In his first interview since being released from prison in 2019, Frank Gable told the Portland Tribune he’s going to sue Marion County and the state of Oregon for wrongful conviction in the murder of Oregon Department of Corrections director Michael Francke.
An assailant stabbed Francke to death in the well-lit parking lot of ODOC headquarters on Jan. 17, 1989, setting off a frenzied investigation that ended 15 months later in the arrest of Gable, then a low-level Salem drug dealer with no obvious connection to Francke. A Marion County jury convicted Gable 1991. He was sentenced to life in prison.
But the absence of eyewitnesses and the fact that investigators never found the murder weapon or provided a compelling rationale for Gable’s alleged actions led to speculation from the beginning whether Gable had committed the crime. Then-Oregonian columnist Phil Stanford spent years chipping away at the case against Gable, aided by Francke’s brothers, E. Patrick and Kevin Francke, who didn’t believe the evidence against him.
Gable exhausted all his appeals in state court, however, and it appeared he would spend the rest of his life in prison. In 2014, though, Nell Brown, a federal public defender in Portland, filed a motion on Gable’s behalf that found most of the witnesses in his conviction had subsequently recanted and the state had failed to thoroughly investigate other suspects, including John Crouse, who at one time confessed to Francke’s murder.
A federal magistrate judge found Brown’s argument compelling and ordered Gable released in 2019. The Oregon Department of Justice, which defends convictions on appeal, disagreed but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Gable to remain free.
Gable, now living in Kansas, is working with a Chicago law firm that specializes in suing for wrongful convictions.
“I went into prison a young, cocky man and came out an old man with health problems,” Gable told the Tribune. “Nothing can give me those years back.”