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Federal Judge Axes Ex-DA’s Libel Suit Over John Grisham’s ‘Innocent Man’

Posted Sep 18, 2008 5:27 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A libel suit filed over a true-crime book written by best-selling author and attorney John Grisham has been dismissed by a federal judge.

Grisham's book, The Innocent Man, focuses on the wrongful conviction of two men for the 1982 murder of an Oklahoma cocktail waitress, and U.S. District Judge Ronald White said in his ruling yesterday that it is critical to be able to discuss publicly such miscarriages of justice so they are not repeated, reports the Associated Press.

"The wrongful convictions of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz must be discussed openly and with great vigor," writes White in his Eastern District of Oklahoma opinion. Eventually cleared by DNA evidence, the two men were freed after spending 12 years in prison.

"Williamson, who was sentenced to death, was just five days away from his execution when he was granted a stay," reports the Oklahoman.

The libel suit was filed against Grisham and the authors of two other books about the case, as well as their publishers and two defense attorneys, including Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project in New York. It alleged the defendants placed the plaintiffs in a false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress as well as a conspiracy to commit libel.

The plaintiffs were former Pontotoc County District Attorney Bill Peterson and two others who worked on the case against Williamson and Fritz.

Additional coverage:

Christian Science Monitor: "John Grisham libel suit results"

ABAJournal.com: "John Grisham Sued for Libel"

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