Oct. 30, 2018
Please forgive an outsider for meddling in your politics. I wouldn’t normally think of doing so; however, I know a lot of the history behind a certain job that’s on the November ballot.
I urge the good folks in the 22nd Judicial District to remember these Six Innocent Men:
• Ron Williamson: Convicted of murder in Ada in 1987 and sentenced to death; exonerated by DNA in 1999. An innocent man.
• Dennis Fritz: Convicted of murder in Ada in 1987 and sentenced to life; exonerated by DNA in 1999. An innocent man.
• Calvin Lee Scott: Convicted of rape in Ada in 1983 and served 20 years before being exonerated by DNA in 2003. An innocent man.
• Perry Lott: Convicted of rape in Ada in 1988 and served 30 years before being cleared by DNA in July 2018. An innocent man.
• Tommy Ward: Convicted of rape and murder in Ada in 1985 and still serving time. An innocent man.
• Karl Fontenot: Convicted of rape and murder in Ada in 1985 and still serving time. An innocent man.
These six men were wrongfully convicted before the availability of DNA testing. Their alleged crimes were investigated by the same authorities and prosecuted by the same District Attorney’s office. Their fraudulent convictions were obtained by the use of lying jailhouse snitches, junk science, coerced confessions and eyewitness identifications that were manipulated.
Ron Williamson, Dennis Fritz, and Calvin Lee Scott were fully exonerated and received compensation, though Ron and Dennis were forced to file suit. The taxpayers of Ada paid for some of the damages. Perry Lott served 30 years and was released last July in the face of overwhelming DNA evidence. However, the current District Attorney, Paul Smith, refused to acknowledge this. Perry was forced to enter a bogus guilty plea just to get out of prison. He will not be compensated.
For Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, the clock is still ticking after 33 years. In their case, the crime scene and investigation were bungled so badly that the real killers may never be found.
Six innocent men convicted in only five years and the damage continues. With a population of 18,000, Ada ranks as one of the worst places in the country for wrongful convictions, per capita.
It’s time to stop convicting innocent people.
The 22nd has not had a District Attorney’s election in 28 years. It’s time to start cleaning up the mess by bringing some integrity to the office.
John Grisham, Oxford, Mississippi
Author, The Innocent Man