ADA — Prosecutors seek a new trial date for Karl Allen Fontenot, more than three years after a judge quashed his murder conviction “on the basis of numerous constitutional violations that occurred in this case.” I’m here.
Comanche County District Attorney Kyle Kabelka said he made the decision after speaking with the families of victims in the infamous 1984 incident.
“We’re going to prepare for the trial,” he said on Sunday. “They’re still interested in us pursuing this.”
A federal judge in Muskogee has vacated the murder conviction months after Netflix’s series “The Innocent Man” drew national attention to the case.
U.S. District Judge James H. Payne has given prosecutors 120 days to seek a new trial or release Fontnott permanently. That deadline was extended by an appeal that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
The new deadline was Tuesday. Kaberuka, who took over the case from Pontotoc County prosecutors, filed a request for a trial date on Friday.
Victim Donna Dennis Haraway disappeared from McAnally’s convenience store in Ada on April 28, 1984. she was 24 years old.
Two Ada men, Fontnott and Tommy Ward, were sentenced to death in a 1985 murder trial, even though the bodies of their victims had not yet been found.
Both admitted involvement and said the clerk was kidnapped, stabbed and fatally injured after $150 was taken from the store. Told.
Ward later claimed that he had only told police the dream. Fontenot claimed police coerced him into confessing after telling him what Ward had said.
Their confession turned out to be wrong in important details.
Most importantly, the victim’s skull and other remains were found more than a year after her disappearance. She was shot in the head and dumped in a field near Gertie, about 30 miles away.
In 1987, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ordered another new trial after the United States Supreme Court ruled that defendants with intertwined confessions could not be tried together.
Fontenot was retrialed in 1988 and was again sentenced to death despite discrepancies in police statements. Because of the error in the retrial, he later resented a life sentence with no possibility of parole.
Ward was retrialed in 1989 and sentenced to life in prison. A state judge reversed Ward’s conviction in 2020, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reinstated it in his August.
In overturning Fonteno’s conviction, a federal judge called newly discovered evidence about his alibi and other suspects “hard evidence” of his “presumption of innocence.”
“The improper handling of reports, evidence, and all other material documents in this case is a known pattern of police misconduct known to have been committed by the lead detective and agents working on this case. clearly included in the ,” Payne wrote.
The judge agreed that the police had coerced a false confession from Fontenault, who was particularly susceptible to suggestion due to his unusually low intelligence.
A federal appeals court upheld the judge’s decision in 2021.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals said, “There was little evidence, other than his own videotaped confession, linking him to the crime, and the confession was false in almost every respect.” “Mr Fontenault recanted in full just two days later, accusing police of giving him a false account of his own involvement.”
The U.S. Supreme Court denied involvement in June.
The Netflix series is based on novelist John Grisham’s only non-fiction book. Victims’ families have complained that both the book and the series are one-sided.
“Both are for-profit enterprises designed to feed people’s desire to see and read about conspiracies,” the family said. You could write an entire book to refute it.”
Fontenot, now 58, was released from prison in late 2019 after a judge ruled in his favor. The 62-year-old ward remains locked up.
Fontenot’s retrial was recommended by Sandra Elliott, who indicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols in a 2004 state trial.
Fontenot sued the state last year in federal court for compensatory and punitive damages. “Mr. Fonteno is now seeking justice and accountability for 35 years of unjust imprisonment,” his attorney wrote in the civil complaint.