Statesman Journal Editorial-The Francke Case

Posted: February 27, 2009 in Francke Case
The following editorial was published by the Statesman Journal newspaper prior to Frank’s trial. The appropriate title still rings true today, nearly 20 years later.
 
 
We Just Want The Answers
 
The Marion County District Attorney’s office long and heartily has been protesting the media attention devoted to the Michael Francke case, and in particular the attention devoted by this newspaper.
 
Francke, Oregon’s top prison official at the time of his murder in January 1989, was charged with keeping the state’s worst criminals behind bars. When he was found stabbed to death outside of his Salem office, questions about how he died and the motives for his murder were raised throughout the state. Those questions have continued, in part because of the District Attorney’s heartfelt, consistantly explained reluctance to talk about the case, citing legal ethical considerations, and in part because efforts by law enforcement officials to provide answers have been questionable at best.
 
When it was disclosed that the same law enforcement officials who accomplished almost nothing during the 1986 investigation into charges of wrongdoing within the Department of Corrections were the same people assigned to investigate the Francke murder, public skepticism turned into cynicism. Small wonder that so much attention has been paid to the case–in and out of the media.
 
The attitude of the law enforcement agencies charged with investigating the case and with the Deputy District Attorneys charged with prosecuting it has become increasingly strained. These are people who are not used to public scrutiny.
 
These are people used to setting their own agenda, establishing their own priorities, making their own calls. When questioned, they apparently are not quite sure how to respond.
 
In fact, their attitude has been one of, "hey, trust us. We’re the good guys here–everything’s under control. Just don’t get in our way."
 
Sadly, these same people have refused to recognize that they have been their own worst enemies. They have allowed conflicts of interest to infiltrate their investigations; they have denigrated anything that did not fit their official scenario; they have launched side investigations and audits only when the outrage grew so loud that they no longer could keep out the noise from behind their closed doors.
 
No wonder the questions have continued.
 
All Oregonians should be concerned about one of the very things that the prosecutors have told prospective jurors for this case: They won’t be answering all of the questions raised–about any possible connection to corruption and mismanagement in the Department of Corrections; about a variety of potential suspects and potential witnesses; about a variety of contradictions by some witnesses.
 
When the District Attorney’s staff and State Police have said, "We’ll argue these things in court, not in the newspaper, " they know full well they will do no such thing.
 
The trial is only about whether Frank E. Gable did or did not kill Michael Francke; the prosecutors won’t even have to prove motive. But if the District Attorney’s office isn’t going to answer, or even pursue, those issues, who will? Surely not state police officials, whose integrity has been questioned from the first day. And surely not the Department of Corrections, which never has been able to police its own.
 
The questions may never be answered unless all of us insist that they are; after all, you can’t find something if you don’t look.
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