A second injustice: Pa. should compensate the wrongfully convicted
February 15, 2017 12:00 AM
Lewis Jim Fogle
By the Editorial Board
For those who imprisoned Lewis Jim Fogle for a murder he didn’t commit, the moment of reckoning has arrived. Mr. Fogle has filed a federal lawsuit against the former Indiana County prosecutors and state troopers who investigated the 1976 rape and murder of 15-year-old Deann “Kathy” Long, alleging that pressure to solve the case led them to fabricate evidence and frame him. Mr. Fogle, imprisoned for 34 years, was freed in 2015 after DNA evidence exonerated him.
The lawsuit is an important step for various reasons. As the Post-Gazette’s Michael A. Fuoco reported in his series —“What Cost Freedom?” — Mr. Fogle has struggled to pick up the pieces of his life. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which requires therapy. He remains unemployed, and a settlement or judgment would provide a means of support in a state that voluntarily provides no compensation to the wrongfully convicted.
Second, litigation may shed more light on an investigation that went horribly wrong and help the justice system learn from its mistakes. The lawsuit alleges inappropriate use of an amateur hypnotist to elicit testimony from a “seriously emotionally disturbed mental patient” and the fabrication of testimony against Mr. Fogle by three jailhouse snitches, among others, part of what was described as a pattern of unconstitutional law enforcement practices in Indiana County homicide cases at the time of the Long murder. If witness testimony was fabricated, as Mr. Fogle claims, those responsible should be held accountable.
Litigation even could help to raise new questions and open new lines of inquiry in the case, which remains unsolved. Mr. Fogle’s conviction and imprisonment represent an unconscionable delay in the pursuit of the real murderer. If alive, that person should be brought to justice for Mr. Fogle’s sake and that of the murdered girl’s family.
Publicity generated by the suit could attract the notice of others who languish in prisons because of wrongful convictions. That is what started Mr. Fogle’s own journey to freedom many years ago. After seeing a newspaper article about the Innocence Project’s work in 2002, he wrote to ask for help in his case. In 2014, a law student interning for the Innocence Project discovered a list of physical evidence not previously tested. DNA testing on that material cleared Mr. Fogle.
Is the Legislature paying attention? Mr. Fogle’s continuing struggles underscore again the need for a state law providing compensation for the wrongfully convicted. Pennsylvania is one of only 19 states without such a law — one of 19, in other words, willing to add insult to injury and layer one injustice upon another. That is shameful.
In the suit, Mr. Fogle’s lawyers allege that the defendants, under pressure to solve the murder, “engaged in multiple acts of misconduct to cobble together a case by any means necessary. Jim Fogle was the victim of that malfeasance.”
“He was 29 years old when he was imprisoned for Kathy Long’s murder, and 63 at the time of his release,” the suit says. “He now seeks redress for the misconduct that cost him the best years of his life.”
When Mr. Fogle goes to court this time, those who wrongly imprisoned him will be in the hot seat, something sure to bring him a measure of satisfaction. Mr. Fogle’s perseverance already brought his freedom. Perhaps it yet will bring answers in a 41-year-old murder case.
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