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Washingtonian may be released after 40yr confinement for stealing $20 necklace

Washingtonian may be released after 40yr confinement for stealing $20 necklace
A District of Columbia man spent more than 40 years in a city psychiatric hospital after being charged with stealing only a $20 necklace. Now, a federal judge has ordered that Franklin Frye can be released to a community residential facility.

Judge Richard Roberts, of the US District Court in Washington, made the ruling six years after the city’s public defender’s office filed a motion for unconditional release. Yet Frye, 68, went unnoticed for six years on the docket of a deceased federal judge, according to The Washington Times.

With his sanctioned release - depending on meeting certain conditions outlined by the court - Franklin was not offered an apology or much of an explanation as to why the criminal justice system failed him.

The ruling came just one day after the Times had reported on Frye’s situation. Frye and his brother, William, told the Times about his decades-long confinement and their frustration that Franklin never got his day in court.

“They locked me up for no reason,” Franklin said of the charges levied against him in 1971. “They never found the necklace on me. I don’t know if they ever found it.”

William Frye said his brother’s mental illness has been made worse after decades at St. Elizabeth’s. The hospital said each patient’s case is reviewed once a year for possible release, and patients are allowed to petition the court themselves.

Yet, previous attempts to release Franklin had failed, the hospital told the Times, and he languished in the hospital without a chance to challenge his confinement.

Now, to be released, Franklin must “demonstrate compliance” with certain conditions including attendance at a treatment program, outings in the community, and taking prescribed medication.

Frye “will not in the reasonable future be dangerous to himself or others if he is granted conditional release” and follows the hospital’s conditions, Judge Roberts ruled.

As the Times pointed out, a 1983 US Supreme Court case, which involved another St. Elizabeth’s patient, allows for those found not guilty by reason of insanity to be held by the state longer than if they were found guilty of the crime.