The case against Mr. Fogle itself was never a strong one – it was based entirely upon the testimony of so-called jailhouse informants, including a man himself suspected of the crime. It was only years after the 15-year-old victim’s body was found in the woods that the suspect, Elderkin, named Mr. Fogle as being involved. This accusation came during Elderkin’s fifth statement to police, while Elderkin was receiving psychiatric treatment and with the assistance of hypnosis. No physical evidence connected Mr. Fogle to the murder, and he testified at trial he was nowhere near the scene when the girl was murdered. Nonetehless, the jury convicted Mr. Fogle and the court sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
This gentleman spent more time in jail for something heinous he didn’t do than I have spent being alive. This guy has a wife and kids, who not only haven’t lived with him for 34 years, but who have had to deny he assaulted and murdered a teenager, as well. The District Attorney was admirable in his cooperation with Innocence.
But there is no utility in blaming or blessing any single person: what changes can we make to the criminal justice system that will prevent mistakes like this from happening in the first place?
Maybe life with parole shouldn’t be on the table unless there is conclusive DNA evidence of the defendant’s guilt. I don’t know. But we can’t shrug our shoulders about it. After all, we were happy to incarcerate Fogle for the rest of his life when we thought he took someone else’s life. What will do now that we have effectively taken most of his?