After District Attorney Bill Peterson’s retirement is effective Jan. 1, 2008, Chris L. Ross will take over.

Gov. Brad Henry appointed Ross as district attorney for the 22nd District, which includes Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes Counties.

“Chris Ross will be an excellent district attorney,” Gov. Henry said. “He is a talented prosecutor of consummate professionalism, integrity and experience.”

Ross has 24 years of experience. He became a part of the prosecutor’s office in 1983. Ross graduated from University of Oklahoma in 1979 and obtained his law degree from OU College of Law in 1982. He is married with two children.

Ross’ appointment comes after Peterson announced his resignation in November.

“It is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and came to the conclusion that it is time,” Peterson told an AEN reporter. “I am 64 years old and came to the realization it’s time to go to another phase in my life.”

During Peterson’s career several high profile murder cases have been tried. One gained national media attention in 1999 when DNA testing exonerated two men imprisoned for the 1982 brutal murder of Debra Sue Carter in Ada. Peterson received harsh criticism for his role in prosecuting Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson for Carter’s murder.

Peterson said controversy surrounding John Grisham’s book, “The Innocent Man,” was only one of many things he and his wife considered when discussing retirement. “I would be lying if I said that it didn’t,” he said. However, Peterson stressed it wasn’t a major factor in his decision to retire.

Grisham presented Peterson in a less than favorable light in his first non-fiction book, “The Innocent Man,” published in 2006.

The book was based on Ron Williamson’s life and events surrounding the trial that sent him to prison for Carter’s murder. Peterson and former Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation agent Gary Rogers have filed a lawsuit against Grisham and Doubleday Dell Publishing Group in Federal Court for libel and slander.

“I have always sought to seek the truth in charging of crimes and was willing to endure the consequences of those decisions. The job of a prosecutor is to make a charging decision based on provable facts of any case and to do what is right.

“After 28 years as a prosecutor it is time to pass this responsibility to someone else,” he said.

Peterson said he and his wife, Dean, plan to travel and spend more time with their grandchildren. Their oldest grandchild is 8 and involved in various sports.

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