John Grisham Sued for Defamation over Nonfiction Crime Book

The perils of nonfiction. As Rita Crosby is being sued for her book on Anna Nicole Smith, John Grisham is being sued for his first nonfiction book on a real crime case in Oklahoma. The lawsuit was filed by Pontotoc County District Attorney Bill Peterson and former investigator Gary Rogers over their depictions of them in “The Innocent Man” as well as books by two other authors. The book is based on the prosecution of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz for the 1982 murder of Debbie Sue Carter. Notably, the lawsuit includes at least one oral statement where Grisham said in a September 2006 speech that Peterson as “the number one bad guy in this book.” Where the Crosby lawsuit has considerable merit, the Grisham lawsuit appears quite weak. Peterson is certainly a public figure and Rogers is arguably a limited public figure for purposes of the actual malice standard. Moreover, the prosecution of this case is legitimately the subject of public ridicule. Grisham’s book is an important contribution and one that helps shine the light on prosecutorial abuse and how little concern is sometimes shown in the selection of suspects for prosecution.
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