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Kansas City Man Wrongly Imprisoned Sued By Prosecutor
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A local man who spent 11 years in an Oklahoma prison for a murder he did not commit is now being sued by the prosecutor who put him behind bars.
Junk Justice and Okie Science Victims
Ronald Keith Williamson
Dennis Leon Fritz
One of the most outrageous examples of "Junk Justice and Okie Science" is the shameful case of Ronald Keith Williamson and Dennis Leon Fritz.
Williamson and Fritz were arrested in 1986 for the 1982 rape and murder of a 21 year old Ada, Oklahoma woman. They were tried, convicted and sentenced in 1988. Both men were released in 1999 when DNA testing not only proved the men innocent but implicated the prosecution's star witness as the woman's murderer.
As a result of their false convictions for the rape and murder of 21 year old Debbie Sue Carter, Fritz was sentenced to life in prison. Williamson received the death penalty and at one point came within five days of being executed in Oklahoma's death chamber.
Williamson's appeals processes had been exhausted and his family had made his funeral arrangements as the date for his execution neared. Williamson most likely would be dead today were it not for the fact that, during his appeals process, attorneys for Mr. Fritz managed to convince a federal judge to order DNA testing. DNA testing which not only cleared Fritz but also Williamson. An innocent man would have met his death by lethal injection in what can only be called that which it is, "state sanctioned murder", were it not for the success of the appeal of another man.
While we at Bubbaworld commend U.S. District Judge Frank H. Seay for having not only the wisdom but also the courage to act to right a gross injustice we also condemn the criminal justice and appellate courts system of Oklahoma for gross incompetence as well as a total disregard for both the law and the US Constitution.
Each had before it the identical information which led Judge Seay to overturn the convictions of Williamson and Fritz. Each had the power to order DNA testing. Each had information which even without the results of DNA testing clearly indicated that the men failed to receive a fair trial. Each had the facts which pointed to a travesty of justice and which led Judge Seay to state:
"God help us, if ever in this great country we turn our heads while people who have not had fair trials are executed. That almost happened in this case."
Why then did the Oklahoma criminal justice and appellate systems fail so miserably? Why was the state so ready and eager to execute an innocent man? The answers to these questions are best found in the words and actions of District Attorney Bill Peterson, who prosecuted the murder trials.
"At this point, we don't know who the hairs belong to. We haven't tested them against anybody except (Ronald Keith) Williamson and (Dennis Leon) Fritz. There was no question in my mind when we started the whole DNA process that these 2 men were guilty."
It should be noted that DA Patterson did not charge his "star witness" with the crime until more than two years passed after DNA testing revealed that Williamson and Fritz were innocent and the DA's "star witness" was implicated in the crimes.
That "star witness", Glen Gore, was a classmate of the victim. Gore testified in Fritz’s trial, saying he saw Williamson with the victim the night she was killed. The transcript of Gore’s testimony was read at Williamson’s trial when Gore refused to testify.
Hopefully as a result of this travesty of justice not only will DA Peterson but also Oklahoma juries, judges and appellate courts learn to "question" the quicky and easy solutions in our rush to judgement.
We at Bubbaworld refuse to in the words of Judge Seay "turn our heads and look the other way and we urge you to do likewise. There can be no justice for anyone until there is justice for everyone. This is true even in Oklahoma.
Currently Williamson, Fritz and family members have a $100 million federal civil suit pending against various persons and government agencies involved in their case. Hopefully the federal jury and court will provide some compensation to these two innocent men the victims of "Junk Justice and Okie Science".
While the Williamson/Fritz case is shocking, even more disheartening is the fact that this case is not all that unusual in Oklahoma, a state which prides itself on a reputation for being "tough on crime". If only we could manage to get the right persons the first time around it might help us gain a reputation as a state where justice is served rather than perverted.
Oklahoma is a state where the "word" of police officers, prosecution witnesses and districts attorney are held in a degree of reverence associated with Biblical commandments and as such are often unquestioned by juries, judges and appellate courts in a head long rush to judgement to convict someone, anyone and this without regard to guilt or innocence.
Currently there is an ever widening scandal shaking the criminal justice system of Oklahoma and it is shaking its very foundations. Hopefully one day it will result in the reforms necessary to insure there are no more cases such as the Williamson/Fritz case.
If you would like to read more about this scandal follow this link to the Daily Oklahoman Special on the Police Lab Scandal
Numerous reports there center upon Oklahoma City Police Lab Chemist, Joyce Gilchrist, the person at the heart of that on-going scandal. She was also the prosecution witness that provided "scientific" testimony in the Williamson/Fritz case. Testimony which not only resulted in the false conviction of the two men but also discounted as a suspect the prosecution's star witness. That man, Glen Gore is now charged with the rape/murder for which Williamson and Fritz were falsely convicted, served 12 years in jail and prison and in the case of Williamson was almost murdered by the State of Oklahoma.
Hopefully justice will be served and a young woman's rapist and murder will receive the justice he deserves, if convicted in a fair trail. The latter however is not a "sure thing" as Pontotoc County, Oklahoma District Attorney Bill Peterson will be prosecuting that case also and we KNOW his track record for "getting it right"...
"I thought it was possible that this may be the eternity that I suffer... I have flashbacks. Sometimes I feel like I'm in prison for hours at a time. I know I'm not, but I can't help feeling like I'm in prison."
Ronald Keith Williamson, Oklahoma death row survivor
Links of interest:
On January 20, 2002 the Tulsa World reported in an article titled, "Men sue for 12 years in prison" that a federal law suit for $100 Million had been filed on the behalf of Mr. Fritz and Mr. Williamson. In their suit the men claim that they were victims of a prosecution effort that "falsely arrested them, used unreliable witnesses and unscientific evidence" to convict them.
The report indicated the trial was set for 25 Feburary, 2002 and that Federal Judge William K. Downes from Wyoming had been assigned to hear the case in Muskogee, OK federal court. Judge Frank Seay had recused himself from the case owing to his earlier involvement.
On February 23, 2002 the Tulsa World in a report titled, "Federal civil suit defendants get stay" revealed that the defendants in the case were granted a stay by U.S. District Judge William K. Downes of Wyoming.
The men are suing Pontotoc County District Attorney William Peterson, the city of Ada, Oklahoma as well as the State of Oklahoma, four Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents, several Ponotoc County Sheriff's deputies and Ada, Oklahoma police officers for $100 Million.
On 11/07/02, the Tulsa World in a report titled, "Ada case pact is reached" revealed that a settlement had been reached in the federal suit Fritz and Williamson had brought against various parties. The report revealed that the city of Ada, Oklahoma had agreed to pay each man $250,000 as the city's portion of the settlement. While the details of the settlement were "sealed", the report attributed the details of Ada's portion of the settlement to Mayor Bob Fennell.
On 11/29/02, the Daily Oklahoman in a report titled, "Wrongfully convicted pair settle suit against state, Ada" reported that a settlement with the State of Oklahoma had been reached. No details of the settlement amount were revealed in the report and the federal court sealed the details of the entire settlement. Earlier it had been reported that the City of Ada's portion of the settlement was $500,000 with that amount split equally between Fritz and Williamson. The men originally sued for $100 million naming several individuals and government entities in the suit. All defendants except the City of Ada and the State of Oklahoma had been dismissed from the case earlier.
Glen Gore, the prosecution's "start witness" against Fritz and Williamson at their trials in 1988 was ultimately convicted of the first degree murder of Debbie Sue Carter and was sentenced to death on 6/24/03. Gore's records with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections are Available Here
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