oklahoma is scary enough as it is...very religious right..large billboards damning one to hell if he/she has not accepted jesus...but this book made me afraid to ever venture there again...as my painter said, Oklahoma...go there on vacation, leave on probation...great read.
I live in Oklahoma, have for 20 years. I moved from California to here in North East Oklahoma to be close to family. Yes, Jane you are right about there being a very large religious right here in Oklahoma. I don't think you need to be afraid to come for a visit again. I say that now, but of course I haven't read The Innocent Man yet.
I have lived in Oklahoma also and though I hate to stereotype it seems many Oklahomans refuse to question authority and let their church do their thinking for them. It was not at all surprising to me that the setting of this book about a very serious miscarriage of justice is small town Oklahoma since the way of thinking of the people described there was very familiar to me.
Oklahoma isn't that scary! I can say that and I'll also proudly say I'm from Ada, the town the book swirls around. Its a sad sad story. I'm 25, so I don't remember much of this going on, but my parents do. I do remember when the guys were released. Its scary. Ada is one shady little town. But, isn't every small town in one way or another? I love Ada--it will forever be my home town, where all my family still resides.
I live in Ada too and I AM old enough to remember most of the events surrounding both the Carter and Haraway murder trials. I am very thankful for books, like "The Innocent Man", "Dreams of Ada", and "Journey Toward Justice", telling me the other side of the stories. In Ada, a resident just hears one side, unless they choose to read these books. Bill Peterson, who amazingly still is the Pontotoc County District Attorney, continues to push his side of the stories, though of late he is mostly just interested in attacking John Grisham.
I am proud to say our small community is finally learning about authority and justice. Last year, our jury system acquitted a man, accused of being an accessory to murder, simply because a murder-suicide happened on his property and he had the bad judgment of loaning the murderer his pickup truck. Pure circumstantial evidence is now viewed with healthy mistrust in Pontotoc County. Bill Peterson finally failed to get his desired conviction. However, had this trial been held in the 1980's with the Carter case or even the 1990's, I am convinced this poor man would have been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
I do think anyone, who claims they are afraid to visit Oklahoma because of a book, is stupid. We have plenty of those close-minded souls, better known as village idiots, here in Oklahoma. We don't need the visiting kind.
I was raised in Texas, but lived in Oklahoma, and worked in law enforcement there. Oklahoma is no different that anywhere else. There are good people and bad people everywhere. I worked with some of the most honorable men there are anywhere....I also worked with some jerks who truely didn't belong in the criminal justice field....and believe me....those people are everywhere....even in YOUR hometown. That said.....if any of you are interested in hearing what the DA in Grisham's book had to say....check out - http://www.billpetersondistrictattorney.com/ . I found it interesting to hear the other side of the story.
Very interesting....not quite as interesting as having to listen to Bill Peterson's bullcrap live, when he talks to civic groups in and around Ada, but interesting nevertheless. Old Bill ranted about John Grisham again at the noon Ada Kiwanis club just this month. The Ada Evening News was desperate for news--they made it a front-page headline. We were left with the distinct impression Bill still hasn't read, really read, John Grisham's book word-for-word, cover-to-cover. He swears he did, of course. Who knows? We really wanted to hear Bill's thoughts on Dennis Fritz's own book, but he either hasn't bothered to read that one yet, or he is purposely keeping mum on it, just like he mostly does with Robert Mayer's book, "The Dreams of Ada".
As a resident of Ada, I can tell you firsthand Bill Peterson has his own sense of reality. He forgets the collective memories of the citizens of Pontotoc County and the files from the Ada Evening News, when he speaks. We are expected to forget our experiences and memories, while swallowing his explanations and his distortions. He always has thought of us as programmable, stupid zombies, when we sit on his juries, and he continues to treat us likewise, when we have to listen to him outside the Pontotoc County courthouse.
This same egotistical thinking of his is strongly evident on his own website. The only Ada Evening News item he includes on the entire site is an editorial from publisher Loné Beasley. That was written to answer such ignorant thinking, as possessed by our thread originator above. The only court documents he supplies are those he used in his letter-writing war between John Grisham and himself. Please note, none of the dates he documents by actual court records are in dispute in Mr. Grisham's book.
