Pontotoc County (OK) District Attorney William N. Peterson in Oklahoma, who sent the wrong man to prison for a 1982 murder which became the subject of a best-selling book by author John Grisham, has put up a website to tell his side of the story. Grisham’s response to the prosecutor’s criticisms: “Lose my address and fax number.”
The book “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town” is about the conviction and eventual exoneration of Ron Williamson in the 1982 rape and murder of Deborah Sue Carter in Ada. Williamson and Dennis Fritz were convicted with Williamson given the death penalty and Fritz life in prison.
Both were later cleared by DNA evidence and a key prosecution witness in the case has been convicted of the crime.
Bill Peterson says the book is not accurate and he’s started a website in which he disputes conclusions made by Grisham and points out suspected errors. He says circumstantial evidence convinced him at the time that Williamson and Fritz were the killers.
On his website, www.billpetersondistrictattorney.com, Peterson lays out why he believes the book is factually incorrect in an outline with at least a dozen points. Peterson meticulously cites page numbers where he suspects errors occurred and disputes conclusions Grisham made in his book, which remains on The New York Times best seller list.
“Mr. Grisham was not very truthful and honest, he was barely scratching the surface,” said Peterson, who has been elected to consecutive terms as district attorney since 1980. “I figure I’d put it all on the Web and let people decide for themselves whether I’ve really got horns and suck people’s blood from them. When people read this book, they think it’s true, it’s John Grisham. I’m just a little old country prosecutor from Ada, Oklahoma.” Grisham’s book makes Peterson and investigators look like they’re out to get Williamson and Fritz, Peterson said.
The case happened before DNA evidence was available, and circumstantial evidence found at the scene and taken from Williamson and Fritz seem to match up, Peterson said. DNA evidence later freed both men and linked Glen Gore to the murder. He was convicted in 2006.
“I’ve tried to conduct myself in an honorable way for 27 years. I was what I was. I was a prosecutor, a passionate prosecutor,” Peterson said. “I went after them. I was convinced they killed Debbie Carter. If that was your mother, your sister or your daddy who was killed, you wouldn’t want a pansy prosecutor. You would want someone passionate.”
A publicist for Grisham’s publishing company did not offer comment on the site.
Included on Peterson’s website is correspondence between Peterson and Grisham that occurred after the book came out last fall. After some exchanges in which Peterson attempts to point out inconsistencies in the book, the author tells Peterson, “I have no desire to re-hash the facts and bicker about who’s right and who’s wrong. I do not read reviews, fan letters, hate letters, and I will read nothing else from you. Save yourself some time. Lose my address and fax number.”