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John Grisham: “There are tens of thousands of innocent people in prison and you don’t believe them because you are white”

John Grisham spoke unequivocally about criminal justice and the racial divide in the United States during the first full day of the Santa Fe Literary Festival, saying “white people love the death penalty”.

“There are tens of thousands of innocent people in prison and you don’t believe it because you’re white,” the prolific author and lawyer told the audience during a conversation with his friend and best-selling writer Hampton. Sides.

“Black people know the truth,” he added to applause. “It’s quite easy to send an innocent person to prison. It is almost impossible to get them out.

Grisham described visiting death row to search for books, where he discovered there was a room set aside for condemned inmates to sit with a chaplain for the hour before their execution.

“I’m sitting with this chaplain, it’s quiet, scary, there’s no imminent execution,” Grisham said, “…and he said, ‘Can I ask you a question? Are you you a Christian?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘Do you think Jesus would approve of what we’re doing here?’ And I couldn’t say yes.

Grisham added that he had not been vehemently against the death penalty until then. The chaplain “said, ‘We all agree that killing is wrong, so why should the state be able to kill?’ At that moment I changed [my opinion] and never looked back.

The author met families of victims killed by death row inmates. “I don’t know how they do it, but they find a way to forgive,” he said. “And when they do that, they can start putting it behind them. And those who are bitter or vengeful or want blood, they never do.

Grisham also spoke about his involvement with the criminal justice association for the wrongfully accused, The Innocence Project, adding that 275 people have been exonerated as a result of the charity’s work.

When asked if he had started writing his next book, Grisham described growing up in the shadow of the Vietnam War and said that “there’s a book I want to write about Vietnam” . During his childhood, he had “conflicts with [his] father” about the war, and “as I got older, I met people who went there, and met families whose sons didn’t come back, and I just wonder: how could that come to this country?

The multi-genre writer said that while he’s not working on a Vietnam-focused manuscript yet, he’s “thinking about it.”

On the festival’s first full day, Grisham joined speakers such as Margaret Atwood, Don Winslow, Phil Klay, Emily St. John Mandel and Bryant Terry. Grisham’s last novel, training partners, is published in June 2022.

The inaugural festival opened Friday evening with a sold-out speech by two-time Pultizer Prize winner Colson Whitehead.

Sunday speakers include George RR Martin, fantasy novelist, screenwriter and author of The Song of Ice and Fire, which was adapted into the HBO series The iron Throne; Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize winner; author and criminal justice activist Valeria Luiselli; chef, cookbook author and owner of London’s Darjeeling Express restaurant, Asma Khan; and investigative journalist and author of Under the banner of heaven, John Krakauer.

The Independent, as the event’s international media partner, provides coverage of each day of the festival with exclusive interviews with some of the key writers. To learn more about the festival, visit our Santa Fe Literary Festival Chapter or visit the the festival website.

The Independent Gt

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