95% of Mr. Peterson's site is simply a very long, editorializing, subjective rant by Bill Peterson himself. It lacks the necessary documentation to cover most of his claims. As someone who knows Bill Peterson, I can tell you this is how he practices law and goes through daily life too. He thinks his own version of reality is the bible-thumping Gospel truth.
What he fails to bring up on his website.......why have so many of his cases in this sleepy, rural county been brought to national attention and given such bad press? Is the ratio of the number of exonerations per prosecutions involving his cases above the national average for a district attorney's office? This is what the citizens of Pontotoc County would really prefer to have answered. Instead, we get to hear his idiotic, one-sided, personal attacks on an author of a book. That's more relevant to him. He isn't interested in our opinions, let alone the rest of the worlds'. Otherwise, he would have included a guestbook on that web site, rather than just a visitor counter.
Montego Bay - I found your post quite interesting. It sounds like your DA may just be one of those to whom winning is everything.....and justice is inconsequential. Like I said earlier...there are plenty of that kind out there everywhere. Maybe he won't be re-elected next time.
Oh, he will win again. First, he is an integral part of the Good Ol' Boy system this county thrives on and is run by. Second, no one runs against him.....ever. However, I expect his landslide victories to be a thing of the past. The "no" votes will be far greater, than they have been.
Bill Peterson is not a bad man....You just hit the nail on the head what his major flaw is. He does not apologize for his mistakes and he wages personal vendettas against authors, rather than addressing real issues.
The braggart points out on his web site he was the only party on the defense side, who refused to settle in the civil lawsuit brought by plaintiffs Fritz and Williamson. He challenged them to sue him. He then insinuates on his web site that he must have done no wrong, since he was dropped from the lawsuit and it was settled out of court. He never had to pay a dime. What he does not tell people.......district attorneys and law enforcement officers are protected from civil lawsuits in Oklahoma. They were dropped from the lawsuit because of this protection.
The State of Oklahoma, Pontotoc County and the City of Ada forked over the reported $5 million. The total amount has never been officially disclosed, but I do know from city financial records that the city of Ada's part was $500,000. I can tell you my property taxes went up approximately 5% due to that lawsuit.....it never has been lowered since.
What really sticks in the craw of many locals........even when men are exonerated from their alleged crimes, Bill Peterson and his cronies spread the rumors around town that the men were still involved in the crime somehow, they just weren't the "primary offenders". This happened to Fritz and Williamson. I remember it well.
Yes, winning is everything to Bill Peterson. So much so, he can not offer a simple apology to innocent men for his role in their suffering. His response has been and always will be "I was just doing my job".
Wow! You are right on about Ada. Like my previous post says, I'm from there--moved to the city 2 years ago for school. But, you are dead on about Bill Peterson. I read his newest rant on the subject in the Ada paper a couple of weeks ago. I agree with you 100% in that he hasn't really read the book. He really should. Goodness, what a crazy thing this has become. A crime 20+ years ago and its still as fresh now as it was then. I do believe though that Peterson should apologize to Fritz and the Williamson family for what he did.
Bill doesn't really dwell or think deeply about anything he takes as criticism concerning his work. He gets on the defensive instantly. No doubt he "skimmed" the book to poke holes in Grisham's research, but it meant nothing else to him. I strongly doubt he will ever read Dennis Fritz's book, which is much better than Grisham's.
I haven't decided what the Ada Evening News was doing, when they ran Bill's Kiwanis Club talk on the front page. I suspect it was more for the amusement factor. At least I hope so.
I've lived in Ada nearly 20 years, having moved here in time for the infamous trials. My memory runs very deeply on the subjects. As a town physician, I belong to a number of local organizations and serve on various boards. I rub elbows with Bill Peterson frequently.
After reading Dennis Fritz's book, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind who is really the better man. I wish I had the honor of knowing Dennis Fritz. He impresses me.
