The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 News media partner.

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) –The Oregon Department of Justice is continuing to fight the exoneration of Frank Gable, the previously-convicted murderer of Oregon corrections director Michael Francke, who has been declared innocent by two federal courts.

The state justice department has informed Gable’s attorney that it intends to appeal the most recent ruling in his favor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Department spokesperson Kristina Edmunson confirmed the pending appeal to the Portland Tribune on Friday, Oct. 28. It must be filed by late December.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Gable’s successful appeal of his conviction on Thursday, Sept. 29. In a 30-page ruling, the panel upheld Oregon U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta’s 2018 decision that Gable likely was innocent, did not receive fair trial, and that no reasonable jury would convict him given new evidence presented in his appeal.

“The facts on appeal are extraordinary,” Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Nguyen wrote in the opinion. “Since trial, nearly all the witnesses who directly implicated Gable have recanted. Many explain they intended to frame Gable after hearing he was a police informant. They attribute their false testimony to significant investigative misconduct, which the State — remarkably — does not dispute.

“As Gable’s expert explained, the investigators used widely discredited polygraph and interrogation techniques as a ‘psychological club’ to elicit the statements against Gable. The prosecution then built their entire case on that tainted foundation.”

Acosta also ruled Gable did not receive a fair trial because jurors were not allowed to learn that a petty criminal named Johnny Crouse had confessed to the murder, with details that had not been publicly released months before Gable was arrested and charged with the crime. The three-judge panel cited Crouse’s confession in their ruling.

“As discussed, Crouse’s confessions have strong indicator of reliability. He confessed within months of the murder, multiple times, in several forms, to nearly unimpeachable witnesses and his family, with no apparent ulterior motive, and clearly against his penal interest,” the new ruling said.

Gable had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1989 murder of Francke. It is one of the most high-profile killings in Oregon’s history. Francke was stabbed in the heart and bled to death outside his office in the department headquarters known as the Dome Building on Jan. 17, 1989.

Crouse said he accidentally killed Francke during a scuffle when the corrections director caught him burglarizing his car. The confession was taken by Oregon Department of Justice criminal investigator Randy Martinek, who still believes Crouse was telling the truth. Crouse has since died.

Despite Crouse’s confession, no suspect was charged with the crime until Gable, 15 months after the killing. Gable was convicted in 1991.

The appeal to the Supreme Court is happening over the strong objections of Francke’s brothers, Kevin and Patrick. They have long believed Gable is innocent. After the justice department declined to appeal the panel’s ruling to the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, they issued a statement that said, “We strongly recommend that the Attorney General end this prosecution, which we consider a persecution of an innocent man, Frank Gable. He has suffered immeasurable physical and mental harm.

“We respectfully ask that they let him get on with his remaining years after almost 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Please!

“It is way past time for the State of Oregon on behalf of the citizens of Oregon to declare Frank Gable not guilty, innocent of the crime, and make apologies to the man and his family.”

Gable is currently represented by federal public defenders Nell Brown, Mark Ahlemeyer and Roscoe Brown. They will have 30 days to respond to the justice department’s filing.

After the panel’s ruling, Nell Brown said, “Although he will never get back the three decades of his life that he lost, this decision vindicates his steadfast claim of innocence and powerfully exposes the systemic flaws that led to his wrongful conviction. The Ninth Circuit decision makes clear that, with the full story told, no reasonable jury would convict him. I’m proud of our exceptional and dedicated Federal Public Defender team for doing the work to tell that story. I hope my client will finally be able to enjoy the life he has created for himself in the community without this case hanging over him.”

Both before and after Gable’s conviction, rumors circulated that Francke was actually killed by a conspiracy of corrupt state officials that he was about to expose. The conspiracy theory was embraced by Francke’s brothers and Phil Stanford, a former columnist for The Oregon and the Portland Tribune.

The conspiracy theory was the subject of a recent iHeart radio podcast called “Murder in Oregon.” It was co-written by and featured Francke brothers and Stanford.

KOIN 6 News also did an extensive special report on the case.

The Francke’s have set up a GoFund Me campaign to raise money for Gable.