U.S. Appeals Court vacates Oklahoma murder conviction featured in ‘The Innocent Man’

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DENVER, Colo. (KFOR) — A federal appeals court has thrown out the conviction of convicted killer Karl Fontenot, whose case gained national attention after being profiled in ‘The Innocent Man.’

Fontenot and Tommy Ward were both tried and convicted of the 1984 murder of Denice Haraway in Ada, Oklahoma.

In recent years, experts have come to believe the killers’ confessions were coerced.

The cases are two of several Ponotoc County convictions under scrutiny.

Ward and Fontenot were profiled in a recent Netflix documentary titled, “The Innocent Man.”

Last year, Fontenot’s conviction was overturned by federal district Judge James Payne.

Karl Fontenot
Karl Fontenot

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit voted two to one to affirm Payne’s ruling and vacate Fontenot’s conviction.

The State of Oklahoma has 120 days to decide to re-try the case or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.

The disposition of Fontenot’s case has implications for Tommy Ward.

Tommy Ward
Tommy Ward

Ward and Fontenot’s appeals are separate, but the facts of the case are identical.

Fontenot was released from prison last year.

Ward continues to be held behind bars in Oklahoma.

District Judge Paula Inge also ruled Ward’s conviction should be vacated.

Ward’s appeal will be heard by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Fontenot’s case was the first filed by the Oklahoma Innocence Project at Oklahoma City University.

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