Libel case dismissed against author John Grisham

By: Shelby Levins Email
By: Shelby Levins Email

ADA -- A best selling author known for his crime thrillers has been cleared of libel. John Grisham and his book about an Ada murder became the subject of a libel lawsuit. Now a federal court of appeals has dismissed the case.

Grisham published "The Innocent Man" back in 2006. The non fiction work details the murder of an Ada cocktail waitress, and the two men who were wrongly convicted and later exonerated of the crime.

A year later the former District Attorney and two local investigators who worked the case sued the author for libel.

Grisham explains the plight of Ron Williamson -- one of the men wrongly convicted of rape and murder -- in "The Innocent Man." In the book, Grisham says he explores the injustice in a small town -- what he calls a “broken criminal system” that includes “bad police work” and “lazy prosecutors.”

But Former District Attorney Bill Peterson says the book is inaccurate and paints him in a bad light.

Peterson's first lawsuit was dismissed in district court. And now a federal appeals court in Denver has upheld that decision.

In a 15 page ruling, 10th U.S. Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero says Peterson and the other plaintiffs did not prove Grisham and the other defendants committed libel, saying in part –

“Official acts of public officers are privileged and cannot be considered libelous unless the defendant makes a false allegation the official engaged in criminal behavior.”

As for the murder case of Debbie Sue Carter, 21, Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz were exonerated by DNA evidence after spending more than a decade in jail.

Glen Gore is now serving a life sentence for the crime.

Peterson reportedly doesn't have any plans to pursue the civil case against Grisham any further.


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