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  • Writer's pictureChristy Sheppard

12/19/19 Karl Fontenot Released From Prison

An Oklahoma man has been released from prison after a federal judge decided he served 35 years for a kidnapping and murder that evidence indicates he likely didn't commit.

In August, U.S. District Judge James Payne ordered Karl Fontenot, 55, to be released from prison, saying there was "solid proof of Mr. Fontenot's probable innocence." The Associated Press reported that the judge cited numerous problems with his conviction, including new evidence establishing an alibi and other suspects; sloppy police work; bungled crime scenes; and the prosecutor’s withholding of evidence and knowing use of false testimony, among other things.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials confirmed with KOCO 5 that Fontenot was released from prison Thursday. He was released into custody of U.S. Marshals Service agents at 5:15 a.m. Thursday.

Fontenot's conviction has come under intense scrutiny for years and has been the subject of numerous books, including Grisham’s “The Innocent Man,” which he produced into a six-part documentary.

The books and documentary also feature the high-profile exoneration of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, who both were convicted in the 1982 killing of Ada waitress Debra Sue Carter. The case featured the same cast of investigators and prosecutors, along with the same jailhouse informant who testified against Thomas Ward and Fontenot. Williamson at one point came within days of being executed. Both were later freed.

Fontenot’s supporters have been collecting clothes, furniture and other necessities for him and secured a place where he can live after his release.

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