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Man freed after 20 years behind bars: 'I’m, personally, not angry'

March 16, 2011 |  2:45 pm

On the day he was released after serving two decades in prison for a fatal drive-by shooting that he may not have committed, Francisco "Franky" Carrillo said he doesn't hold any animus against the system that he claims put the wrong man behind bars.

He's relishing his freedom.

"It's overwhelming, it feels great," Carrillo said in an interview after his release. "Justice has prevailed."

Carrillo, 37, was released from custody on Wednesday afternoon after a judge overturned his 1992 conviction for the drive-by shooting that left one man dead. Witnesses to the shooting on Jan. 18, 1991, later recanted their testimony, and a dramatic reconstruction of the shooting raised doubts about whether it would have even been possible to identify Carrillo as the shooter.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Paul A. Bacigalupo decided that the change in testimony and doubts about what witnesses actually saw undermined the jury's verdict in the case. The judge did not make any decision as to Carrillo’s innocence in the matter.

On Wednesday, Carrillo expressed his gratitude to the cadre of lawyers who worked to overturn his conviction, including Ellen J. Eggers, a deputy state public defender who helped assemble the legal team. He said he wants his story to serve as a warning to authorities and politicians that sometimes the system can fail.

After a 20-year legal quest for freedom, now that he has it, Carrillo said he's not bitter.

"I'm, personally, not angry," he said. "I don't want to carry that heavy load."


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Photo: Francisco Carrillo, seated between attorneys Ellen Eggers, left, and Linda Starr at the Compton courthouse, smiles Monday after hearing the judge overturn his conviction. Credit: Christina House / For The  Times