The Oregon federal public defender's office today sought to re-open what is perhaps the state's most highly-publicized murder of the past three decades.
On Jan. 17, 1989, the then-Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, Michael Francke, was stabbed to death outside his office in Salem.
The case was an immediate and long-lasting media sensation. No murder weapon was ever found and the investigation dragged on for nearly 15 months without result.
In April 1990, however, on the strength of information provided by several of his friends and acquaintances, Frank Gable was arrested. He was tried and found guilty and despite an exhaustive series of appeals has been in prison since. The case has been the subject of extensive media coverage, including a 2008 WW cover story presenting an alternative account of the murder.
Gable has maintained his innocence and at least six years ago, assistant Federal Public Defender Nell Brown began looking into those claims.
In a 189-page brief in support of amended petition for writ of habeas corpus that Brown filed in U.S. District Court on Oct. 17, Brown lays out an argument that Gable was wrongly convicted.
"Gable's conviction resulted from a trial suffused with federal constitutional violations, most basically in direct contravention of the Supreme Court cases guaranteeing the right to present a complete defense. The state trial court refused to permit the defense to present to the jury evidence that someone else had committed the murder. As a result, the jury never learned the details of John Lee Crouse's confession to Francke's murder and other evidence of third-party guilt," Brown writes.
Brown also notes that six of the witnesses against Gable have recanted their testimony; that the state failed to investigate other possible suspects; Gable's counsel failed to present an alibi; and that contrary to the prosecutor's contention, Gable never confessed.
"In the end, Gable will ask this Court to grant long-delayed justice to an innocent man who became the fall guy for a crime he did not commit," Brown writes.
Brown asks that the the state of Oregon either offer Gable a new trial within 60 day or order him released.
This post will be updated.