D.C. lawyer Polly Nelson was skeptical when her sister called last summer to say that John Grisham's latest blockbuster, "The Chamber," seemed a lot like a book Nelson had written about trying to save serial killer Ted Bundy from Florida's electric chair.
In January, she filed suit in federal court in the District, asserting that Grisham's fifth novel was "copied largely" from drafts of her book or the book itself, "Defending the Devil, My Story as Ted Bundy's Last Lawyer," published by William Morrow and Co. Nelson, who worked with Wilmer partner James Coleman on the final appeals in the Bundy case, contends that Grisham appropriated "both grand themes and small details" from her first-person account, according to a letter written to Doubleday by her attorney, Patricia Douglass.
The suit "is nonsense," said D.C. lawyer Bruce Sanford, who represents Grisham and his publisher, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. They are seeking to have the case dismissed, and final briefs on that issue were filed Thursday. "John's book is the product of his fertile and rich imagination," Sanford said. "He never heard of Polly Nelson or her book, never read it or the proposal of it."
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