EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, August 13, 2015

DNA Evidence Clears Man Convicted in 1982 Based on Testimony By Jailhouse Informants

Today, there were a number of news reports about a crazy/disturbing case out of Pennsylvania. Let's go to the Innocence Project for the factual context:

On July 31, 1976, the 15-year-old murder victim’s body was discovered by a man who was picking blackberries in the woods near his home. The day before, the victim’s younger sister, who was at their home, was approached by a stranger who wanted to speak with the victim, claiming that their older brother had been injured in a car accident.  After the stranger left, the sister observed the victim, who had been at a friend’s house nearby, walking home. The victim stopped to speak with the stranger and drove away with him in his car. The younger sister provided police with a description of the stranger (which did not match Fogle) and a composite sketch was made. A few days later, a man identified the man in the composite as Earl Eugene Elderkin. Over the next five years, Elderkin, who admitted himself into a psychiatric facility, was interrogated five times about the murder. It was only after his fifth interrogation, during which he was placed under hypnosis by someone with no formal training, that he implicated Fogle.  

Elderkin claimed that he was present when Fogle raped and then shot the victim, but there was no physical evidence tying Fogle to the crime. Instead, the prosecution primarily corroborated Elderkin's claim through the testimony of three jailhouse informants, who claimed that Fogle confessed to them. Fogle, meanwhile, "asserted that he spent the afternoon with his parents and brothers and that evening went to a friend’s house and later to a bar."

Fogle, however, was eventually convicted in 1982. Eventually,

Fogle wrote to the Innocence Project, which agreed to represent him. Initially, only the vaginal, anal and oral slides collected from the victim during her autopsy could be located. The District Attorney consented to testing, but the results were inconclusive. In July of this year, the Innocence Project again asked the Indiana police to look for additional evidence that had been recovered. Twelve additional items of evidence, including pubic hair combings and clothing that the victim was wearing, were discovered. The District Attorney again consented to the testing. The lab was able to identify sperm from the public hair combings, which was submitted to testing.  Fogle was excluded as the source, pointing to another male as the perpetrator of the crime

As a result, the District Attorney

agreed to jointly move with the Innocence Project to vacate Fogle’s conviction. An Indiana County court granted the motion today and adjourned the case for September 14th, at which time the district attorney will decide whether to dismiss the case or retry it



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Its good to see so many people being freed by modern science. Its sad to see that so many innocent people are incarcerated.

Posted by: L Mendes | Aug 14, 2015 1:49:32 AM

I'm curious about the consequences, statistically speaking, for investigators and prosecutors where it can be established that they willfully committed malfeasance and/or fraud in obtaining wrongful convictions.

Posted by: Anya | Aug 14, 2015 8:20:39 AM

This is so horrifying. Being wrongly convicted is basically a living nightmare, one of the worst things that can happen to you in modern society.

Posted by: rocknroll | Aug 14, 2015 8:42:44 AM

I find it interesting that at first only the oral, anal and vaginal swabs were found. Only later, after further insistence 12 more evidence items were 'found'. No wonder people distrust the powers that be in these cases.

Posted by: pictonstreetbabber | Aug 15, 2015 10:42:01 AM

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