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Oklahoma Attorney General's Office Appeals Release Of Tommy Ward

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Last week, a Pontotoc County District Court judge ordered Tommy Ward be released from prison. The order is the latest in a string of decisions rebuking the convictions of Ward and Karl Fontenot for an infamous 1984 murder documented in two books and a recent Netflix documentary. But now, Ward’s release has been blocked by the state Attorney General’s Office.

The judge found Tommy Ward didn’t get a fair trial. She said police and prosecutors withheld evidence that would have assisted Ward’s defense.

The judge also called the evidence against Ward circumstantial and said nearly all of the details in his confession were inaccurate. She decided to vacate Ward’s conviction and life sentence, and ordered his release. She doesn’t believe he could be given a fair trial after more than 30 years.

Ward was convicted alongside Karl Fontenot for murdering Donna Harraway in Ada. Fontenot was released from prison about one year ago after a federal judge found he also didn’t receive a fair trial.

Both judges found the defendants’ constitutional rights were violated by police and prosecutors who until 2019 didn’t turn over more than 300 pages of documents that would have helped the defendants.

The state Attorney General’s office appealed the order to overturn Fontenot’s conviction in federal court and has now announced its intent to appeal the order to release Ward.


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Quinton Chandler worked at StateImpact Oklahoma from January 2018 to August 2021, focusing on criminal justice reporting.
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