Libel Suit Against Grisham Dismissed

Bill Peterson, the former district attorney of Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, and two investigators who were involved with Peterson in the trial and conviction of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, didn't like the way they were portrayed in John Grisham's book, "The Innocent Man." Williamson and Fritz were convicted of murdering cocktail waitress Debbie Sue Carter. Twelve years later, DNA evidence exonerated them.

Peterson and the investigators sued Grisham for libel. They also sued "Barry Scheck, founder of the New York-based Innocence Project and an attorney for one of the men falsely accused in the murder." U.S. District Judge Ronald White has wisely dismissed the lawsuit. [More...]

In his ruling, the judge wrote that it was important to be able to analyze and criticize the judicial system "so that past mistakes do not become future ones." "The wrongful convictions of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz must be discussed openly and with great vigor," White wrote.

Absolutely true, as is Scheck's comment: "This is a victory for free speech and for holding officials publicly accountable for their role in wrongful convictions."

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    I got really upset reading that book. (none / 0) (#1)
    by Teresa on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 05:34:29 PM EST
    It haunted me for days. Abuse of the judicial system just to get a conviction should scare us all.

    TChris...I made it through juror orientation. There are no questionnaires in Knox County (TN). We just show up whenever they call us and we get questioned just before the trial starts. So I guess I still don't know anymore than I did when I went.

    They randomly selected 60 of us for a two month term on two grand juries. I was really glad to miss out on that. The judge gave the best civics lesson about why we should serve. I really liked him.

    I began my law career in a DA's office (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 06:04:17 PM EST
    I found watching a GJ a fascinating experience. It is an rare from of participatory democracy.  I don't want to taint your experience, so I am not going to say much more, but I hope you either write about your experience when you are free to do so.

    I am also interested (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by TChris on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 06:21:24 PM EST
    in hearing about your experience, but don't want to influence your perception or participation.  You are taking it seriously and that (together with an open mind) is all we ever ask.  If you sit on a jury, you won't be able to share until it's done, but at that point I would like to hear how it went for you.

    I will let you all know if I get selected. I'm (none / 0) (#4)
    by Teresa on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 06:46:32 PM EST
    afraid I'll come across as such a bleeding heart that they will zap me. Or the late brother attorney deal will get me. I want to serve but I'm scared at the same time.

    I just keep remembering your question: would I want a person like me on my jury if I were the defendant. That answer is yes because I know I'm fair.


    I got (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 07:08:10 PM EST
    called for jury duty and had the same concern however, I didn't find that to be an issue. It was more things like "have you ever been a victim of a crime" etc. that made people not get picked for the jury.

    "no reasonable jury" (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 09:41:40 PM EST
    Could "no reasonable jury" have found libel here?  Why dismiss this one and not the assorted employment cases referred to in the prior posting?

    Because (5.00 / 0) (#7)
    by TChris on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 09:56:59 PM EST
    the First Amendment commands a heightened standard of review in libel cases. There are constitutional protections available in libel cases that don't apply to employment discrimination cases.