Murder case was reason for Netflix series to remain in prison

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Tommy Ward will remain behind bars forever. The case gained a lot of attention through the Netflix series The Innocent Man, in which Ward claims that he never killed a young Ada. Ward, 61, has been locked up since the 1980s and has strongly asserted his innocence. But the Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed. Ward was convicted of the 1984 murder of Donna Denise Haraway, a 24-year-old gas station worker in Ada. In 2020, a district judge overturned the murder conviction, saying no evidence was presented in Ward’s favor. The judge also said that Ward could not be tried again and had to be released from prison. He was ordered to remain in prison pending appeal of that ruling. On Friday, the appeals court voted unanimously to reverse the decision. According to the documents, the appeals court believes the judge abused her discretion when she ignored procedural obstacles to Ward’s claims. The state also refuted its belief that evidence was withheld at his trial. Ward and Karl Fontenot were found guilty of the murder largely due to confessions that Ward later said were false and forced. Big questions were raised about those confessions when the victim’s ability was discovered a year after his disappearance. In her confession, Fontenot said he had been burned and dumped on Ada, but investigators say he had been shot in the head and dumped on Gerty. According to court documents, in 2017, 24 years and 9 months after his conviction, Ward filed his first appeal for post-conviction relief, saying the prosecutor never produced evidence to prove his innocence. But the appeals court said he waited too long and dropped his claim for inaction.

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The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that Tommy Ward will remain behind bars forever.

The case gained a lot of attention through the Netflix series The Innocent Man, in which Ward claims he never killed a young Ada.

Ward, 61, has been locked up since the 1980s and has steadfastly maintained his innocence. But the Criminal Court of Appeals disagreed.

Ward was convicted of the 1984 murder of Donna Denise Haraway, a 24-year-old gas station worker in Ada.

In 2020, a district judge overturned the murder conviction, saying no evidence was presented in Ward’s favor. The judge also said that Ward could not be tried again and had to be released from prison. He was ordered to remain in prison pending appeal of that sentence.

On Friday, the appeals court voted unanimously to reverse the decision. According to the documents, the appeals court believes the judge abused her discretion when she ignored procedural obstacles to Ward’s claims. The state also refuted her belief that evidence was withheld at her trial.

Ward and Karl Fontenot were found guilty of the murder largely due to confessions that Ward later said were false and forced.

Big questions were raised about those confessions when the victim’s ability was discovered more than a year after she disappeared. In her confession, Fontenot said she had been burned and dumped on Ada, but investigators say she had been shot in the head and dumped on Gerty.

According to court documents, in 2017, 24 years and 9 months after his conviction, Ward filed his first appeal for post-conviction relief, saying the prosecutor never produced evidence proving his innocence.

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But the appeals court said he waited too long and dropped his claim for inaction.

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