Friday, January 25, 2013

The Confession

Who, exactly, gives us the right to kill? If killing is wrong, then why are we allowed to kill?” ~Keith Schroeder

That’s exactly what I’ve been asking myself while reading this book, another John Grisham’s legal story focuses on death penalty of an innocent man by a corrupt government. Donté Drumm was eighteen years old teenager with a bright future career as football star, when he was accused of raping and killing Nicole Yarber, a high school cheerleader, whose body had never been found. For nine years Robbie Flak—the defense lawyer—had been appealing a lot of motions against the false conviction to release his innocent client.

Keith Schroeder was a Lutheran priest in Kansas. One day a convict in parole with a brain tumor came to his office wanted to make a confession of a murder, for which Donté Drumm would face a death penalty in seven days. Knowing that he was dying, Travis Boyette—the real killer of Nicole—wanted to save the innocent man.

From there the story flowed quite fast, as usual with Grisham. While Donté was counting his last days on earth, there was a lot of commotion around his case.  Robbie Flak and his law firm frantically worked on motions, appeals and all legal maneuvers on the last minutes; Keith sped up his car with Boyette to arrive at Kansas to submit Boyette’s confession; the Yarbers were busy to get attention from the world by appearing in a reality show; while the police were busy handling riots and demonstrations—either pros and cons—on Donté Drumm’s coming exectution.

Social injustice was the central theme of this story. Donté Drumm was not only wrongly accused by his school mate out of envy; he was victim of a corrupt system. The detective who wanted brighter career forced the innocent teenager to confess a crime he never committed. And as there was no evidence at all—Nicole’s body was never found—the police hired convicts to make false testimony for a change of freedom. The prosecutor had a love affair with the judge and had a control over the jury, so the trial ran as he had wanted. The governor was in the middle of election campaign, that he and his team were pleased to death-penalizing as many as convicts before the election to increase votes (this is another proof that people still like to kill others).

It made me sick to think how people loved to kill others. From all characters in this book, only Travis Boyette who had committed a murder—and Boyette was indeed an interesting study of how to transform an innocent kid to a villain. But cruel and wicked as he was, at one point Boyette repented. Not only confessing, Boyette was willing to make effort to save Donté. Why did he do that? He could have been silent for his last months of living and let Donté Drumm took the blame, then, no else would know. I debated with myself, did Boyette do that to let the world know that he was the real murderer—as some sort of recognition? I chose to believe that somehow his conscience—that had been sleeping for a long time—suddenly knocked his heart; and God reminded him to repentant. 

Ironically, they who were supposed to work for justice, had killed Donté Drumm by their cowardice, greediness, indifference and ignorance. How could they still believe Donté was the killer after Robbie had yelled about the false confession and so on for nine years? And when Boyette had finally confessed, they all closed their ears, made excuses and stuck on their opinion that the trial had been fair. I think, all of them were murderers too, just as Boyette. With Boyette, we could understand how his moral became so low, it’s because of how he was educated and bad treatment he received when he was a child from his uncle; and his crime was a passionate one. But what about the authorities? They were members of churches, yet they had methodically let an innocent man be killed. Can you see the irony?

Race issues was also a big issue here—my oh my, when will people realize that we are all equal, because we are all God’s creation? Really, it’s frustrating sometimes to think how educated people can be so narrow-minded. In this story, I was disgusted with Reeva Yarber—Nicole’s mother—who liked to show off her sadness by sobbing, crying, and mourning loudly in public; as if the more people saw her sadness, she could do something better for Nicole. Could it be that Reeva hated Donté that much because he was black? I could not help myself thinking what would be her reaction if the murderer was, let’s say, the Governor’s white and rich son?

At the end, The Confession is not only a legal thriller, it’s a media Grisham had used to criticize about social injustice at one side, and death-penalty at the other. Really, I can’t understand how modern society is still fond of death-penalty? That concept itself is unfair—who authorize us to kill others who are equal to us? And when the legal system that arranges it is corrupted, there’s something so wrong there.

Four stars for The Confession—I did not grant the perfect 5—because the last chapter was rather anti-climax. The most emotional part should be Donté’s execution, but compared to The Chamber (it’s also about death-penalty) this one is less emotional.

Some quotes I can’t help sharing here…

I was there when he was born, and I’ll be there when he dies.”
(Roberta Drumm—when Robbie asked her to not witnessing the execution)

Prisons are hate factories, Pastor, and society wants more and more of them. It ain’t working.”
(Travis Boyette to Keith Schroeder)

You’re nothing but a rat in their lab, a disposable body to be used as proof that their experiment is working. An eye for an eye, each killing must be avenged. You kill enough and you’re convinced that killing is good.”
(Donté Drumm’s reflection on death-penalty system)

They don’t care about guilt or innocence, Momma, all they care about is showing the world how tough they are. Texas don’t fool around. Don’t mess with Texas. Ever heard that?
(Donté Drumm to his mother--Fact: For seven years Texas had executed two hundred prisoners!)


*I read 2011 Dell Export Mass Market edition paperback*

*This book is counted as*


  1. looked like I need to re-read The Chamber, almost forgot about that book! The most emotional part for me is when Donte's mom bathed Donte's body before the funeral. Oh my. Can't imagine how it felt being her!

    1. The Chamber is so far my most favorite Grisham. I was crying a lot while reading it.

      On the contrary, I think that scene when Roberta bathed Donte's body was rather exaggerated, Grisham put it too detailed.

  2. getting eiger to read this book. Thanks for the long review...

  3. Ouw, now you killing me, I want to read it too ... never enough with Mr. Grisham, and there's STILL a bunch-book-pile on my stacks. I always love when he mixed social isues with legal terms, to much office-policitical and legal terms sometimes gets me confuse or even bored ...

    1. Social injustice is always an interesting topic, eh? :)