The brothers of murdered director of the Oregon Correction Department are calling on the Oregon Department of Justice to release his convicted murderer.
Kevin and Patrick Francke released a family statement the day after Oregon U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta ruled Frank Gable's conviction for the 1989 murder of Michael Francke was legally flawed. Acosta ruled Gable must be released within 90 days or retried for the killing — a daunting challenge because many of the witnesses against him have recanted their trial testimony or died.
Gable was convicted of stabbing the corrections director to death after being caught breaking into his car outside the department headquarters. Gable has consistently denied the killing and no physical evidence ties him to the scene. Kevin and Patrick have long charged that Michael was killed by corrupt department employees who feared the then-director was beginning to investigate.
"Our client has spent nearly 30 years incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. Always maintaining his innocence, he has waited a long time for the day he would be exonerated. He put his faith in our team. While those lost years cannot be restored, Judge Acosta's ruling finally has brought Mr. Gable the justice he has hoped for," the Federal Public Defenders office said Friday.
The Marion County District Attorney must now decide whether to appeal or comply with the ruling. It is unclear whether Gable would be released during an appeal.
Here is the Francke brothers' statement, which was released by Patrick:
"My first reaction was relief, and then a flood of emotion washed over me. The events of January 17, 1989 have never been far from our thoughts on a daily basis. That is hard for people to understand. We have never been convinced that Frank Gable was guilty of the crime, never. In observing the trial and the events inside and especially outside the courtroom, we were even more convinced that the State wanted this case over, and quickly, no matter how they achieved that end. Machiavelli would be proud.
"A careful reading of Federal Public Defender Ms. Nell Brown's brief will make it clear to even a person with no knowledge and little interest in the case that the State manipulated the process to convict Frank Gable. I'm not a great believer in conspiracy theories, but I do believe there was a small cadre, perhaps only two or three in total, who guided the process out of fear of what might be unearthed in the digging.
"We became increasingly anxious as the months passed into years after the final arguments before Magistrate Acosta were made in November of 2016. Thankfully it is almost over. It is now abundantly clear that Frank Gable had nothing to do with the murder. The diligence of the Federal Public Defender legal team of Ms. Nell Brown and Mr. Mark Ahlemeyer and their group of investigators should be honored. Her brief was, in the words of a long-time lawyer friend, one of the best he has ever read. Textbook and precedent setting according to another lawyer friend. Bravo!
"Thankfully the waiting is over, and Frank Gable is a happy fellow for the first time since 1991. Where were you in 1991?
"No matter just now. Time has eroded the case; principals, investigators, and witnesses are dead, vanished, or retired, evidence is in disarray, and the murder remains unsolved; but not in our minds. This announcement will be just a ripple on the stream.
"We are happy in the extreme that the very real probability that Frank Gable will be released and his freedom is within sight. The State can no longer afford to manufacture a case built on lies and half-truths, and we trust that they will abandon this fruitless endeavor and concede that they convicted an innocent man. They made a mistake. The sooner they do this, the better, and justice will be served! Most of all, we are happy for Frank and his family and friends.
"The State's response in the coming days will determine the course; in the meantime, we celebrate years of determination by a few to see that justice was served. God bless our Republic; God bless the USA."
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the case here.
Editor's Note: Earlier versions of this story misspelled Michael Francke's name. The Tribune regrets the errors.
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