Who killed Michael Francke? People who know are still around.

The infamous 1989 murder of Michael Francke, the head of Oregon's prisons, was back in the news the other day. The U.S. Supreme Court, to the surprise of no one, refused to listen to the state attorney general's argument that Frank Gable got a fair trial and should be sent back to prison. 

The High Court let stand a Ninth Circuit ruling, affirming a federal district court ruling, that Gable was railroaded and therefore had to be released from the pen after languishing there for nearly 30 years following his conviction for the brutal stabbing death of Francke, who was 42 years old. The official summary of the Ninth Circuit's ruling from a few months ago sums up what the appeal judges found:

Writing that the state court’s application of the Oregon evidence rules was incomplete and almost certainly wrong, the panel held that even assuming the state court’s application of its evidentiary rules was correct, the exclusion of Crouse’s confessions nevertheless violated Gable’s due process rights. The panel noted that Crouse’s confessions have strong indicia of reliability, were corroborated by other evidence including non-public facts that only a participant to the crime would know, and were undoubtedly critical to Gable’s defense. Because Gable’s defense was eviscerated by the trial court’s ruling, the panel concluded that the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict.

Now, as I understand it, the state could try Gable again, but that seems highly unlikely. And so he remains a free man.

Will we ever find out what really went down? The fact that the state Justice Department took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it had virtually no chance of getting a full hearing, shows how committed the powers-that-be are to selling their version of the murder. To this day, they really, really want the official story to be accepted. But anyone with any common sense can tell it isn't true, and it seems a decent bet that the state, and some other folks, know a lot more about what happened than they're letting on.

Shortly before he died, Francke had confided to people close to him that he had uncovered major corruption in the prisons and was about to blow the whistle and clean house. The next thing he knew, he was stabbed to death in the parking lot of his office. The tale that his murder was a car prowl gone wrong seems mighty tall.

My guess is that the public will never know the truth, or if they do, it will be after all the people involved in framing Gable and covering up the actual facts are dead. And quite a few of the people who participated in the prosecution are still alive.

Dale Penn, the prosecutor who was rewarded with a cushy lottery directorship and then a state court judgeship, is still around, now retired from the bench, maybe in his early 70s. 

Scott McAlister, the Justice Department honcho who had a falling out with Francke and quit shortly before the murder, is still shown as practicing law in Tempe, Arizona, despite an embarrassing incident in which he allegedly gave away some pornographic films improperly taken from the stash of evidence in one of his Oregon cases. McAlister must be in his late 70s by now. 

Tom Toombs, the guy who had Francke's job before him, appears to be still alive, aged 81.

And Neil Goldschmidt, the now-disgraced former governor who brought Francke to town and then oversaw the "investigation" into his murder, is still alive, too. He's 82. Until 2004, everybody in the state answered to Neil, directly or indirectly. That includes the governor who put Penn on the bench, the current state attorney general, and everybody who produced and endorsed the sorry official story.

Maybe some day we'll know. But not today.


  1. Always thought that there was more to the stabbing than corruption in the state prison.

    1. Anything is possible. And almost anything is more plausible than what Penn sold to the jury.

    2. Phil Stanford has interesting podcast about the case called Murder in Oregon.

  2. JFK was slaughtered in Dallas in 1962, still wont tell us who did it, even though we pretty much know.

    1. 11/22/63. Actually, there' s a fun novel with that name by Stephen King if you're ever in the mood.

    2. That is a great read.

  3. Tom Toombs is a really horrible person and is probably one of the people to whom Michael Francke was referring when he mentioned corruption.


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