DNA Tests Clear Two Okla. Convicts
By JAY HUGHES
ADA, Okla. (AP) -- Two men who spent 12 years in prison for rape and murder -- one of whom was on death row - were freed Thursday because DNA tests ruled both out as the killers.
Ron Williamson, 46, had been sentenced to death and Dennis Fritz, 49, to life in prison. Both had maintained their innocence since juries in 1988 convicted them of strangling and assaulting a 21-year-old woman.
``We can never replace the 12 years the defendants have been incarcerated, nor can we forget Debra Carter. All we can do is go forward,'' Pontotoc County District Judge Tom Landrith said.
Prosecutors say the same DNA tests that cleared the two identified a third man, a witness against both men, as a suspect. The man, Glen Gore, 38, escaped from a prison work detail Wednesday.
Gore testified that he saw Williamson with the victim the night she died. He was the only witness to connect them.
Members of the victim's family left the courtroom in tears, refusing to comment. The crowd showed little emotion as Williamson and Fritz were led out to pick up their belongings at the county jail, but the men returned to applause.
``Living on death row, I can say ... there's a lot of pain and misery,'' Williamson said. ``That's a miserable existence.''
Fritz remains frustrated: ``For the innocent person it's difficult, because you have no way to release your feelings. You have no way to justify your incarceration.''
A new trial a federal judge ordered for Williamson cleared the way for the DNA testing of semen samples and hair samples from the crime scene. Tests showed the samples did not match either man.
No charges have been filed against Gore, who was serving three 40-year
sentences for first-degree burglary, kidnapping and shooting with intent