In an Indiana case where there was virtually no physical evidence, prosecutors convicted a man for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Deann Katherine Long that occurred in 1976. The state relied on the testimony of jailhouse informants to convict Lewis Fogle (63) in his 1982 trial of second-degree murder- he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The informants said that Fogle had confessed his guilt to them. Recent DNA evidence collected from semen extracted from Ms. Long’s body eliminated Fogle as a source of the rape and, presumably, as the murderer. Fogle had spent 34 years in prison for the crime where police found Long’s body in a rural area near Cherry Tree, Indiana, with a single gunshot to the head. Three other men, including Fogle’s brother, had also been arrested at the time; however, they were never formally charged with the crime.
COMMENT: Although the newly discovered DNA evidence does not necessarily establish Fogle’s innocence, it does demonstrate that the state has insufficient evidence to justify the conviction. Prosecutors are “Ministers of Justice,” and their job is to prosecute people with sufficient evidence. HOWEVER, their duty is also NOT to prosecute individuals where the evidence is sufficiently thin. This ethical (and legal) line has been crossed way too many times in the country. Justice is always served when only the truly guilty are convicted. Mr. Fogle deserves substantial compensation in this case, notwithstanding the aforementioned distinction between “actual guilt” and “lack of evidence”.
UPDATE: DNA testing cleared Lewis Fogle in 2015 of involvement in the 1976 rape and murder of fifteen-year-old Deann “Kathy” Long. His conviction was vacated, and the state declined to re-prosecute.