OCU law project hopes to earn freedom for longtime inmate

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: July 28, 2013

WHEN a jury in Ada sentenced him to death for killing a convenience store clerk, Karl Fontenot showed little emotion but yelled “You liar” at the prosecutors, according to a September 1985 story in The Oklahoman.

Nearly three decades later, Fontenot may get another chance to prove his prosecutors wrong. The Oklahoma Innocence Project believes he is innocent and has filed a request in Pontotoc County for post-conviction relief. This is the first filing by the group since its formation within the Oklahoma City University law school in August 2011.

When OCU announced this worthwhile initiative, school officials stressed that it was designed not to free inmates based on legal technicalities, but instead to free those few inmates who are wrongfully convicted. The Oklahoma Innocence Project believes Fontenot, now 48, fits the bill.

It's more publicity for a case that has gotten plenty already. Fontenot and Tommy Ward were convicted in 1984 of kidnapping, robbing and killing 24-year-old Donna Haraway. A video played at trial showed the men telling of raping Haraway as she was stabbed to death and then disposing of the body.

The men, originally sentenced to death, later recanted their confessions. Haraway's partial remains were found well after the trial, more than 30 miles from where one of the men said they would be; the skeleton had a bullet wound rather than blade marks.

Subsequently, author and journalist Robert Mayer questioned their guilt in the book “The Dreams of Ada” and in a Vanity Fair magazine article. The news program “60 Minutes” paid a visit to Ada. More recently, novelist John Grisham made references to the case in a nonfiction book about two men exonerated after years on Oklahoma's death row.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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