I AM CAITLIN ELIZABETH WOOTEN'S STEP MOTHER! You don't even possess the decency to reference my child's name. Caitlin was MURDERED on September 23, 2005. She was killed by Jerry Don Savage on Francis Faye Sliger's property. You are ignorant and misinformed. Francis Faye Sliger was not AQUITTED! In fact he is a convicted felon. He is guilty of accessory to murder. If you have any question about that you just let me know and I'll post his evil confession. As a convicted felon he is also subject to 10 years probation. If at any time (and I'm waiting for that day) he violates his probation he will go DIRECTLY to prison. The law in Oklahoma states that if a person (Caitlin) is kidnapped and subsequently murdered, whether the murder was pre-meditated or not, accessories (FFS and Karen Dial), are not only guilty of kidnapping, but also murder and are subject to life in prison. That is the law. The jury in fact did believe that FFS was guilty of assisting JDS in Caitlin's murder. After all he confessed and pled to kidnapping. However there was ONE PERSON who refused to follow the judge's instructions to the jury and return with a "guilty" verdict. She did this because she was reluctant to then have to recommend the sentencing of life in prison, which again the law requires. FFS knew about JDS's plan. 1. He knew that JDS had kidnapped Caitlin's mother and probably would have killed her if it weren't for the SWAT team on August 30, 2007. 2. He loaned his truck to JDS knowing that JDS was stalking Donna and tracking the kids' movements. 3. There were maps written by JDS found in FSS truck. 4. He called JDS 20 times the day of the murder. He went and retrieved his truck from the property possibly while Caitlin was still alive. 5. He did not turn himself in when the Amber alert was issued for Caitlin. In fact the ADA police didn't find him until very late that Friday night. Caitlin's mother begged him to tell us where Caitlin was and he wouldn't do it. Caitlin was shot in the back of her beautiful, blonde head. FFS knew that JDS was contemplating and planning murder. He did nothing to stop it. He did not inform authorities. He did not notify the family or school that either of our daughters was in danger. What he did was loan his truck to the murderer and assist him in various and sundry ways. He assisted JDS for up to one month prior to Caitlin's murder. We still don't know for sure if FFS was in the truck and helped JDS grab Caitlin after school. You know how we found her? OSBI helicopters found her on Saturday morning. You have no idea the hell we have gone through and you can't even get the facts straight. You characterize him as a "poor man". CAITLIN IS INNOCENT. OUR FAMILY, CAITLIN'S SISTER IS INNOCENT. CAITLIN'S FRIENDS AND SCHOOLMATES ARE INNOCENT. FFS is GUILTY. You have no idea what Caitlin's friends and family have gone through the last two years. You are one of the close-minded village idiots you so blithely accuse of not knowing the truth. Bill Peterson's name may be on the door at the Pontotoc County DA's office, but Chris Ross prosecuted Caitlin's case. And buddy if you want to know I've seen that door more times in my life than I want. And as I explained the DA did get a conviction. However the big problem in Pontotoc County isn't that the DA prosecutes innocent men, it's that guilty men walk. If you or anyone else here wants to know the truth about MY CHILD you just post right back. Or Google "Caitlin Wooten". You'll see the truth. You can also visit Caitlin's website at www.SpiritofCaitlin.org . Don't you even DARE to come back on here and tell me you "sure are sorry" about Caitlin's death. If you were sorry you would have the decency to tell the truth supported by facts and evidence. Cindy Wooten, CAITLIN'S STEP-MOM! Now and Forever!
Don't be so presumptuous to assume I would express such a sentiment, before I express it, especially in light of your immature name-calling and the fact that I am entirely sick to death of getting your opinions shoved down my throat in Pontotoc County. Caitlin is dead, nothing will bring her back and the case is over.
I will point out, however, your venom and immature name-calling is a prime example of what ails Pontotoc County and its small, remote court system. Emotions and subjective opinion, rather than objective justice, drive the court system. It's more who you are, not what you did, that motivates the system.
I did misstate that Mr. Sliger was acquitted. You are as guilty of the same offense however. He is not guilty of murder, nor was he found guilty of anything by jury trial.
The first trial ended in December 2006, after jurors deliberated for more than five hours and failed to reach a verdict. Mr. Sliger and his defense attorneys then entered into a plea agreement with the prosecution. Sliger plead no contest to the lesser charges of kidnapping in order to prevent a second painful trial. Murder charges were dropped. He was never found guilty of murder or accessory to murder by a jury. He's on probation and not in prison--that speaks volumes to a number of the more objective citizens of Pontotoc County.
