Morrison & Foerster Secures Freedom for Innocent Man After 20 Years in Prison

03/16/2011

Press Release

LOS ANGELES (March 16, 2011) – Morrison & Foerster client Francisco Carrillo, 37-years old, is being released from prison today after spending 20-years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. In 1991, Mr. Carrillo was arrested for the drive-by killing of Donald Sarpy when an eyewitness identified him as the shooter. Months later, five other eyewitnesses confirmed the identification, and after they testified at Mr. Carrillo's trial he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In court last week, five of the eyewitnesses, including Sarpy's son, recanted. On Monday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Paul A. Bacigalupo granted the petition for habeas corpus on behalf of Mr. Carrillo and overturned his conviction based on the recantations and other evidence that suggested another man convicted the murder.

Morrison & Foerster partners Alison Tucher and George Harris led the team representing Mr. Carrillo. "We put on witnesses that ran the gamut—expert testimony about the limits of night vision and a gang member who apologized from the witness stand for falsely accusing our client twenty years ago," Ms. Tucher explained. She added, "It has been an honor to work for a client as deserving as Mr. Carrillo, and a thrill to see the work succeed."

Mr. Carrillo's defense team included Ms. Tucher and Mr. Harris from Morrison & Foerster's San Francisco office, Morrison & Foerster associate Erika Drous from Los Angeles, Sacramento attorney Ellen Eggers, and two lawyers from the Northern California Innocence Project, Linda Starr and Paige Kaneb.

Morrison & Foerster handled the case pro bono after being approached by Ms. Eggers in 1996 to represent Mr. Carrillo. Ms. Eggers had heard of Ms. Tucher's triumphant victory for Rick Walker, a man who was wrongfully convicted for a 1991 murder in Cupertino, California, whose exoneration Ms. Tucher secured.

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