On March 14, 2011, the Los Angeles County Superior Court reversed a conviction and ordered the release of Francisco “Franky” Carrillo Jr. after two decades behind bars. At 16, Franky was wrongfully convicted of the 1991 murder of Donald Sarpy. The conviction was based solely on identification testimony from six people, including the victim’s son. All six witnesses recently admitted that they were unable to see the shooter, and were influenced to identify Franky as the killer by police officers and each other. In addition, two other men have since confessed to the shooting and said that Franky was not involved.
Though innocence issues were raised early in his trial, and again during Franky’s failed appeals, it was not until Ellen Eggers, an attorney with the Office of the State Public Defender, the law firm of Morrison and Foerster, and the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) stepped in to represent him for free, that Franky was able to establish his innocence with overwhelming evidence, and win release.
Franky’s case is a stark example of the problems that contribute to wrongful convictions. All too often, eyewitnesses end up choosing the wrong person because of outdated witness identification protocols and because law enforcement officers, eager to solve serious crimes, inadvertently prompt witnesses.