Had the prosecution had any real evidence to convict him for murder, they would have proceeded with a second trial, rather than just settling for the lesser charge. Both sides cut their losses and there never was a second trial. No jury ever found him guilty of anything.
If anyone is interested further in this case, which I doubt they are, they would do better to google The Ada Evening News Archives, than your web site. It's more objective, rational and factual.
thanks very much for your perspective on the events in Ada.
i'm just getting round to reading John Grisham's book and I am extremely disturbed!
besides the travesty of justice, i'm alarmed that a man who was so obviously mentally ill was thoroughly abused by the system. i have a brother who is schizophrenic so i understand Ron's challenges well. i turn almost every page with tears and anger.
will try to plough through to the end - at least i know they were found innocent - and then read Dennis Frtiz' book.
the law on the mentally ill needs seriously overhauling. how can we watch people cry for help and wait till they pose a danger to themselves or others to get them the help they need??? and the minute they have any sense at all, we release them to society again wihtout even a 2nd look! did you read how many times Ron got evaluated!
i pray that sometime soon citizens of Pontotoc County will rise up and use the power in their vote to silence Bill Peterson once and for all. scares me that he's still in a position of authority. even the National Bar Association or some legal body should have dis-barred him!
Sir, you mistate facts and that makes you ignorant. I am accurately stating that you have made comments that are not factual and therefore incorrect. You called the people of Pontotoc County "closed minded, village idiots".
I was there every day of two trials. The first trial was declared a mistrial due to a hung jury.
The second trial ended in a conviction. FFS plead to a lesser charge, guilty to kidnapping. He is a convicted felon in the state of Oklahoma. He has a suspended sentence. If he violates the conditions of release he will automatically be sent to prison. The fact that a convicted felon walks free in the state has nothing to do with the jury. The jury never received the case. The sentence was imposed by Judge Thomas Landrith. He has discretion in the sentencing.
He is also guilty of wrongful death in the civil action.
Caitlin's website is not meant to be a news site. However everything there is correct, factual and true. Our site is a tribute to Caitlin. It is our family and friends way to remember Caitlin and her life. If you find it offensive don't visit the site.
I have stated the facts of the case. I was there every day. Were you?
You have also stated that you are "I am entirely sick to death of getting your opinions shoved down my throat in Pontotoc County. Caitlin is dead, nothing will bring her back and the case is over." Wow, you are cold-hearted too.
Although I have no idea what you are even referencing regarding my opinions. I don't live in Ada and I never have. You sure do seem interested in stating your opinions, regardless of the facts of the situation.
Again, call the DA's office and get my contact information. Unless and until you do that please do not reference Caitlin again.
DA Bill Peterson Suing The Innocent Man Dennis Fritz For Emotional Distress. Dennis Fritz is the other innocent man in Grisham's book The Innocent Man. Also suing John Grisham
Dennis Fritz, who wrote the book, "Journey Toward Justice", is named as a defendant in a libel lawsuit along with , John Grisham, author of "The Innocent Man", Robert Mayer, author of "The Dreams of Ada", and all their publishers, and New York City attorney Barry Scheck, Fritz's former lawyer who once represented Fritz and is co-director of The Innocence Project. With the aid of Barry Scheck and irrefutable DNA evidence, Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were exonerated in 1999.
Pontotoc County District Attorney Bill Peterson and Gary Rogers, a former agent for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation filed the libel lawsuit. The lawsuit, seeks at least $75,000 compensation and demands a jury trial. Peterson and Rogers were instrumental in the conviction of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz in the murder of Debbie Sue Carter in Ada, Oklahoma in 1982. The conviction was later overturned on DNA evidence pursued by the Innocence Project, which Scheck heads, Dennis Fritz was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit and spent 12 years in prison. Part of 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.
So... Prosecutor with the help of Gary Rogers sent 2 innocent men, Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson to prison for 12 years. Both Innocent men freed by DNA evaluation of crime scene evidence. Innocent man, Dennis Fritz writes book about his experiences. Prosecutor and Gary Rogers sue the innocent man they wrongfully sent to prison and Prosecutor and Rogers sue for intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon them.
