One of 2 men featured in 'The Innocent Man' book, Netflix series could be freed

Credit: Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Credit: Oklahoma Department of Corrections

One of two men featured in the John Grisham true crime book and Netflix series, "The Innocent Man," could soon be freed from an Oklahoma prison.

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In a 190-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge James Payne laid out his reasoning for why the state needs to have a new trial or release Karl Fontenot from prison, reported.

Payne's opinion from the case at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma discusses alleged misconduct by police, investigators, and prosecutors in the case and 1984-1985 trial concerning the death of Donna "Denice" Haraway.

"The Ada Police Department investigators turned a blind eye to many important pieces of evidence relying instead on witness statements that fit their theory of the case while disregarding much stronger evidence of alternate suspects," Payne wrote.

Fontenot and co-defendant Tommy Ward were convicted in Haraway's murder in October 1985, in part due to a recording of them talking about dreams they had about her murder.

Payne said the "dream confessions" that were used against the men in court held dubious value.

When Haraway's body was found in 1986, she did not have the injuries Fontenot talked about in his dream.

"In fact, not one detail of Mr. Fontenot’s confession could ever be corroborated with any evidence in the case," Payne wrote.

He also called out the actions of Pontotoc County when it came to withholding and manipulating evidence, calling it a "fraud on the court."

The decision that could free Fontenot in the next 120 days comes after he and Ward's convictions received international attention from the Netflix series based on Grisham's book.

There is no indication on what this update means for Ward's case.

A Facebook page that relays messages from Fontenot's family to people following the case simply asked for prayer that his release would come soon.

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