Netflix's new docuseries, The Innocent Man, examines two true crime cases in Ada, Oklahoma, during the early '80s. One of them involves the murder of Denice Haraway, for which Karl Fontenot and Tommy Ward were convicted. However, Tommy Ward updates from 2018 show that, in the three decades since, he's been pushing to appeal his case.
The release of The Innocent Man docuseries seems to be the biggest update about Ward within the last few years. Prior to its premiere, perhaps the biggest news to come out regarding Ward's incarceration was an Oklahoman article about Fontenot in 2015, in which Ward's attorney, Mark Barrett, told the outlet he was planning to appeal Ward's conviction and seek exoneration.
In the same article, the Oklahoman reported that Fontenot's own appeal was denied because Pontotoc County District Judge Tom Landrith ruled that too much time had passed since his original conviction. But while Fontenot's appeal was unsuccessful, Barrett said that he would file for appeal on behalf of Ward on different grounds. However, there doesn't appear to have been any news about an attempted appeal since that article was published, so it's unclear if Barrett followed through, and if so, where Ward's case stands now.
In the trailer for The Innocent Man, multiple subjects allege Ward's confession in Haraway's case was coerced. (Bustle reached out to the Ada Police Department for comment on these claims, but did not receive a response by the time of publication).
John Grisham, who wrote the book The Innocent Man is based on, has also spoken out about his belief in Ward's innocence. "Tommy Ward broke down after a long night of abusive interrogation. When he cracked, he decided to give the police the sensational story they wanted, knowing full well that a complete investigation would clear him," he told The Marshall Project in 2017. "It doesn't work that way. He's been in prison for 31 years."
Ward and Fontenot have long claimed their confessions were coerced. In a 1986 report from the Oklahoman, Ward's lawyer, Don Wyatt, alleged that details of their confessions were "fed to them by the police," and that interrogators "kept going over and over on [Ward and Fontenot] until they gave those stories to get them off their backs." Further, some of the information Ward and Fontenot gave police did not match details of the case, such as what Haraway was wearing when she was killed and the fact that she was shot, not stabbed, as Ward and Fontenot claimed.
Records from the Oklahoman Department of Corrections confirm Ward is still in prison, where he is serving a life sentence. His most recent photograph in the department's database is dated July 12, 2018. Despite the great deal of time that Ward has spent in prison, subjects featured in The Innocent Man are pushing for him to be exonerated. Whether or not he will ever be released remains to be seen.
The Innocent Man's six-episode first season premieres on Netflix on Dec. 14.