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Convict's Murder Conviction Thrown Out After 34 Years

A 63-year-old U.S. man who has spent more than half his life in prison for the murder of a 15-year-old girl was released Thursday after newly discovered DNA evidence indicated he was likely not responsible for the girl's death.

Lewis Fogle served 34 years of a life sentence for the rape and death of Deann Katherine Long in 1976. He has always maintained his innocence.

However, while an Indiana, Pennsylvania, judge threw out Fogle's 1982 conviction, Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty has until September 14 to decide whether to re-try Fogle.

Dougherty, who agreed to the DNA testing, also joined with lawyers from the New York-based Innocence Project in asking that Fogle's conviction be thrown out.

"I am not agreeing that he is actually innocent," Dougherty said. "I also don't want to let somebody out that deserves to be" in prison.

David Loftis, the managing attorney for the Innocence Project said his organization is "incredibly grateful" to Dougherty "for working with us to conduct the DNA testing" and for acknowledging Fogle's conviction "should be set aside."

Sperm from the girl's pubic hair combings has excluded Fogle as the source.

The DNA evidence "has proven" that Fogle "had nothing to do with this terrible crime," said Loftis.

Fogle was arrested and tried primarily on the testimony of three jailhouse informants who said he confessed to them while he was incarcerated.

Another man, Earl Eugene Elderkin, said he was present when Fogle raped the victim and later shot her. The Innocence Project says Elderkin was interrogated five times in a five-year period about the incident. The organization said in a statement that "it was only after his fifth interrogation, during which he was placed under hypnosis by someone with no formal training, that he implicated Fogle." The project said "at the trial, there was no physical evidence linking Fogle to the crime."

The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.