Ron Williamson

Ron Williamson

Ronald "Ron" Keith Williamson (February 3, 1953, Oklahoma—December 4, 2004) was a minor league baseball catcher/pitcher who was one of two men wrongly convicted in 1988 in Oklahoma for the rape and murder of Debra Sue "Debbie" Carter. Dennis Fritz was sentenced to life imprisonment, while Williamson was sentenced to death. Both were released 12 years later, when DNA evidence proved their innocence. Their story became the subject of bestselling author John Grisham's first nonfiction book, "".

Early life

Born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma, Williamson was the 41st pick in baseball's 1971 amateur draft, a second-round selection by the Oakland Athletics. He spent the 1972 season primarily with the Coos Bay-North Bend A's, hitting .265 in 52 games. In 1973, he had a poor year, hitting .137 for the Key West Conchs with only 13 runs produced in 59 games. A shoulder injury derailed his career for the next few years. His father, through a childhood friendship with former major league pitcher Harry "The Cat" Brecheen, got him a look with the New York Yankees, where he pitched in their minor league system for parts of 1976 & 1977. In his last season, he pitched in 14 games, working 33 innings. At the age of 24 his baseball career was over. He did try to spark further interest in himself from the Yankees camp 2 years later but was unsuccessful, although another small stint in the minors did follow. This was cut short due yet again to the nagging shoulder injury.

His baseball career over, Williamson became addicted to drugs and alcohol and suffered from increasingly severe mental illness, becoming depressed and living with his mother.

Arrest and conviction

In 1982, Debbie Carter, a waitress in an Ada bar Williamson frequented, was found dead. Williamson and friend Dennis Fritz were arrested five years later on flimsy testimony, including a highly unusual confession in the form of a dream experienced by the mentally ill Williamson; both were found guilty. Williamson received a death sentence, while Fritz was sent to prison for life.

The evidence included expert testimony in hair analysis, which is now regarded as unreliable. The expert concluded that 13 of the 17 hairs found at the crime scene were "microscopically consistent" with those of Fritz and Williamson, and alleged that one of them was a "match." The defense failed to point out that although the hair samples could have implicated the pair, they equally could have cleared them both. Despite his rapidly failing mental health, no motion was made to assess Williamson's competence.

After their sentencing, a confession by a man named Ricky Joe Simmons came to light, which the prosecution lawyer had during the trial but had failed to report it. Having learned of this while on death row, Williamson became increasingly convinced that Simmons had committed the murder and repeatedly demanded his arrest; he was never charged.


After 12 years on death row, and following several appeals, Williamson and Fritz were cleared by DNA testing, and were finally freed.Fact|date=September 2008 Williamson died in a nursing home of cirrhosis of the liver five years later.Fact|date=September 2008 Thorazine and other prescription drugs may have precipitated the cirrhosis. Best-selling novelist John Grisham read Williamson's obituary in "The New York Times" and made him and Fritz the subject of his first non-fiction book, "", published in 2006. The book became a bestseller.Fact|date=September 2008

Many of the residents of Ada continued to believe that Williamson and Fritz were guilty long after they were exonerated. Fact|date=August 2008 Indeed both men reportedly felt the need to keep an eye over their shoulder since their release, such was their belief that the prosecutor Bill Peterson and other officials of the Ada police would try to bring them to trial again. Fact|date=August 2008

The real killer

Glen Gore, an Ada man who had testified against both Williamson and Fritz, apparently following threats by the prosecutor, was ultimately convicted of the murder of Debbie Carter. He was the last person seen with Carter, and also had been seen arguing with her on the night of her death. Although he had submitted hair samples after her murder, these were never processed.

Once Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz had been cleared of murder, Glen Gore eventually came to trial, based on the same DNA evidence that had cleared Fritz and Williamson. This evidence proved that it was Glen Gore's DNA that was left at the scene. On June 24, 2003 Gore was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole ODOC# 153663.


*"The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town" by John Grisham, Doubleday Books, 2006, ISBN 0385517238.

External links

* [ Ron Williamson] - from PBS Frontline
* [ Bullpen article]
* [] - Glen Gore Oklahoma Department of Corrections Offender Lookup

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