The Innocent Man season 1, episode 2 recap: In Dreams


In its opening episode, The Innocent Man left us wondering why a man confessed to a crime he now says he didn’t commit. Episode two continues to churn and give more detail to a dark story.

This episode of The Innocent Man opens with a 1975 Oklahoma tourism video calling residents “the dreamers.” It paints a very pretty, innocent vision of Oklahoma, similar to episode one showing people in a Baptist church. It’s a stiff juxtaposition with how disturbing the story being told is.

After the opening credits, The Innocent Man jumps right in where the last episode left off, in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in 2017 talking with Tommy Ward. Tommy’s story goes that the police showed up and asked him to come to the police station to take a look at pictures for the investigation into Denice Haraway’s disappearance. But, once he got down there, they berated him, saying he did it and knew he did it and they wouldn’t listen to him when he said he didn’t.

A video shows young Tommy being shown a picture and asked if he killed the woman in the picture. He says he didn’t and didn’t know who did. His demeanor is completely different from the video of his confession. A week later he was given and failed a polygraph test.

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Tommy explains that, after he had been brought in the first time, he had a dream where money exchanged hands, a guy kissed a girl who didn’t want to be kissed and Tommy was washing something black off his arms. It seems like the story he told the police came from them asking him to tell them about this dream.

The detail about taking the body to a house by a river and burning it, Tommy says, was something he had hoped they’d look into and see it was a lie and the whole story was made up. (A definite gap in the police work from episode one.)

Tommy says he had been in the police station for about 8 hours before they even turned the video tape on. That’s when he says he gave a bogus confession.

The episode shifts to the Ward family. Tommy’s sister, Tricia recalls hearing from Tommy that the police were essentially trying to feed him things to say and taking the dream he had as a confession of guilt. She says there’s no way he would have done what he’s accused of doing.

Interestingly, Robert Mayer, author of Dreams of Ada, tells the documentary crew that people all over the small town said they were dreaming about the case. Mayer recalls a conversation between himself and lead investigator Dennis Smith. This shifts the episode back to the unsolved murder of Debbie Carter, which still had no suspects as of the convictions of Tommy and Karl Fontenot.

It’s now revealed that Smith thinks they know who killed Debbie; however, they haven’t been able to make the arrest yet because the evidence wasn’t there yet to pin it down. The episode now introduces two new suspects: Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz.

Williamson was a former professional baseball player whose career had been cut short due to injuries. A point that the show points led him down a dark path of drugs and alcohol. Williamson had also been accused of rape before. Not to mention, he a regular in the bar where Debbie worked, lived about a block away Debbie and a report put him at the bar the night Debbie was murdered. Fritz, one of Williamson’s only close friends at the time, was also questioned.

Fritz was a school teacher who’s now adult daughter recalls a Christmas Eve where their landlord’s nephew shot and killed her mother. Fritz was destroyed by what happened. After that, he sent his daughter to live with her grandmother.

An encounter between Debbie’s mom, Peppy, and DA Bill Peterson about whether or not Debbie’s body could be exhumed moves the discussion to a mysterious bloody palm print left at the crime scene. The print didn’t match Debbie, Williamson or Fritz.

Even though the original report said it wasn’t Debbie’s print, after exhuming the body, the police said it actually was hers. The episode sets it up to make it seem like this was a convenient way for police to remove a piece of evidence that proved someone else must have been at that crime scene.

Adding to the suspicious nature of the police exhuming Debbie’s body was an agreement that Peppy had made to be there when the police dug Debbie up. The police dug Debbie up without letting Peppy know. By the time Debbie heard about it and got out to the gravesite, everyone was gone.

As this episode of The Innocent Man moves into the trial of Williamson and Fitz, Debbie’s cousin, Christy Sheppard, recalls that the case moved quickly after the police eliminated the hand print. Audio recordings of the trial show Williamson having an angry outburst during the trial and he had to be removed.

In a video of a police interview with Fritz, Fritz recalls a night he was with Williamson where Williamson said he no longer wanted to live. As they passed a girl on the street, Fritz says, Williamson said he wanted to rape and kill her.

An audio recording has expert hair witness Melvin Hett saying that he found a pubic hair that matched Fritz’s at the crime scene. Adding to this, Fritz never said where he was that night and called off work the next day.

Fritz, who was tried before Williamson, was convicted and came within one vote of getting the death penalty. Instead, he received life in prison.

During Williamson’s trial, one witness testified that Williamson had raped her years before. Another witness testified that Williamson and Fritz were at the bar where Debbie worked the night she was murdered and Williamson and Debbie argued that night. Two other witnesses said they saw Debbie arguing with someone at her car outside of the bar.

Williamson was found guilty and the jury suggested the death sentence.

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As this episode of The Innocent Man closes, it shifts forward in time by 12 years to a newscast explaining that new evidence had come forward in the case. New DNA evidence could set Williamson and Fritz free.

Do the police actions seem suspicious on The Innocent Man? Is the killer still out there or are Williamson and Fritz guilty as charged? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.