While listening to this book, I could not help but think of the judicial history of Oklahoma when it was a territory. As I recall, during the particularly lawless history of this area in the latter part of the 19th century, the Federal judge in Arkansas (I think Fort Smith) was also the judge that heard criminal cases from the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) was Judge Robert Parker, more commonly known as "the hanging judge". I believe he earned this name due to the swift and terminal manner in which he handled criminal cases. Many of the defendants were people that had attempted to escape to the territory, not only from Arkansas, but also from other neighboring states. Undoubtedly many men that were innocent were quickly hanged.
One can say that this sort of justice occurred over a hundred years ago, but I tend to take the position that it occurred only a hundred years ago. In other words, some would take the position that Judge Parker's justice has little or no bearing on present day, but I tend to think that a century is a short time in human history and not only effects this case in Oklahoma; events as recent as a little over a hundred years ago effect virtually all geographic areas. Events that happened thousands of years ago continue to afflict the Middle East.
I know that I have gone off on a tangent, but the fact remains that the recent ancestors of people who historically lived in Oklahoma carry with them the attitudes and precedents that were established by Judge Parker. This is not meant as an attack on the State of Oklahoma. It is merely submitted as a possible factor that allowed people in the present day area to rush to convict innocent men and to impose the sentence that, if carried out, cannot be undone.
Montego Bay, you are an insensitive, uncaring, humanless idiot. You dismiss a grieving mother as if it were some mangy dog found dead on the road. Not all of us from Ada are the religious right! But I damn sure know what grief is. You speak of Caitlin's family as small town religious rednecks and they are so much more than that! My daughter was in band with Caitlin and I watched those band members, the director, that entire school, and especially Caitlin's parents show nothing but love amidst their grief. Go back to hell where you came from.
I`m no fan of rednecks, the religious right, Oklahoma, or criminals either, but I doubt wrongful convictions occur in Oklahoma more than elsewhere. What is truly sickening, is the lack of justice in this case. There was ZERO evidence against Fritz, he never should have been indicted, the lies of the juror-police chief cries for a mistrial, and the parade of witnesses tying Fritz to Williamson as a drinking buddy was totally irrelevant and none should have testified. And the Williamson trial clearly should have been declared a mistrial.
Even worse are jerks like Peterson who refuse to admit being wrong - even when DNA proof stares them in the face! If Grisham's book is even half true Peterson deserves imprisonment.
grisham's bias is palpable. i think it's a dishonest rendering. i wish all of the 'innocent' men that are freed could go live next door to their celebrity champions and their families. maybe that would be justice.
Cindy Wooten - I'm not sure you will ever see this response, but I want to express my sympathy to your family (I just watched the Dr. Phil episode which prompted me to google info and stumble upon this) and apologize for the ignorant and cold-hearted response provided by Montego Bay. I'm not sure why he felt compelled to be so hateful about your daughter when it seems like a completely seperate issue from his rants. Not all of humanity is as insensitive as he. I hope your family continues to heal. I cannot even begin to imagine your pain.
Montego Bay - I'm not sure you will ever see this response (I just watched the Dr. Phil episode which prompted me to google info and stumble upon this), but all I can say is WOW! Your statement, "Caitlin is dead, nothing will bring her back and the case is over.", is probably the most hateful and cold-hearted response I've ever come across. I only hope that you are not a parent, as I doubt any mother or father could ever get over the loss of a child; compounded by the fact that this child was kidnapped and murdered. Your lack of compassion is brutal. I'm so grateful to be surrounded by a group of family and friends who are kind and loving. It comforts me to know that not all of humanity is as insensitive as you.
I did read the book "The Dreams of Ada" and it is ignorant to believe that mistakes like that doesn't happen in any other place in the world. I lived in Ada the past 15 years.
And for the person who had the nerve to mention Caitlin Wootens case. Who do you think you are? From the sound of it you didn't seem to know a single fact about the situation. Caitlin Wooten was a friend of mine. She lived only a few houses down from me and I was in band with her. And let me tell you she was one of the most innocent and loving girls you could ever meet. You have no business talking to Mrs. Wooten like that either. She had the heartbreak of having to be involved in SLIGERS trial. And it is absolutely appalling that someone that was in any way involved in Caitlins kidnap and murder didn't have to do ay jail time. If someone is going to mentioned Caitlin please get the facts right. Everyone who knew and loved Caitlin know there is nothing we can say or do to bring her back. We arent stupid.