his life from a brush with professional baseball, to an increasing mental illness, to a false arrest, conviction and death row sentence. It concludes with his release from prison and continues until Ron's death from failed health.
The story also follows, in much less detail, others around Ron like his sister and lawyers and other inmates.
The stories main focus is on how justice became injustice in a small town. It argues that there are flaws in our justice system and it describes one example of that from beginning to end.
The story also details life with mental illness and also some detail about life on one death row prison in Oklahoma.
This report prepared by Rick Colund
Ron Williamson, an All-State baseball athlete was sure to be Ada, Oklahoma's local celebrity when drafted after graduation to play for the New York Yankee' minor league team. He soon found out that his extraordinary ball skills in high school were not enough to make it in the big leagues. Cut from the team and back living with his mother in Ada, Ron takes to drinking, drugging and bar hopping. His desire to play professional baseball soon became an obsession and the first hint of Ron's mental illness came to light.
When a local woman was raped and killed in her own home, Ron became the first suspect. Because he was known as a strange character around town that partyied alot and wandered the streets late at night as well as living close to the victim he was the easiest suspect for the local polic to focus their efforts on. Due to the severity of the crime, the police believed there were two perpetrators and they arrested Ron and his buddy Dennis in connection with the crime. With numerous witnesses willing to lie for the prosecution, Ron and Dennis were soon charged with the rape and murder and facing a murder trial.
Being that Ron and Dennis could not afford legal representation, the court assigned them council and the investigations began. The townsfolk were anxious to have a resolution in the case and the prosecution pushed forward with lies and shoddy policework to find Ron and Dennis guilty. This case began before DNA evidence was widely used and they were convicted without any concrete facts. Ron sentenced to Death Row and Dennis was sentenced to life in prison, the story continues with appeal after appeal being filed on their behalf.
In the early 90's, Barry Scheck joined Ron's legal team. New technology with DNA evidence was enabling innocent convicts to be exonerated at appeals. This looked hopeful for Ron and Dennis since no forensic evidence in the past had been adequately used against them. The issue of Ron's mental capacity to stand trial had never been brought before the court as well.
This report prepared by Dana Riedberger