After reading two books this month dealing with unjustly convicted and incarcerated Americans,(one set in Nicaragua and the other in California) I found it disturbing to find that our democratic U.S. Justice system does not guarantee that the innocent go free any more than a dictatorship in Latin America.
Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua by Eric Volz will frighten anyone who travels to foreign lands.
Volz was an exceptionally talented and hard working young man with a love and affinity for Latin American studies and politics. He moved to Nicaragua and co-founded a bilingual magazine that met with instant success. He also was involved with new real estate and tourist development and became something of a foreign entrepreneur.
His world turned upside down when his ex-girlfriend, Doris, was murdered in her hometown of San Juan del Sur and he was charged with the crime — even though he was hundreds of miles away in his office in Managua. Volz describes his arrest and how Doris’s family, friends and the press turned against him. In the absence of any concrete evidence, he was still convicted and sentenced to a life in prison by a politically corrupt court system with strong anti-American sentiments. He writes about his horrifying experiences in prison, his fellow inmates and the cruelty of the guards with the eye of a reporter rather than an inmate.
Only through his own tenacity and faith, and assistance from his family and a former intelligence operative, did justice finally prevail. The political ramifications of his story and our Government’s connections with the Sandinistas are all exposed in his frightening memoir. After reading this story, go to www.gringonightmare.com for more information about the case.
Ironically, Unbillable Hours: A True Story by Ian Graham begins as the story of a young lawyer hired by one of the largest law firms in the country. He quickly realized that he did not have the ‘heart’ for the kind of law and long hours required by this firm. During his tenure there, however, he was asked to help with the pro bono case of Mario Rocha, a young Hispanic, whose allegedly wrongful conviction for murder was brought to the firm’s attention by a Catholic nun, Sister Janet Harris.
While attempting to keep up with his other law firm assignments, Graham was drawn deeper and deeper into Mario’s case as he became more convinced of his innocence. His struggle to help free Mario was eventually made into a documentary called Mario’s Story which was the catalyst Graham needed to force him into making decisions about his future.
Both of these books will leave the reader with something to think about as well as questions about the uses and abuses of the criminal justice system.