Here's How Police Responded To 'The Innocent Man' When It Was Originally Published


The city of Ada, Oklahoma is in the spotlight once again as an old case is re-examined through Netflix's The Innocent Man. The documentary series, based on John Grisham's book of the same name, explores the stories of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, two men who spent 11 years in prison for murder only to later be exonerated and released. The book itself is critical of local authorities, and the doc is likely to follow suit as it expands to cover two other men who claim they've been wrongfully convicted. So what does the Ada Police Department think of The Innocent Man?

Bustle reached out for comment from the department about the series, but did not receive a response at the time of publication. No officers appear to have spoken publicly about Williamson and Fritz's cases in recent years, save for former district attorney Bill Peterson, who worked on the case. Peterson, who is a focus in the book and documentary, has vocally criticized Grisham's reporting.

"I felt horrible at the time and I still feel bad about [Williamson and Fritz's wrongful convictions]," he told the Ada News in 2010, after unsuccessfully filing a libel lawsuit against Grisham and other authors who wrote about him. "I did the job the best I could based on what was presented to us by law enforcement. No one did anything wrong. You do the best you can with what you've got. No system is perfect, but this is still the best system there is."

According to a 2007 article from ABC affiliate KTEN, Ada officials were reportedly receiving hate mail after Dateline ran an episode on Fritz and Williamson. But city spokesperson Mark Bratcher said Grisham's allegations were unfounded. "The people who wrote the angry and misguided messages...perhaps that makes them feel better or maybe they're defending one of their favorite authors," he commented at the time. "But it doesn't really mean that much to us."

KTEN also reported that, after The Innocent Man was published, many law enforcement and local officials spoke out about the book, saying that Grisham "failed to do his homework," and alleging that his account was "not accurate" and "one-sided." The Ada police department hasn't released any official statements about The Innocent Man series specifically, however.

Grisham, however, seems to be standing by his work, considering he's featured in the docuseries adaptation. "If I wrote The Innocent Man as a novel, fiction, folks probably wouldn't believe it," he says in a trailer for the show.

A judge also sided with Grisham in Peterson's aforementioned lawsuit. "What two words best describe a claim for money damages by government officials against authors and publishers of books describing purported prosecutorial misconduct? Answer: Not plausible," U.S. District Judge Ronald White wrote in his dismissal in 2008, according to the Oklahoman.

However, unless the Ada Police Department makes any more public comments following the release of The Innocent Man series, viewers won't know for sure what they think of the Netflix adaptation.