Lewis Fogle was yet another victim of incentivized testimony. Fogle, a Pennsylvania man, was imprisoned 34 years ago for the rape and murder of a teenage girl mostly based upon the testimony of jailhouse snitches. A judge this week vacated the conviction for the 1976 rape and murder of Deanna Long. Prosecutors have not decided whether or not they will retry Fogle. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project pressed police to dig out physical evidence that could be retested for DNA. The Indiana County prosecutor’s office agreed to retest the items.
The DNA test excluded Fogle, who was serving life in prison, as the source of sperm found on the victim. Prosecutors subsequently agreed to overturning Fogle’s conviction. Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said his investigators are now combing through the remaining evidence to see if they have a strong enough case to retry Fogle. Dougherty said that he believes Fogle, 63, was involved, “the question is whether I can prove it.”
Dougherty went on to admit that the new DNA evidence means that Fogle isn’t the rapist. This means that the prosecution is changing their theory of the crime to more than one perpetrator. The conviction had to be vacated because Fogle’s murder conviction rests on the underlying felony of rape, which he did not commit.
Dougherty also admitted that in the original case there was no physical evidence tying Fogle to the crime and that he was convicted mainly on the testimony of informants who claimed he confessed to murdering the 15-year-old. These confessions allegedly happened nearly 5 years after the crime.
“The DNA evidence has proven that Mr. Fogle had nothing to do with this terrible crime,” said David Loftis, managing attorney for the Innocence Project, “Now that his conviction has been vacated, we are grateful that he will be reunited with his friends and family today.”
Fogle’s wife has always stood by him, the couple married just before his conviction. “He’s my husband and I love him,” said a tearful Deb Fogle, “It’s been a long, long process.”
“He has always claimed that he was innocent, and just thank goodness that we had DNA that we were able to test and conclusively prove that he was innocent,” said David Loftis.
Long was found dead in 1976, she had been shot in the head. Fogle was convicted in 1982. Four people were originally arrested in the case, but only Fogle was tried. The other three suspects’ cases were withdrawn by the prosecution or dismissed because of constitutional violations. One of those people has since died.
Fogle has always maintained his innocence and denies all involvement in the death of Long.
Dougherty said, the victim’s family is disappointed, “they have questions and concerns…I think they understand with this new evidence…the evidence existed but the technology didn’t really exist in the early 80s.”
“Incentivized informants have contributed to 15 percent of those wrongly convicted and later proven innocent by DNA evidence,” said Marissa Bluestine, Legal Director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which is also representing Fogle. “This type of evidence is inherently unreliable and should never serve as the sole basis for prosecuting someone.”
The next hearing in the case is September 14th. In the meantime, Fogle will be required to remain in Pennsylvania though he will be out on bond.