Photo story: Aaron Oliphant finds unwavering support in best friend

Montana Innocence Project client Aaron Oliphant and his best friend Ernie met when they were teenagers. They remain close to this day despite Aaron being wrongfully convicted of aggravated assault on a minor in 2016 based on the unproven hypothesis of Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma and sentenced to the maximum term of 20 years. Aaron shared with us how they met and how their friendship has lasted so long.

Aaron and Ernie became friends in Texas. One of their favorite memories together is floating the San Marcos River near Austin. Aaron fondly remembers confusing tanning oil for sunscreen and leaving their float trip covered in a sunburn. They have been best friends ever since. Aaron’s favorite part of their friendship is that they are “basically clones.” They never disagree and have always loved the same activities. For example, they both love gaming. Ernie even got Aaron a subscription to a gaming magazine so he can follow gaming news from prison. (Photo courtesy of Rena Oliphant)
Aaron is a young father. When he had his first child, Ernie stepped into an uncle role with ease and still maintains communication with Aaron’s oldest. Aaron and Ernie talk on the phone every week. They usually talk about what’s new in Ernie’s life. Aaron laughingly said he usually doesn’t have much to update Ernie about. But regardless of what they talk about, they make it a point to catch up regularly. (Photo courtesy of Rena Oliphant)
Aaron said their friendship is especially meaningful considering that he has lost some friends through the process of being wrongfully convicted and incarcerated. He mostly attributes this to the fact that not everyone is willing to rely on phone calls to sustain a friendship. He never had to worry about that with Ernie. From the beginning of Aaron’s wrongful incarceration, Ernie always made sure there was money on his books to have their weekly call. They are looking forward to resuming their friendship outside the confines of phone calls and prison visits. Ernie always reminds Aaron that he has a bed waiting for him in Texas. (Photo courtesy of Rena Oliphant)