Frank Gable has finally received his freedom.
Nell Brown, the assistant federal public defender who led the team that won a re-consideration of Gable's 1990 conviction for the killing of Oregon Department of Corrections director Michael Francke, announced this morning that Gable's release has been approved by federal magistrate judge in U.S. District Court in Portland.
"Today, Frank Gable was ordered released by the Honorable John V. Acosta after nearly thirty years in prison for a crime he did not commit," Brown said in a statement.
Francke was stabbed to death in the parking lot outside his Salem office early in the evening of Jan. 17, 1989. No murder weapon was ever found. Police first interviewed Gable, a small-time Salem meth dealer, in May 1989 but did not arrest him for Francke's murder until April 1990. He was convicted in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison but doubts about that conviction never fully went away.
In April, after years of effort by Brown and her colleagues to get a review of Gable's case, Acosta issued a ruling that cast grave doubt on the conviction. The Oregon Department of Justice has appealed Acosta's ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals but agreed that Gable could be released pending the resolution of that appeal. Gable is to be released June 28, as first reported by the Portland Tribune.
"The trial court erred in excluding evidence of third-party guilt and that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to assert Gable's federal due process rights in the face of the trial," Acosta wrote in his decision.
The Oregon Department of Justice, which defended Gable's conviction on appeal, filed a motion opposing his release
Here is Brown's statement:
"Mr. Gable has expressed his deep gratitude to me, Mark Ahlemeyer, and Wendy Kunkel (and others from the Federal Public Defender office who contributed along the way) for investigating his case in depth, for believing in his innocence, and for pursuing justice for him over the course of the last decade. There were many hard days on this long journey.
Mr. Gable is beyond grateful to the Francke family for their support and grieves with them the loss of Michael Francke.
He thanks those who believed in his innocence all these years.
Mr. Gable is also grateful to the Court not only for ordering the relief he has long sought but for the opportunity to be released into the fresh air and sunshine.
He walks out into a very different world than the one he knew when he was last out of custody in 1989. He is looking forward – not looking back. He has already mastered use of an iPad and plans to take what life offers him as he always has—with a positive outlook and a sense of humor. He hopes to spend time fishing, hiking, and enjoying his freedom.
The Court's meticulous decision granting relief and the order for Mr. Gable's release remind me that habeas corpus remains an essential "bulwark of our liberties" as described by Blackstone long ago. While it took too many years—a number of which were on my watch as my team, at Mr. Gable's request, took the time needed to investigate this matter exhaustively and in depth—I am overjoyed that an innocent man will finally have his freedom."