What to Look For in Your Prosecutor

You Don’t Make Friends With Salad writes about an Oklahoma District Attorney who has sued John Grisham and a wrongfully imprisoned man for, well apparently, for writing a book that hurt his feelings. 

Grisham’s non-fiction best seller The Innocent Man chronicled the wrongful prosecution of 2 men charged and convicted of

From Friend’s cleverly titled post “Innocent After All These Years? Well, Time to Lawyer Up”:

An Oklahoma prosecutor and former DA investigator have sued both author John Grisham and Dennis Fritz, one of the men recently exonerated for the 1982 murder of Debbie Sue Carter. The parties claim that the defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy "to commit libel, publicity placing a person in false light and intentional infliction of emotion distress."

You know, you put someone in prison for 11 years based on shoddy work and I think you waive any right to complain about the names they call you when they get out.

I didn’t know much – OK, didn’t know anything- about the Fritz case, so I surfed around for info. In doing so, I came across an article about the plaintiff and now the former District Attorney who complains so mightily that he is the one that has been wronged.

"I've tried to conduct myself in an honorable way for 27 years. I was what I was. I was a prosecutor, a passionate prosecutor. I went after them. I was convinced they killed Debbie Carter. If that was your mother, your sister or your daddy who was killed, you wouldn't want a pansy prosecutor. You would want someone passionate,” Peterson [said].

Of course, a prosecutor’s job is (supposed to be) to seek justice, not ‘just’ to convict. When you hear a criminal defense attorney saying things like…

I am a defense lawyer. I defend people. I am convinced my clients all have the right to a fair trial. If your mother, your sister, your daddy was accused of a crime, you wouldn’t want a pansy defense attorney. You would want someone passionate.

…well, then you’ve found a lawyer who at least has the right attitude. 

Peterson, however, seems to want credit where it isn’t due. From the same article, “Peterson is quick to point out that he requested DNA evidence be reviewed in the cases against Fritz.” So… you want extra points because you didn’t object to DNA testing. Yes, some D.A.’s offices fight tooth and nail to prevent the truth from coming out, but that doesn’t mean we applaud you.

You have immunity from civil prosecution for your ‘little mistake’. The least you can be expected to put up with is that you might face a little criticism for imprisoning, and in one case seeking and getting the death penalty for an innocent man.

Grisham, meanwhile, has recently petitioned the Federal Court hearing the case to dismiss the libel lawsuit

Grisham’s book, just like each of the other books about which the plaintiffs complain, is core political speech protected by the First Amendment and representing the highest order of public service by raising awareness about important social and political issues – the criminal justice system – and bringing to light issues of public concern about the performance by government officials of their public duties,” their brief states…

[The plaintiff’s] suggestion that The Innocent Man portrays them generally as ‘bad guys’ for their roles in the controversial convictions discussed in the book does not state a claim against Grisham and Doubleday,” the author’s attorneys stated to the court.

Makes sense to me.

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Barbara's Journey Toward Justice - November 30, 2007 4:34 PM

Great Post. Thank you for linking to me for inf. on Dennis Fritz. I started my blog, Barbara's Journey Toward Justice after I read Dennis Fritz's book, Journey Toward Justice. I just can not believe DA Bill Peterson. Just a few weeks after he filed the lawsuit, he announced he will retire Jan. 2008. Interesting.

Mark Hiller - December 26, 2007 4:22 PM

Just finished this very well written book by Grisham (innocent man)and it brings out the scary truth that people like Peterson can manipulate and frame an innocent person and then expect congratulations for a job well done. Peterson is obviously a below standard prosecutor and based on the damage he cause Mr. Williamson and Fritz, he should be incarcerated for a minimum of (2) years and thus show accountability for his rotten judgement.

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