Second “Innocent Man’s” release from prison stalled

Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 12:01 AM CST
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ADA, Oklahoma (KXII) - An Oklahoma man has been in prison for the last 35 years for murder, was almost home free.

Monday, the Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a stay, holding Ward in the Dick Conner Correctional Center until January 8.

“What does it mean? It means Tommy is not coming home for Christmas, which is unfortunate, unless, the Oklahoma Criminal Court of appeals does it quickly and grants that there will not be a stay” said Gregory Swyger, clinical law professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

Melvin Ward says he was on his way to pick up his little brother when he found out the judge had given the attorney general more time to build a case...

“You know Christmas, we didn’t really have much. But we had each other, and that’s why this year was going to be such a great Christmas, we were going to be together again” Ward said.

The Ward family says they think the state also dragged their feet in correcting a clerical error, a typo in the case number used on documents from the 1980s- another tactic, they say gave prosecutors more time.

“It was just a little clerical error, but what that caused was a delay, because they had to correct that error. And by the time they got it corrected, that’s when the AG came in with their stay” said Ward.

Now, all the things Friday’s ruling gave Ward; a vacated conviction, charges dropped and his release are on hold.

“Exactly what the judge said, I want Tommy out and all his charges dropped. Like he should be. His rights were violated” said Ward.

The family says their dreams of having Tommy home were crushed once again.

“It’s not their time that they’re wasting away, but it’s his.” said Kay Phillips, Ward’s little sister.

Ward has been in prison since 1985, when he was convicted of murder in the disappearance and murder of Donna Denice Haraway.

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