Thomas Ward, The Innocent Man documentary subject, set to be released from prison
Thomas Ward, a man convicted for murder and featured in Netflix's true crime documentary The Innocent Man, is set to be released after a judge vacated his sentence on Dec. 18.
Ward has been steadfast in maintaining his innocence for at least three decades in connection with the April 28, 1984, kidnapping and murder of Donna Denice Haraway, 24, who disappeared while working at a local Oklahoma convenience store. He and his co-defendant Karl Fontenot were convicted with no physical evidence tying them to the case based on Ward's confession which he alleges he was coerced to give by police. Attorneys for Ward also claim prosecutors suppressed exculpatory evidence during his trial.
Renewed interest in the case was sparked following the 2006 release of John Grisham's only non-fiction book The Innocent Man followed by the Netflix documentary based on the title 12 years later.
The court findings, as reviewed by EW, state, "material evidence withheld by the State as identified herein creates a reasonable probability the outcome of the trial would have been different given the burden of proof required for a conviction." Local police released more than 300 pages of police documents in 2019 after years of denying any existed, according to court documents. It was through that new evidence the court discovered "there were problems with the credibility of the State's witnesses and the existence of witnesses that raised serious doubts as to the accuracy of witnesses identifying Ward as the guilty party."
"Breaking news: Judge orders Tommy released and vacates his conviction," a Twitter account for Ward's legal team shared on Saturday. "This is new info, and we’re trying to figure what this means right now. More to come."
A second tweet adds, "We do not know when Tommy will be released, and we don’t know how a possible appeal will affect this. We’re gathering more info."
Fontenot was released from prison in 2019, and is pending a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding his fate.
The Innocent Man is currently available to stream via Netflix.