PORTLAND (AP) - A man who served nearly 30 years in prison for the murder of Oregon's prisons chief in 1989 has been released.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that U.S. Magistrate John V. Acosta dismissed the murder indictment filed against Frank Gable in Marion County on Monday, and prevented the state from retrying Gable in the death Michael Francke.
Acosta wrote a short order that stated "the state or any court are 'BARRED' from rearresting the petitioner, reindicting him or retrying him for the murder Michael Francke. The full opinion will be delivered later.
Francine Sinntt, Gable's younger sister, told the newspaper that her brother had informed her of the decision: "He called and said it was over."
"It's a huge weight off your shoulders," she said.
Gable was released from prison in 2019, after a judge found the trial court had made a mistake in excluding evidence of third party guilt. Multiple witnesses recanted testimony, and the defense lawyers pointed to a history of improper interrogation as well as flawed polygraphs that were used to question and shape witnesses' statements to police.
Acosta ordered Gable be released from jail or to have a new trial within 90 days. The judge stopped the clock on occasion as the state appealed unsuccessfully to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and unsuccessfully petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court for intervention.
Gable remains under federal supervision.
Gable, who was 42 at the time, was killed in 1991 and Gable received a life sentence without parole.
Francke's two brothers, Pat Francke and Kevin Francke have always been strong defenders of Gable. They believe that he was wrongly sentenced.
Kevin Francke said in a newspaper statement that he and Rain Francke are ecstatic to no longer be terrified by any unexpected phone calls or knocks at the door. They can now live a normal life.
Roy Kaufmann is a spokesperson from the Oregon Department of Justice. He said that the department respects this court's decision.
John Crouse of Salem, who was on parole at the time for a robbery he committed, told law enforcement officers, relatives, and his girlfriend repeatedly that he had stabbed Francke after he caught Crouse burglarizing Francke's car. Crouse has since died.
Acosta found the exclusion Crouse's confessions from Gable's court proceedings was illegal and violated Gable due process rights. The 9th Circuit upheld Acosta’s ruling and called the facts of this appeal extraordinary.