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Author named in civil complaint over book

Oklahoman Published: September 28, 2007
TULSA (AP) - Author John Grisham has been named in a libel lawsuit filed over a nonfiction book he wrote about the 1982 murder of an Ada cocktail waitress.

The lawsuit, filed Friday morning U.S. District Court, also names several other defendants, seeks relief of more than $75,000 and demands a jury trial.

The plaintiffs are Pontotoc County District Attorney Bill Peterson, based in Ada, and Gary Rogers, a former agent for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

The two men originally convicted of Debbie Sue Carter's murder, Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, were later exonerated by DNA evidence and freed after 12 years in prison.

Their experiences are chronicled in two books, John Grisham's first nonfiction book, "The Innocent Man," and Fritz's "Journey Toward Justice."

Fritz is among those named as a defendant for the content of his book.

"It's nothing more than a power play to get people to believe (Peterson) did nothing wrong," Fritz said Friday from his Kansas City, Mo. home "It has no merit. We simply told the truth and I have a right to write what my thoughts were."

Also named are Robert Mayer, author of "The Dreams of Ada," Barry Scheck, Fritz's former lawyer and author of "Actual Innocence," and Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, among others.

The lawsuit claims the defendants conspired to commit libel against the plaintiffs, generate publicity for self interest by placing them in a false light and intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon them.

It claims "the defendants launched this attack through the use of speeches, interviews and simultaneously publishing three books that were all strategically released in October of 2006," according to the lawsuit.

Peterson handled the prosecution of Williamson and Fritz in the Carter murder, while Rogers investigated the death.

"I think John Grisham forgot that he was writing a nonfiction book," said Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, whose firm filed the suit.

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