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Dennis Fritz now works with The Innocence Project, which helped overturn his conviction. (Courtesy of Dennis Fritz and The Innocence Project)

Innocence, After Serving 11 Years On A Wrongful Conviction

by NPR Staff
Jul 21, 2013 (Weekend Edition Sunday)

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Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

In 1982, Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were convicted of a brutal rape and murder in a small town in Oklahoma. The victim was 21-year-old Debra Sue Carter, a waitress at the Coachlight Club. Williamson and Fritz each spent more than 11 years in prison for a crime that DNA evidence later proved they did not commit.

Before he went to prison, Fritz was raising his then-12-year-old daughter Elizabeth, alone. He decided she shouldn't visit him in prison, because he sensed she was scared. But, Fritz says, he knew his daughter loved him, and believed in his innocence.

Elizabeth was 24 when Fritz got out, and he remembers the moment they saw each other in the visiting room of the county jail, where he'd been transferred prior to his release.

"I was a little nervous, and I'm sure, well, she was too," Fritz tells Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin. "She was just a beautiful, radiant woman ... and my mother and my aunt were there, and we just held onto each other so tight, and we all cried a big pool of tears on the floor."

The same DNA evidence that turned over Fritz and Williamson's convictions incriminated another man, Glen Gore, who was later found guilty for the crimes.

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