Three former Oklahoma law enforcement officials asked an appeals court on November 7 to reinstate their defamation lawsuit against authors, including best-selling writer John Grisham.
Former Pontotoc County District Attorney Bill Peterson, former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigator Gary Rogers and Melvin Hett, a state criminologist, filed suit last year against Grisham and two other writers over books the authors wrote about the wrongful conviction of 2 men in a 1982 murder.
The lawsuit names Grisham, his publishing company and the authors and publishing companies of two other books critical of Peterson and his prosecution of murder cases.
U.S. District Judge Ronald White in Muskogee dismissed the lawsuit.
“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.
Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were prosecuted by Peterson and convicted of killing cocktail waitress Debbie Sue Carter in 1982. They were later cleared by DNA evidence and freed after 12 years in prison.
The plaintiffs allege the defendants conspired to commit defamation, generated publicity for themselves by placing the plaintiffs in a false light and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.