Franky Carrillo’s Story
On March 14, 2011, the Los Angeles County Superior Court reversed Francisco “Franky” Carrillo Jr.’s 1992 conviction for the murder of Donald Sarpy, and ordered his release after nearly two decades behind bars.
Franky Carrillo being welcomed home by his family, after spending nearly two decades behind bars.
Carrillo, who always maintained his innocence, was in prison when his father died in 1999. He missed his son’s childhood, but during a phone call promised his son that he would one day be released so they could be together. After 20 years, he kept his promise, and upon his release Carrillo told the LA Times, “I’m personally not angry. I don’t want to carry that heavy load.”
A Crime is Committed
Carrillo, 37, was arrested in 1991 for the January 1991 murder of Donald Sarpy, 41, who was shot as he stepped out of his home in Lynwood. Sarpy’s son, Dameon, and five others were nearby, but were not injured.
Carrillo was convicted based on identification testimony from Dameon and the five others. All six now admit that they did not really see anything, and were influenced to make their identifications of Carrillo. In addition, two other men confessed to the shooting and said that Carrillo was not involved.
Re-Investigation is Begun
Carrillo’s legal team—attorney Ellen Eggers; attorneys Alison Tucher, George Harris and Erika Drous from the law firm of Morrison and Foerster; Starr and attorney Paige Kaneb from NCIP, and investigators Pam Siller and Jesus Castillo—conducted a lengthy investigation and developed the evidence of innocence that led to an evidentiary hearing that began March 7, 2011.
The real break in the case came when Dameon Sarpy, son of the murder victim, read a handwritten confession from one of the true perpetrators and then admitted that he could not then nor now identify anyone in the car and that he had relied on the word of another witness, Scott Turner, to identify Mr. Carrillo.
Carrillo’s legal team then tracked down four of the other five witnesses and all recanted their testimony, saying they did not actually see the shooter because it was dark and everything happened so quickly. The District Attorney’s Office tracked down the remaining eyewitness who also recanted his identification.
The Truth is Unraveled
During six days of testimony before Superior Court Judge Paul Bacigalupo, the eyewitnesses testified that they could not really see the shooter’s face, and the true perpetrators asserted their rights against self-incrimination and refused to testify. Carrillo also testified that he was not involved in the shooting. Defense investigator David Lynn testified to a confession he obtained from another man who exonerated Carrillo.
The original prosecuting attorney testified that the initial investigation was “shoddy at best” and tearfully questioned the conviction. A court visit to the scene for a re-enactment of the shooting conclusively documented that no one could have seen the shooter to identify him.
Victory is Achieved
After Carrillo's exoneration and release, Linda Starr, NCIP legal director and a member of Carrillo’s legal team, said, “Franky Carrillo is innocent and after nearly 20 years, his release is a victory for justice.”
She added, “Franky’s conviction is another stark example of major problems that contribute to so many wrongful convictions—bad eyewitness identifications caused by poor police identification procedures and tunnel vision by police that not only keeps them from even considering that they may have made a mistake, but results in their continuing to work to vindicate their original bad work.”
“Franky’s release is a miracle,” Eggers said after the ruling. “Franky Carrillo himself deserves the most credit—for keeping the faith and never giving up on himself or his case, even when all seemed hopeless. Franky is a true hero.”