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Crime writers cleared.

Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming

IN FEBRUARY, THE 10TH CIRCUIT AFfirmed the dismissal of a defamation suit brought by three Oklahoma public officials who claimed they were victims of a "massive joint defamatory attack" by four crime writers who published accounts of wrongful convictions in the 1988 rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter.

The plaintiffs in Peterson v. Grisham filed a complaint against the authors and their respective publishers, alleging they engaged in a joint defamatory attack and were guilty of intentional infliction of emotional distress and false light invasion of privacy.

In October 2006, John Grisham, Robert Mayer, Dennis Fritz and Barry Scheck all released books detailing the wrongful convictions of Ronald Williamson and Dennis Fritz. Each author was critical of public officials involved in investigating and prosecuting the case--William Peterson, an Oklahoma district attorney, Gary Rogers, a former police officer and Melvin Hett, a former state criminologist.

The circuit court found the defendants were protected under Oklahoma Title 12, which states that criticisms of public officials can't be considered libelous unless they contain false allegations of criminal conduct. The court affirmed that the plaintiffs had failed to state an actionable claim.
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Title Annotation:10TH CIRCUIT
Publication:InsideCounsel
Date:May 1, 2010
Words:196
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