A Civic Project story
Lewis “Jim” Fogle and wife Deb dine at Wayne Avenue restaurant, Indiana, Pa., April 19, 2017. Photo by Nathan Zisk.
By Nathan Zisk
INDIANA – At his August 13, 2015, release from state prison after serving 34 years for a crime he did not commit, Lewis “Jim” Fogle said he wanted nothing more than a steak dinner. Now he wants more – compensation from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for his wrongful conviction.
In 1981, state police charged Fogle with the 1976 rape and murder of 15-year-old Deann Katherine Long of Cherry Tree. An Indiana County jury convicted him in 1982. He won release from prison two years ago after the Innocence Project, a New York- and Philadelphia-based non-profit that represents the wrongfully convicted, found DNA evidence exonerating him. Soon after, Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty, citing the new evidence, declined to re-try Fogle.
Today, Fogle, 65, is unemployed, but not unoccupied. He travels to tell his story, and he practices the artwork he discovered in childhood and developed in prison. He lives in a cluttered apartment on Oakland Avenue. It is dark, with concrete walls — just like prison, Fogle said. Sometimes when he awakens, he thinks he never left.
“I get panic attacks and very cold sweats,” Fogle said during an April 6 interview at his home. “Sometimes I’m so dizzy I can’t stand.”
While he was in prison, his mother and two brothers died. His relationships with his wife and family were fractured, he said, although he is close to his two granddaughters. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, Fogle said.
He is among 61 Pennsylvanians (2,033 nationwide) who have been exonerated since 1990 by DNA evidence that proves they did not commit the crimes for which they were convicted, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School, Michigan State University College of Law and Northwestern University School of Law.
In Fogle’s case, the registry listed “perjury or false accusation” as contributing factors in his wrongful conviction.
In February, attorneys for Fogle filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful conviction. It cites two former Indiana County prosecutors – including current Court of Common Pleas presiding judge William J. Martin – and seven state police officers who investigated and prosecuted the cold case.
But the federal court is one of three avenues in Fogle’s strategy to win compensation from officials who took 34 years of his life. The other two approaches are the court of public opinion in the press and the legislative bodies of the state House and Senate in Harrisburg.