Friday, February 5, 2010

10th Circuit 'Firmly' Supports Grisham in Libel Case

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has upheld a trial court's dismissal of a defamation suit against best-selling legal thriller author John Grisham arising from his novel, The Innocent Man.

In Peterson v. Grisham (Case No. 08-7100), the appellate court sided with the U.S. District Court for the District of Oklahoma judge who tossed the case against the 55-year-old Grisham in September 2008. In the appellate ruling, Judge Carlos F. Lucero said the plaintiffs' false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims were barred by Okla. Statute 1443.1 and that their claim that the defendants' purported statements accused them of engaging in criminal activity were too "tenuous" to constitute defamation.

The plaintiffs included Okla. District Attorney William Peterson, former police officer Gary Rogers and former state criminologist Melvin Hett. Defendants besides Grisham were publishers Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Random House, Inc., and Broadway Books, author Robert Mayer, Dennis Fritz, and anti-death penalty advocate Barry Scheck.

In 1988, Dennis Fritz and Ronald Williamson were convicted, through the efforts of the plaintiffs, of the rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter. Both men were exonerated after spending a decade in prison. Fritz wrote a book, Journey Toward Justice, concerning his wrongful imprisonment and Grisham based his novel, The Innocent Man, on Williamson.

When the libel suit initially was dismissed by the district court in 2008, the trial judge wrote: "The wrongful convictions of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz must be discussed openly and with great vigor."  As for  Grisham, the author/attorney  who wrote The Appeal (2008) can now say he has personally prevailed in one.
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1 comment:

  1. Now, the man who wrote "The Pelican Brief" can flip the bird to District Attorney William Peterson, but that Okie still belongs in the pokey.