ADA — After 28 years as district attorney, William N. “Bill” Peterson, is retiring. The DA for the 22nd district of Oklahoma, which includes Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes counties, announced Friday afternoon he plans to retire Jan. 1, 2008.

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

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. “If the others are as active as the oldest, we are going to be very busy,” Peterson said.

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.

A graduate of Ada High School, Peterson graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1971. After graduating from law school at Oklahoma City University in 1975, Peterson was in private practice. He became assistant district attorney in 1979 and district attorney in 1980.

During his career as a DA, Peterson said he has tried a large number of jury trials and his office has filed thousands of cases. He has also represented Oklahoma in criminal cases across the state at the request of the Attorney General when other district attorneys have recused from cases.

“I have considered it a high honor and privilege to be District Attorney for Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes counties for the past 28 years,” Peterson said.

“It has been a challenging professional career and I have enjoyed this job very much. I looked forward to going to work everyday because it gave me an opportunity to represent the state of Oklahoma and the people of this district in criminal cases and to work with law enforcement.”

Pontotoc County District Attorney's office employs a staff of 35, including seven assistant district attorneys and 28 support staff. Many of the attorneys and staff have worked with Peterson for more than 20 years.

“I owe a lot of credit to a very supportive staff of professional prosecutors and legal assistants for any and all success this office has had over the years. I could not have accomplished anything without them.”

Peterson was named Outstanding District Attorney in 1990, started the first rural Victim Witness Center, helped start the first rural Drug Court in Oklahoma and participated in development of a new Domestic Violence Court. He supports internship programs at all three Oklahoma law schools and furnishes a position for at least one intern a year in one of the district's three counties.

“This program helps second-year law students get hands-on experience in the courtroom before going out to begin the practice of law,” Peterson said on his Web-site (

A new district attorney will be appointed by Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry to complete the remaining three years of Peterson's term. The appointment can happen as early as next week or as late as January 2008, according to Peterson.

Trending Video

Recommended for you