PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania judge is vacating the murder conviction of a man who’s been in prison for 34 years in the shooting death of a teenager, citing new DNA evidence.
The New York-based Innocence Project says a senior visiting judge issued the order Thursday in Indiana County for 63-year-old Lewis Fogle. Fogle is to be being released on bond later in the day because he remains charged.
Fogle’s family was brought to tears when they learned he would be released from prison after 34 years, reported CBS Pittsburgh. With her family standing around her on the steps of the courthouse Thursday morning, Lewis Fogle’s wife explained why and how she spent over three decades without her husband.
“He’s my husband and I love him,” said a tearful Deb Fogle. “It’s been a long, long process.”
Initially convicted in 1982 for the 1976 murder of a 15-year-old girl, DNA testing on recently discovered crime scene evidence pointed to an unidentified man, according to the station.
“The fact that his DNA did not show up in the test simply says that we may not have the sufficient evidence to prosecute on a felony murder,” Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty told CBS Pittsburgh.
The judge’s decision stemmed from a joint motion by the Innocence Project and Dougherty, according to The Associated Press.
“It’s a wonderful day for Mr. Fogle, it’s a wonderful day for his family. He’s waited literally 34 years to prove his innocence. It was always a weird case, trial, very thin case,” Innocence Project Managing Attorney David Loftis told the station.
Dougherty will review other evidence before deciding whether to retry Fogle. He will announce that decision Sept. 14.
In the meantime, Fogle has to remain in Pennsylvania and have no contact with the victim’s family. He is also required to check in with a probation officer, according to CBS Pittsburgh.
Fogle has denied killing the girl in 1976. He was the only one of four people arrested in March 1981 to be tried.