Man convicted of killing corrections director fully freed

May 8, 2023, 8:37 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A man who spent nearly three decades in prison for the 1989 killing of Oregon’s prisons director has been granted his full freedom.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta ordered the Marion County murder indictment against Frank Gable be dismissed on Monday and prohibited the state from retrying him in the death of Oregon prison chief Michael Francke, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

“The state or any court is “BARRED from rearresting, reindicting or retrying Petitioner for the murder of Michael Francke,” Acosta wrote in a brief order. A full opinion is expected later.

Gable’s sister Francine Sinnett told the newspaper she learned about the decision from her brother: “He just called and said it’s over.”

“He’s ecstatic. I’m ecstatic. It’s such a load off of your soul,” she said.

Gable left prison in 2019 after the judge found that the trial court made an error in excluding evidence of third-party guilt. The ruling came after multiple witnesses recanted their testimony and defense lawyers cited a record of improper interrogation and flawed polygraphs used to question witnesses and shape their statements to police.

Acosta then ordered Gable to be released or retried within 90 days. The judge paused the 90-day clock at times as the state unsuccessfully appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and then unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Gable has remained on federal supervision.

In 1991, Gable was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the killing of Francke, 42.

Francke’s brothers, Pat and Kevin Francke, have been staunch defenders of Gable and believe he was wrongly convicted.

Kevin Francke, Michael Francke’s youngest brother, told the newspaper in a statement, “We are beyond happy that Frank and his wife, Rain, will no longer be paralyzed with fear by every unexpected phone call or knock at the door, and they can go about a normal existence.”

Roy Kaufmann, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Justice, said the department respects the court’s ruling.

John Crouse, a Salem man who had then been on parole for a robbery, repeatedly said he killed Francke, telling law enforcement officers as well as relatives and a girlfriend that he stabbed Francke when Francke caught Crouse burglarizing his car. Crouse is no longer alive.

Acosta found that the exclusion of Crouse’s confessions at Gable’s trial was wrong and violated Gable’s due process rights. The 9th Circuit upheld Acosta’s ruling, calling the facts of the appeal extraordinary.

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Man convicted of killing corrections director fully freed