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Video: The Franky Carrillo Story by Jim & Terry Scott

The Franky Carrillo Story

by Jim & Terry Scott

Background: The Franky Carrillo Story

The following summary was excerpted from three articles written for the Los Angeles Times by Jack Leonard (March 15-16-17, 2011):

On the night of January 18, 1991, Donald Sarpy, a 41 year old father, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Lynwood as he walked out of his home to talk with his son. The victim had no connection to any gang, but the area had seen tit-for-tat shootings between a predominantly African American gang, the Neighborhood Crips, and a mostly Latino gang, Young Crowd. That night, Scott Turner, a Neighborhood Crips member and one of the boys standing on the sidewalk, identified a photograph of Francisco “Franky” Carrillo as that of the shooter. Six days later, Franky, 16 years old at the time, was arrested and charged with murder.

The case against Franky hinged solely on the word of six teenage boys who had been standing with the victim when the gunman drove by. Franky always maintained his innocence, telling detectives he was home watching television the night of the killing. He had grown up in Lynwood but moved to Maywood more than a year earlier to live with his father. Franky admitted he was a Young Crowd member but said he had not recently associated with the gang. One jury deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of acquitting Franky, but a second jury found him guilty. In 1992, Franky was sentenced to two life terms in prison.

For two decades, Franky insisted he was innocent. He was behind bars when his father died in 1999. His son Theo— now 19 years old— was born shortly after Franky’s arrest. As a child, Theo visited Franky in nearby prisons on weekends until his father was moved to Folsom Correctional Facility. Still, Theo received a new letter from prison every week, often including portraits Franky had drawn of his son or cartoon versions drawn from photographs.

While at Folsom prison, Franky wrote numerous letters to innocence groups and others begging for legal help. Each rejection letter was devastating, Franky said, but he never gave up hope. Eventually, through an introduction made by a teacher at the prison, Franky met Ellen Eggers, a deputy state public defender who spearheaded his case on her own time. Ellen was assisted by both the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University and the private law firm of Morrison & Foerster.

Franky’s legal team examined the case and conducted interviews. Five of the six witnesses who identified Franky during his 1992 trial recanted, stating that they had not clearly seen the gunman. Among them was Sarpy’s son, Dameon, who said he initially identified Franky because one of his friends at the scene said he recognized Carrillo as the shooter. That friend also recanted. A mock staging of the drive-by shooting also raised doubts about whether the witnesses could ever have reliably identified the shooter. In describing the sheriff’s initial investigation, Deputy District Attorney Mary Ann Escalante, who prosecuted Carrillo, called it “shoddy at best.” And, while Franky was in prison, two other men confessed to others that they were the real culprits.

On March 14, 2011, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Paul A. Bacigalupo overturned Franky’s murder conviction, finding that the recantations and other evidence undermined confidence in the original jury’s verdict. On March 16, 2011, after 20 years behind bars, Franky was released from prison. In reflecting on his long fight to win his freedom, Franky stated: “”Only an innocent man can persevere with this kind of experience. There’s something that kind of takes you over when you know it wasn’t you.”

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