Francisco Carrillo, who was sentenced to two life sentences for a drive-by murder in Lynwood he did not commit, is now a free man after 20 years. Bye, Bye L.A. Twin Towers.
When Carrillo was arrested, then 16, he denied any involvement in the drive-by. He actually was at his father’s home watching television when the murder victim, Donald Sarpy, 41, was shot on January 18, 1991.
It was Sarpy’s son, Dameon, 17, who pointed the finger to former gang member, “Franky” Carrillo, at the behest of his friend Scott Turner.
Turner, is currently serving a prison sentence for assault with a firearm and false imprisonment, alleged that a sheriff’s deputy rejected photos of other suspects he initially selected until he chose Carrillo’s because the other photos were of already incarcerated men. From there he told Dameon and the other witnesses to choose Photo #1 to make alleviate all the police pressure.
At Carrillo’s recent court appeals hearing, Turner confessed and apologized to Carrillo and his family, “I … hope God allows you to forgive me for what I did to you,”
Relying on that new evidence, Carrillo filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2003. But the Superior Court denied the petition finding that “compared to the quality and quantity of the witnesses who identified the defendant as the shooter, defendant’s ‘evidence’ is speculative at best.”
Carrillo was able to convince attorney Ellen Eggers, the law firm of Morrison and Foerster, and the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) began to look into his claim of innocence pro bono .
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 or now identify anyone in the car and that he had relied on Turner’s word to identify Mr. Carrillo.
That’s when all six witnesses recanted and admit that the car was too dark to identify any shooter and that’s when Superior Court Judge Paul A. Bacigalupo overturned Carrillo’s prison sentence.
Judge Bacigalupo asked Carrillo, “Which is worse, the judge asked, an innocent man wrongfully convicted or the real perpetrator remaining free?”
“The wrong guy going to prison,” Francisco “Franky” Carrillo quickly responded. “For the past 20 years, I’ve lived that experience. And I think it’s the worst predicament any human being can be under.”