ADA, Okla. (KFOR/KTEN) – A man convicted of murder in a case picked up by Netflix is scheduled to be released from prison next month.
In late 2018, Netflix released its docu-series “The Innocent Man” about the murder cases of two Ada women: Debbie Carter, who was raped and killed in 1982, and Denice Haraway, who went missing and was found murdered two years later. The series is based on the John Grisham book, The Innocent Man.
Two men were convicted in Carter’s case. One was sentenced to life in prison, and the other was given the death sentence. However, both were cleared by DNA evidence years later.
The series reveals mistakes and bad decisions made by the investigators and prosecutors in that case.
It also detailed similar issues in the Haraway case, suggesting that the two men who are still in prison for her murder, Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, perhaps should not have been charged and convicted.
In 1984, OSBI agents interviewed Ward, who said he and Fontenot robbed the store Haraway worked at before kidnapping, raping and stabbing her.
Fontenot was arrested the next day and allegedly confessed to the murder. However, he and Ward both recanted their confessions and said they were coerced.
When Haraway’s remains were found, investigators discovered that she had been shot and not stabbed. In fact, they say the details in Fontenot’s confession didn’t match any of the evidence at the scene.
Ward and Fontenot say they did not commit the crime and have spent more than 30 years in prison.
Fontenot’s legal team asked for new evidence in the case in 2017, but the city and police department said there was no such evidence. One year later, Ward’s legal team also sent a similar request, and was given three boxes of new evidence.
Back in August, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma issued an order giving the state 120 days to decide whether Fontenot should be either released from prison or granted a new trial.
Fontenot’s lawyer challenged his murder conviction saying that newly discovered evidence proves that his client is innocent, his rights were violated when the district attorney’s office withheld evidence, police interfered with his attorney-client privilege and that police knowingly presented false testimony during his trial.
It states that Ada police detectives admitted that nothing in Fontenot’s confession was corroborated by their investigation.
Following over a hundred pages of evidence detailed in the court order, the court ultimately decided that the evidence in the case did not establish that Fontenot was involved in Haraway’s murder.
According to KTEN, Fontenot is scheduled to be released from prison on Dec. 19.
Family members of Ward say they hope this helps with their loved one’s case as well.
“It kind of expedites what’s going on with him right now because the information is almost identical,” said brother Melvin Ward. “I actually had come to the fact that for the first 30 years, the first 32 years, I thought Tommy was just going to spend the rest of his life in there.”
Ward has an appeal scheduled for next year.