Two writers of legal thrillers, John Grisham and Scott Turow, will headline a fundraising dinner October 22nd for the Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law in Jackson.
Grisham, who graduated from the Ole Miss law school in 1981 and who now makes his home in the Charlottesville, Va., area, is the author of numerous novels, including his most recent, “The Innocent Man,” profiling a man wrongfully convicted and freed years later with the help of several attorneys.
Turow, a 1978 graduate of Harvard Law School who lives in Chicago, also has authored numerous books, including “Presumed Innocent” and “Ultimate Punishment.”
Grisham and Turow have supported similar projects at law schools across the country.
The Mississippi Innocence Project hopes to identify problems in the state’s criminal justice system. It was established with initial funding by Grisham and Columbus attorney Wilbur Colom, a graduate of Antioch Law School.
“John Grisham and I had a meeting in Oxford, probably about nine months ago, where we talked about putting enough money (in) to start the (Innocence Project) research project,” Colom recalled. “We both agreed to do that and Mr. Grisham also agreed he would lead a fundraiser to add to that.”
Grisham and Turow met for the first time over lunch and agreed to headline events – one here and one in an area local to Turow, Colom said.
“This would be the first time Scott Turow and John Grisham have appeared together,” Colom added. “(They are) sort of the titans of suspense novels.”
“The Innocence Project generally works with a university and usually students,” Colom said. “(The students) get letters and things from people in prison. They go through a process and if they discover what they believe is a defendant who they can prove is innocent – either through DNA (testing) or some fatal flaw made in a trial – they will take it on and see if they can get that person released.”
“We’ve not had a formal Innocence Project in Mississippi (before),” he continued. “We have been working out of the New Orleans Innocence Project for years and already there have been several prisoners freed in Mississippi.”
“There are hundreds, probably thousands, of people who have been incarcerated for decades for crimes they clearly did not commit, because of some DNA (testing) absence or tragic error made in the investigation,” he concluded.