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Judge sides with John Grisham

September 19, 2008|From the Associated Press

A federal judge in Oklahoma has dismissed a libel lawsuit filed against bestselling author John Grisham and two other writers over books they wrote about the wrongful conviction of two men in a 1982 murder.

The lawsuit was filed last year by former Pontotoc County Dist. Atty. Bill Peterson, former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigator Gary Rogers and Melvin Hett, a state criminalist. All three helped win the original convictions in the slaying of cocktail waitress Debbie Sue Carter, but the two men found guilty were later cleared by DNA evidence and freed after 12 years in prison.

The plaintiffs alleged that Grisham -- whose account was titled "The Innocent Man" -- and the other defendants conspired to commit libel, generate publicity for themselves by placing the plaintiffs in a false light and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. But U.S. District Judge Ronald White rejected those claims in his ruling Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

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."

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