Wrongful Convictions 

in Oklahoma

"US citizens should absolutely have the right to not be framed and it should be very illegal to frame anyone, especially for employees of the state." [...]

"Practically every story of wrongful conviction comes with a profoundly disturbing story of prosecutorial misconduct that would make any reasonable person want to put their fist through a wall. Adnan Syed, Richard Glossip, Crosley Green, Robert Jones, Darryl Hunt, Lamar Johnson, Julius Jones, Randall Dale Adams, Steven Avery ... I could go on, unfortunately, even if I were just naming cases they just made documentaries about." -  Article by Robyn Pennacchia for the Wonkette.

Wrongful Convictions In Oklahoma

Oklahoma, like many other states in the United States, has had its share of wrongful convictions over the years. Here are just a few examples of wrongful convictions in Oklahoma. They serve as a reminder of the importance of fair and just criminal justice system, and the need to constantly review and reevaluate cases to ensure that justice is served.

How Do Wrongful Convictions Happen?

Wrongful convictions happen for a variety of reasons, but they often involve errors or misconduct within the criminal justice system. Here are some common factors that contribute to wrongful convictions:

Overall, wrongful convictions are a tragic and all-too-common occurrence that can have devastating consequences for innocent people and their families. It is important for the criminal justice system to constantly strive for fairness, accuracy, and accountability to minimize the risk of wrongful convictions.

How Can Wrongful Convictions Be Prevented?

By implementing these measures, we can work to prevent wrongful convictions and ensure that our criminal justice system is fair and just for all.

Wrongful Conviction Cases in Oklahoma

Prosecutors:  Fern L. Smith, Connie Smothermon, & Gary Ackley

Richard Glossip is a former hotel manager who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in Oklahoma in 1998 for the murder of his boss, Barry Van Treese. Glossip maintained his innocence and claimed that he was framed by the actual killer, Justin Sneed, who was a maintenance worker at the hotel where Glossip worked. Sneed had confessed to the murder and implicated Glossip as the mastermind behind the crime. 

Currently the world is waiting for SCOTUS to decide if they will hear his case, after granting a stay of execution in May of 2023

Many Oklahoma State Officials were involved in varying degrees of misconduct through out the history of Glossip TWO murder trials.  Read more...

Julius Jones 1999

Prosecutors:  Sandra Howell-Elliott

Julius Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Paul Howell, a businessman in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1999. The lead prosecutor in his case was Bob Macy.   Jones has maintained his innocence and has presented evidence to support his claim.  The case against Jones was largely based on the testimony of a co-defendant, who received a plea deal in exchange for testifying against Jones.  There are also allegations of racial bias in the jury selection process and other irregularities in the investigation and trial.  

The case has garnered national attention, with many people, including celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, activists, and legal experts, calling for a new trial and for Jones' execution to be stopped.  Such advocacy and public pressure  in 2021 resulted in Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt barricading himself in the Governor's Mansion just prior to commuting Jones' sentence form death to life in prison without parole.

Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz 1988

In 1988, Debra Sue Carter was found raped and murdered in her Ada, Oklahoma, apartment. Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz were convicted of the crime in 1988 and sentenced to death. However, in 1999, DNA evidence proved their innocence, and they were released from prison. Williamson had spent 11 years on death row and died of cirrhosis of the liver a few years later.

Jeff Pierce 1986

In 1986, Jeff Pierce was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and sentenced to 65 years in prison. However, in 2009, DNA evidence proved that he was not the perpetrator, and he was released from prison after serving 23 years for a crime he did not commit.

Jeffrey Todd Pierce 1985

Jeffrey Todd Pierce was prosecuted in Oklahoma by the District Attorney's office of Oklahoma County. The lead prosecutor in his case was Bob Macy.  Macy did not seek the death penalty in Pierce's case, but he secured a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Pierce was convicted based largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of witnesses who were given leniency in their own criminal cases in exchange for testifying against him.   At Trial, Joyce Gilchrist testified to hair analysis against Pierce.  He had been found guilty despite a clean record and plausible alibi largely because of Gilchrist's analysis of hair at the crime scene.

Her analysis was later disputed in a 2001 FBI review and DNA testing was then conducted on evidence, conclusively proving that Pierce was innocent.  It was then discovered that another man as the likely perpetrator.  Based on this new evidence, Pierce was exonerated and released from prison in 2018 after serving 20 years behind bars. Pierce lost 15 years, his marriage and the chance to see his twin boys grow up due to the misconduct of Macy & Gilchrist.

Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot 1984

In 1984, Denice Haraway, a convenience store clerk, was kidnapped and murdered in Ada, Oklahoma. Two men, Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, were convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, in 2016, after new evidence came to light, a federal judge ordered a new trial for the two men. They were eventually released in 2019, after spending more than 30 years in prison.

Curtis Edward McCarty 1982

Curtis Edward McCarty was prosecuted in Oklahoma by the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office. The lead prosecutor in his case was Bob Macy. He was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of an Oklahoma City woman in 1982. He spent more than 21 years on death row before being exonerated in 2007. 

The case against McCarty was based largely on flawed forensic evidence and the testimony of a jailhouse informant who later recanted.  At trial in March 1986, the prosecution relied on the testimony of Joyce Gilchrist, an Oklahoma City Police chemist, who said that hairs from the crime scene belonged to McCarty.  Relying on the hairs as evidence, Gilchrist said McCarty “was in fact” at the crime scene.  She also testified that McCarty’s blood type matched the blood type of sperm found on the victim’s nude body. Macy was found to have committed misconduct in presenting the case to the jury and withholding key evidence. The jury convicted McCarty and he was sentenced to death.

After years of legal battles, DNA testing conducted in 2001 proved McCarty's innocence, and he was finally released from prison in 2007.  Despite the lack of physical evidence linking McCarty to the crime, Macy pushed for his conviction and secured a death sentence. 

The case highlighted the problem of wrongful convictions and the need for reforms in the criminal justice system to prevent such injustices from happening in the future.