Today I returned to class at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with my daughter. A journalism class hosted Lewis Fogle as their guest; he came to talk about his fight to prove his innocence and regain his freedom. Lewis ‘Jim’ Fogle spent 34 years in prison for a rape/murder he had always contended that he had not committed. Last year he was exonerated based on newly tested DNA which excluded him. He was helped in his fight for freedom by the Innocence Project of New York.
Fogle arrived dressed in black jeans and a black T-shirt with the word ‘Innocent’ printed across the chest. His ‘Pilgrim’ hat when removed revealed the baldness on the top of his head surrounded by grey hair on his sides and a full beard. He began to talk softly from the notes on his yellow legal pad. He outlined aspects of the case against him and left me slightly confused about all the players lined up against him. The case against him hinged on jailhouse snitches. He claimed that the prosecution falsified these witnesses, hid DNA evidence, and destroyed evidence in order to get a conviction. He also claimed that the case against him was built from a conspiracy between the police, the District Attorney, and his own defense lawyer. He was able with his own self-written 20-page brief to persuade the Innocence Project of New York to become involved in his case. However, he was only days away from his case being dropped by the Innocence Project when his DNA evidence was found and tested.
He is suffering from PTSD and receiving treatment paid for by the Innocence Project. He spends time in his small apartment amidst walls painted the same color as his jail cell. He has a relationship with his wife, although he told us that she wrote him less and less frequently as the years of his incarceration stacked up. At one time he did not have any contact with her for 15 years.
He has purpose now emerging from his years of incarceration. He is actively involved in efforts to get a bill passed in Pennsylvania to compensate the wrongfully convicted who have been exonerated. He talked about helping an inmate with his case that has similarities to his own. When he was asked how such travesties as his wrongful conviction might be prevented in the future, his reply was accountability. He believes those prosecutors and police who commit crimes and hide evidence to get their convictions must be held legally accountable.