Warning: Spoilers ahead for Netflix’s The Innocent Man.
Usually true crime series focus on one suspect or one victim, but Netflix's The Innocent Man features two victims and two completely different sets of suspects. Even though their cases aren't directly intertwined, Debbie Carter and Denice Haraway's murders are connected in several major ways.
For instance, in both cases, two men were sentenced for each crime. Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz were initially convicted of Carter's murder, though they were both later exonerated due to advances in DNA evidence testing.
Aside from each case having two defendants, here are all the ways Haraway and Carter's cases connect.
According to The Daily Beast, both Carter and Haraway lived in the small town of Ada, OK, where the murders were carried out. They also both held night jobs there; Carter as a waitress at a bar and Haraway as a convenience store clerk. Their deaths also happened within a couple of years of each other. Carter was found dead in 1982. Then Haraway went missing in 1984, and her remains were found in 1986.
The Power Players
The Netflix series shows that several of the attorneys, investigators, and even one witness were the same in both cases. District attorney Bill Peterson served as prosecutor for both trials. Ada's Captain Dennis Smith and Agent Gary Rogers also investigated both crimes. Jailhouse informant Terri Holland alleged to have heard both Williamson and Fontenot confess after the fact, and her testimony was used in each trial. And Mark Barrett served as both Williamson and Ward's lawyer to appeal their convictions. So far he's only been successful with Williamson's.
The Dream Statements
In the Netflix series, Ward is seen on camera talking to investigators about how between their first and second interviews, he had a dream that he had kidnapped and killed Haraway. Williamson also allegedly told investigators that he'd dreamed he'd gone to Haraway's apartment, broken in, and raped and killed her.
"That's a dream. I did not do that," Williamson testified when the alleged statement was recounted at trial, as seen in the third episode of the series. These two cases were eventually chronicled in writer Robert Mayer’s book The Dreams of Ada, which was published in 1987.
The Claims of Innocence
All four men claimed they were innocent. The series shows that Williamson and Fritz maintained that through every police interview. And although Ward and Fontenot initially confessed, they later recanted these confessions and claimed to be innocent.
Williamson and Fritz were freed in 1999, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, Ward and Fontenot are working on appealing their convictions. The final episode of the Netflix series stated that they had their initial appeals denied, but Ward is working on a new appeal, and Fontenot is waiting to hear back on his federal appeal. They've been in jail for over 30 years as of 2018.