Oklahoma man in ‘The Innocent Man’ case released from prison

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John Grisham

FILE – In this Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015 file photo, best selling author John Grisham speaks to an attendee of the Mississippi Book Festival, at Galloway Methodist Church Sanctuary in Jackson, Miss. Karl Fontenot, who spent 35 years in prison in a murder case featured in Grisham’s book and television series “The Innocent Man” has been released from an Oklahoma prison. Fontenot was released early morning on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 and transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Office, said Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Matt Elliott. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A man who spent 35 years in prison in a murder case featured in the book and television series “The Innocent Man” was released Thursday morning from an Oklahoma prison.

Karl Fontenot, 55, was transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Office, said Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Matt Elliott. A telephone message left with the U.S. Marshal’s office wasn’t immediately returned.

Fontenot was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1984 kidnapping and killing of Donna Denice Haraway, a convenience store clerk in Ada, Oklahoma.

But a federal judge ordered his release in August, writing that newly discovered evidence provides “solid proof of Mr. Fontenot’s probable innocence.” The state is appealing the judge’s ruling, but a federal appeals panel ruled Fontenot could be released in the meantime.

The convictions of Fontenot and a co-defendant, Thomas Ward, have come under intense scrutiny for years and have been the subject of numerous books, including the bestselling book “The Innocent Man” by John Grisham. It was later made into a six-part documentary series recently released on Netflix.

Ward remains imprisoned while his appeal is proceeding separately in state court.

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