Nothing says the holidays than a morbid, mysterious true crime documentary. For those who have already had enough of the Hallmark holiday rom-coms that have recently saturated streaming platforms, Netflix has just the cure: The Innocent Man.
The Innocent Man is a six-part deep-dive into two murders that rocked the town of Ada, OK in the 1980s — and whose legal outcomes have sparked outrage and bafflement ever since.
Based on John Grisham’s non-fiction book An Innocent Man as well as Injustice in a Small Town, the documentary focuses on two murders. The first is that of 21-year-old Debra Sue Carter who was raped and killed inside her home in 1982 and the second is 24-year-old Denice Haraway who was kidnapped and killed in 1984. Two men from Ada, Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, were charged and sentenced the death penalty and life in prison, respectively for Carter’s murder. Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot were both sentenced to life in prison for that of Haraway.
Peculiar similarities between the way the Ada police dealt with each case came to light, from questionable confessions to a lack of evidence. In 1999, 11 years later, DNA testing allowed the exoneration of Williamson and Fritz with the help of the non-profit legal organization the Innocence Project. However, Ward and Fontenot are still incarcerated, despite maintaining their innocence.
The Innocent Man, directed by Clay Tweel, walks through each stage of the controversial events using a mix of interviews, including Grisham himself, archival footage and dramatic reenactments. It goes beyond the facts of the crimes and gets to the heart of the complicated and twisted state of the American justice system itself.
Watch the trailer below and check out the series on Netflix starting on December 14.