Injustice in the legal systems (USA)

Over the past few days, I have watched a series of True Crime shows on various platforms, one of those that struck me was based in a small town in Oklahoma...

Content warning: distressing themes, including murder. 

Over the past few days, I have watched a series of True Crime shows on various platforms, one of those that struck me was based in a small town in Oklahoma. This series is called ‘The Innocent Man’ and is a docuseries about the unfortunate brutal murder of two young girls in the 1980s. This series is based on a book written by John Grisham called, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.

The 1980s is before I was born but I have always had a strong interest in the law since I can remember. This series really opened my eyes to how the justice system used to be back before we had DNA testing and all the gadgets and forensics we have now. 

There will be some spoilers, so please read on with care.

The two girls that were murdered Debbie Sue Carter in 1982 and Donna Denice Haraway in 1984, both were separate and over a period of two years. Four men were arrested overall (two for Debbie and two for Donna). Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz were both arrested for the murder of Debbie Carter and were both wrongly convicted. Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot were both convicted for the murder of Donna Haraway in 1984.

In the series you can see the videotapes that are on the evidence side of the case, Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot describe one thing that wasn’t later found until the body was found. There have been many discrepancies in the case of these two young girls, the families have only had some justice as to who had murdered them. 

The whole misconception of their innocence is difficult to prove, to this day there are still people who are in prison wrongfully committed for crimes they did not commit. It is estimated that 1% of the US prison population which is approximately 20,000 people have been falsely convicted. 

In America, the innocent till proven guilty does not seem to stand for very long, with people being falsely accused. What happened to a full investigation to get the right criminal and make sure the innocent have their freedom still? Not be incarcerated for a crime they did not commit?

The unfortunate part of this series is that these gentlemen seem innocent to me, everyone has their own views. The evidence does not seem to match properly for me to justify their penalties. 

I would be interested in other people’s views on this series and how the evidence is analysed in this case particularly. This series really intrigued me as a true crime fan and as a law student.

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Zara Goodey


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