In January 1991, 41-year-old Donald Sarpy was shot and killed in the the driveway of his home in Lynwood, California as his teenage son and five friends stood nearby.
Francisco Carrillo became a suspect after police mistakenly identified him as the shooter in another incident. Scott Turner, one of the eyewitnesses, who was shown Carrillo’s photograph on the night of the shooting, later identified Carrillo as the shooter.
Turner then told Sarpy's son, Dameon, and the four other friends who were present that that Carrillo was the shooter. Dameon and the four friends identified Carrillo in a lineup six months later. All six witnesses testified at Carrillo’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury.
Turner recanted before Carrillo’s second trial, but the other five continued to identify Carrillo as the shooter. In June 1992, the second jury convicted him of murder, and six counts of attempted murder and Carrillo was sentenced to life.
At Carrillo’s sentencing, a criminal defense attorney came to court and told the judge that he represented a man who was at the murder scene and could testify that Carrillo was not involved, but the judge would not let him testify.
In March 2003, Carrillo, reviewing a defense investigator’s files, discovered notes from the man who was not allowed to testify at his sentencing. According to the notes of the interview with the investigator, the man confessed to committing the shooting. After Sarpy's son, Dameon, was informed of the notes, he admitted that he had not been able to see the shooter.
Ultimately, all of the eyewitnesses recanted at a post-trial hearing on a motion for a new trial for Carrillo. Turner testified that Carrillo had been pointed out to him by the police.
In March 2011, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge vacated Carrillo’s conviction. The prosecution dismissed the charges in April 2011.
Carrillo filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages from the city of Los Angeles. The case was still pending in 2014. He also filed a claim for compensation from the state of California and in 2014 he was awarded $683,300.
- Stephanie Denzel