Thursday, September 18, 2008

Federal Judge Dismisses Libel Lawsuit Against John Grisham

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a libel lawsuit against best-selling author John Grisham over a nonfiction book he wrote about the 1982 killing of an Ada cocktail waitress, calling the petition's claims "not plausible.”

The lawsuit was filed last year by former Pontotoc County District Attorney William Peterson, former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigator Gary Rogers and Melvin Hett, an OSBI criminologist.

The lawsuit named Grisham, his publishing company and the authors and publishing companies of two other books critical of Peterson and his prosecution of murder cases.

Also named as a defendant was Barry Scheck, founder of the New York-based Innocence Project and an attorney for one of the men falsely accused in the killing of Debbie Sue Carter.

U.S. District Judge Ronald White on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit saying, "What two words best describe a claim for money damages by government officials against authors and publishers of books describing purported prosecutorial misconduct? Answer: Not plausible.”

Pair cleared by DNA
Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were prosecuted by Peterson and convicted of killing Carter. They were later cleared by DNA evidence and freed after 12 years in prison. Williamson, who was sentenced to death, was just five days away from his execution when he was granted a stay.
Grisham's book, "The Innocent Man,” and Fritz's "Journey Toward Justice” both documented the killing and subsequent trials. A third book, "The Dreams of Ada” by Robert Mayer, explored the investigation and prosecution of two other men for the 1984 killing of Denice Haraway in Ada.

Judge says analysis, criticism are needed
The plaintiffs alleged in their lawsuit that the defendants conspired to commit libel, generated publicity for themselves by placing the plaintiffs in a false light and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
White rejected those claims in his ruling Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

"Where the justice system so manifestly failed and innocent people were imprisoned for 11 years (one almost put to death), it is necessary to analyze and criticize our judicial system (and the actors involved) so that past mistakes do not become future ones,” White wrote in his ruling. "The wrongful convictions of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz must be discussed openly and with great vigor.”

The original lawsuit had alleged that attorneys for Fritz and Williamson participated in the wrongful treatment. At one point in the ruling, White quoted the movie "Casablanca,” and he included a footnote with a YouTube link in his ruling as a parody of how attorneys met with experts and discussed the facts of the case, using the opinions that are most favorable to their side.

Gary Richardson, the attorney for Peterson, Rogers and Hett, said he was still reading the judge's order to determine whether he would file an appeal.

"Of course, I'm quite disappointed and a bit surprised at the ruling,” Richardson said. "I felt that we had a solid case.”

Scheck, who worked to help free Fritz and Williamson, said he was pleased with the ruling.

"This is a victory for free speech and for holding officials publicly accountable for their role in wrongful convictions,” Scheck said in statement. "The court noted that we can learn from wrongful convictions to improve the system, and we can't do that unless these cases are fully examined, even when the facts are embarrassing for public officials who were involved in these miscarriages of justice.”

My first post on story - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

DA Bill Peterson Suing The Innocent Man Dennis Fritz For Emotional Distress
Dennis Fritz, who wrote the book, "Journey Toward Justice", is named as a defendant in a libel lawsuit along with , John Grisham, author of "The Innocent Man", Robert Mayer, author of "The Dreams of Ada", and all their publishers, and New York City attorney Barry Scheck, Fritz's former lawyer who once represented Fritz and is co-director of The Innocence Project.

With the aid of Barry Scheck and irrefutable DNA evidence, Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were exonerated in 1999. Pontotoc County District Attorney Bill Peterson and Gary Rogers, a former agent for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation filed the libel lawsuit. The lawsuit, seeks at least $75,000 compensation and demands a jury trial. Peterson and Rogers were instrumental in the conviction of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz in the murder of Debbie Sue Carter in Ada, Oklahoma in 1982.

The conviction was later overturned on DNA evidence pursued by the Innocence Project, which Scheck heads, Dennis Fritz was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit and spent 12 years in prison. Part of the lawsuit claims the defendants conspired to commit libel against the plaintiffs, generate publicity for self interest by placing them in a false light and intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon them.

So... Prosecutor with the help of Gary Rogers sent 2 innocent men, Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson to prison for 12 years. Both Innocent men freed by DNA evaluation of crime scene evidence. Innocent man, Dennis Fritz writes book about his experiences. Prosecutor and Gary Rogers sue the innocent man they wrongfully sent to prison and Prosecutor and Rogers sue for intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon them. Only in America Folks...
Posted by Barbara's Journey Toward Justice

Dennis Fritz, "The Innocent Man" and John Grisham's Real Life, "Appeal"
This story is just unbelievable. A libel lawsuit against Dennis Fritz, author of Journey Toward Justice and author, John Grisham headed to court of appe
als. Read More HERE


Carol Mayer said...

Barry Scheck's comment: “This is a victory for free speech and for holding officials publicly accountable for their role in wrongful convictions.” - Yes it IS !! This is great News. I enjoy reading your blog..

Anonymous said...

Only in America indeed... Simply unbelievable. I just finished Grisham's book and wanted to google the few people named in it to know what happened next. Well, unbelievable again. Thanks for this blog, very interesting reading. I am a French person living in the UK, travelled around the world including the US (and loved it) and happy to stay where I am now. Injustice is everywhere, but such an obvious injustice is sad to see, especially too many years too late.