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You’ll Be Happy To Know Where Franky Carrillo Jr. From The Innocence Files Is Now

Refinery29 logo Refinery29 2020-04-14 Martha Sorren
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Often, a true crime isn’t just an act that lands a person in jail, but the process that puts the wrong person in jail. Netflix’s new docuseries The Innocence Files follows the Innocence Project’s — an organization namechecked a few times in Netflix’s Making A Murderer —work on eight cases of potential wrongful conviction, including Franky Carrillo Jr.’s case. He is no longer in prison, having been exonerated in 2011. But it was a hard fight to get to that point.

According to the Los Angeles Times, then-16 year old Carrillo was initially convicted of a murder in 1992 after six eyewitnesses identified him as the gunman in a drive-by shototing that killed Donald Sarpy. One witness, Scott Turner, had actually been shown a photo of Carrillo directly after the shooting, which helped to influence his eyewitness testimony and that of his five friends. The Santa Clara University School of Law reported that the other five witnesses later admitted that they had taken Turner’s word as gospel when it came to identifying the shooter, and Turner later recanted.

Per the LAT, Carrillo was sentenced to life in prison, but he always maintained his innocence. Eventually, he reached out to the Northern California Innocence Project (which runs out of Santa Clara University), and they took on his case. NBC Los Angeles reported that attorney Ellen Eggers focused on getting the eyewitness testimony overturned, because that’s what the case had hinged on. “There was no DNA in Franky’s case. There wasn’t even a gun. I mean, it was all just eyewitness testimony,” Eggers said. After proving to a judge that from where the witnesses were standing they would not have been able to see the shooter, they all eventually recanted their testimony. One eyewitness even apologized to Carrillo in open court. Additionally, the Santa Clara School of Law also reported that confessions from two other men claiming to have been the actual shooter helped overturn Carrillo’s case for good.

Carrillo was released in 2011, after serving a 20-year sentence. He didn’t waste a single moment once being set free. He got his GED and taught himself law while in prison, according to KPCC, and then went to college upon being released. In 2016, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University. According to The Wrap, he then went on to be elected to the 51st Assembly District to the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee.

“Because of my experience, I am uniquely positioned to represent families who are struggling to earn a living, find good schools for their children, and maintain faith in the face of adversity,” Carrillo said when he first ran in 2017, according to KPCC. “I know firsthand what it means to face hardship, and how important it is to know you have an advocate in your corner … I believe I will serve as a beacon of hope and optimism, but even more importantly, I will serve as a fighter for fairness and justice.”

Per The Wrap, he and his wife are now raising a family together in Los Angeles. He’s made a remarkable amount of lemonade out of the lemons he was served, having been in prison for 20 years for a crime he didn’t commit. But Carrillo told NBC Los Angeles that it wasn’t hard to come out on the other side ready to get things done. “I’m not bitter. It defeats the purpose of wanting to be free,” he said. “I could not imagine my life now as a free man having a frown on my face.”

His freedom wasn’t Carrillo’s only hard-fought reward for injustice. After his release, he sued Los Angeles County for his wrongful conviction. In 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported that he was awarded $10.1 million. That’s half a million dollars for each of his years in prison. That doesn’t erase what was done to him, but at least it helps him live a freer life now that he’s out.

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