A man who served 34 years in prison for the rape and murder of a teenager in Pennsylvania has been freed after new DNA analysis led a judge to vacate his murder conviction.
The man, Lewis Fogle, was released from prison on bond Thursday after lawyers for the Innocence Project obtained consent to retest physical evidence from the autopsy of the murdered teenager, Deann Katherine Long, 15, who was raped and killed with a single gunshot in 1976.
In a statement after Mr. Fogle’s release, the Innocence Project, which works to clear the wrongfully convicted, said the authorities had relied on jailhouse informants who said Mr. Fogle had confessed to them. At his trial in 1982, no physical evidence was presented linking Mr. Fogle to the crime, the Innocence Project said.
The new DNA results came from a semen sample that was collected from Ms. Long’s body using new technology.
David Loftis, the managing attorney for the Innocence Project, said the group had paid for several rounds of tests on the evidence. Evolving technologies for DNA testing has led more prisoners who proclaim their innocence to seek the group’s help. The organization says it gets more than 3,000 first-time requests a year for assistance.
In Mr. Fogle’s case, Mr. Loftis said in a phone interview on Friday, “we understood that the conviction was unsafe; that turned out to be true.”
Mr. Fogle may still be retried on a charge of second-degree murder, or felony murder, which in Pennsylvania is defined as murder committed during the course of another felony, said Patrick Dougherty, the district attorney for Indiana County, Pa.
He said in a phone interview on Friday that detectives were combing through the remaining physical evidence, which could result in a conviction, and were interviewing witnesses.
Mr. Fogle’s next court date is in September.
Mr. Dougherty said that he would not pursue a trial unless there was a legitimate chance for success. “In all fairness,” he said, “a young woman was raped and murdered.”
Mr. Loftis said, however, that he did not believe that Mr. Fogle would be retried. On Friday morning, the former prisoner, who had checked in with his probation officer, was spending time at a hotel with people who were focused on reintroducing him to a life “with choices,” Mr. Loftis said. Social workers were also going to help him rebuild relationships with his family.
“The choices are, Do you begin working? Do you begin hobbies? What’s the next step of your life?” Mr. Loftis said.
The first stop would be a restaurant,“I’d like to get me a steak,” Mr. Fogle was quoted as saying. “I haven’t had beef for a long, long time. We get suet instead of beef, and I don’t like suet.”
Mr. Fogle said he was not bitter, “but I don’t like how I was arrested and convicted,”. He said that because he was let down before, he did not allow himself to show emotion until his release was official.
The idea of being free was a little overwhelming, he told The Post-Gazette. “I don’t know how to even order a sandwich today,” he said. “I have no idea how to run a computer or anything like that. They scare the heck out of me.”