After 28 years as district attorney, William N. “Bill” Peterson, is retiring. The DA for the 22nd district of Oklahoma, which includes Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes counties, announced Friday afternoon he plans to retire Jan. 1, 2008.
“It is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and came to the conclusion that it is time,” he said. “I am 64 years old and came to the realization it’s time to go to another phase in my life.”
Peterson said he and his wife, Dean, plan to travel and spend more time with their grandchildren. Their oldest grandchild is 8 and involved in various sports. “If the others are as active as the oldest, we are going to be very busy,” Peterson said.
During Peterson’s career several high profile murder cases have been tried. One gained national media attention in 1999 when DNA testing exonerated two men imprisoned for the 1982 brutal murder of Debra Sue Carter in Ada. Peterson received harsh criticism for his role in prosecuting Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson for Carter’s murder.
Peterson said controversy surrounding John Grisham’s book, “The Innocent Man,” was only one of many things he and his wife considered when discussing retirement. “I would be lying if I said that it didn’t,” he said. However, Peterson stressed it wasn’t a major factor in his decision to retire.
Grisham presented Peterson in a less than favorable light in his first non-fiction book, “The Innocent Man,” published in 2006.
The book was based on Ron Williamson’s life and events surrounding the trial that sent him to prison for Carter’s murder. Peterson and former Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation agent Gary Rogers have filed a lawsuit against Grisham and Doubleday Dell Publishing Group in Federal Court for libel and slander.
“I have always sought to seek the truth in charging of crimes and was willing to endure the consequences of those decisions. The job of a prosecutor is to make a charging decision based on provable facts of any case and to do what is right.”
“After 28 years as a prosecutor it is time to pass this responsibility to someone else,” he said.