Netflix has teamed up with bestselling legal drama novelist John Grisham for the streaming giant’s next true-crime documentary series offering, The Innocent Man. The series will serve as an adaption of Grisham’s 2006 nonfiction book of the same name that – akin to Netflix’s pop culture proliferating true-crime series Making a Murderer – chronicles the legal ordeal of a man who, purportedly, was wrongfully accused of murder and, in this case, faced execution.
The Innocent Man will arrive on Netflix as a 6-part documentary series on December 14. The series is directed by Clay Tweel (Out of Omaha, Gleason, Finders Keepers), who developed the series with Ross Dinerstein. The series depicts the ordeal of Ron Williamson, an Ada, Oklahoma man whose failure to land in the Majors leads to a spiral of self-destruction involving drugs, alcohol and meaningless encounters. However, in 1982, the lifestyle would leave Williamson as the prime suspect in the brutal murder of young cocktail waitress Debra Sue Carter. The ensuing investigation would become a suspicious process filled with flimsy evidence and dishonest witnesses, leading to a rushed conviction yielding the death penalty.
Tapping into the same docuseries vein as Making a Murderer, Netflix’s The Innocent Man will combine archival video and photos with new footage and interviews with the friends and families close to case, as well as journalists and someone who was involved in Williamson’s appeals process in Innocence Project co-founder (and famous O.J. Simpson defense team member) Barry Scheck. Additionally, Grisham himself will appear onscreen in interviews.
As director Tweel expresses in a statement:
“As a filmmaker, I often find that the best stories are the ones we tell ourselves. But what surprised me was the extent to which that idea also permeates the criminal justice system. By re-examining these old cases, I hope that viewers will identify the biases involved, even their own.”
As Grisham also lauds:
“The documentary series of The Innocent Man is gripping, compelling and ultimately just as heartbreaking as the book. Though I know the story well, I can’t wait to watch it again.”
Tweel, Dinerstein and Grisham serve as executive producers on The Innocent Man, joined by producers Maura Anderson and Shannon Riggs.