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A Pennsylvania prosecutor will not retry a man who served 34 years in prison for rape and murder before new DNA tests won his release.
Lewis Fogle's case was championed by the Innocence Project, which pushed for new testing of the physical evidence that was collected after 15-year-old Deanna 'Kathy" Long was killed in 1976.
After the forensic tests showed that Fogle could not have been the source of sperm found on the victim, the Indiana County district attorney's office asked the court to toss the conviction.
County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty considered retrying him and spent 45 days reviewing the case. He told NBC News that he still believes Fogle was involved, but after so many years, he doesn't have the evidence to win a new conviction.
"This is a question of what we can prove in court," Dougherty said.
Fogle, who is now 64, was found guilty and sentenced to life largely on the testimony of jailhouse snitches who claimed he had confessed — five years after the crime.
He was surrounded by friends and family in court as the case was dismissed Monday with prejudice, meaning the DA can't bring charges in the future.
"I want the people to know that I did not commit the crime, and a lot of people out there know I did not commit the crime," he told the Associated Press.
"I'm hoping very strongly in the near future that the truth will come out with the names of the guilty parties, and I hope if any are still alive that they will be brought to justice."
The Innocence Project called for better cataloging of evidence, noting that it took five years for authorities to find the victim's clothing and genetic material that ultimately got Fogle out of prison.
It also noted that Pennsylvania has no mechanism for compensating inmates who were wrongly convicted.
"Thirty-four years is an extremely long time to serve for a crime he didn’t commit," staff attorney Karen Thompson said. "All people unjustly convicted of crimes should be compensated for the years lost."