Francisco “Franky” Carrillo, 37, was ordered freed from custody in California after spending two decades behind bars for a fatal drive-by shooting he insists he did not commit, reports the Los Angeles Times. A judge overturned Carrillo’s 1992 murder conviction this week after witnesses recanted their identification of him as the gunman and a dramatic reconstruction of the shooting raised doubts about whether they could have ever reliably identified the shooter. The case hinged solely on the word of six teenage boys who were standing with the victim on a street when the gunman drove by.
Last week, five of the six witnesses testified that they had not clearly seen the gunman. Among them was the victim’s son, who said he made his identification because a friend at the scene said he recognized Carrillo as the shooter. That friend recanted. The case underscores what experts say is the danger of eyewitness testimony. Studies have shown that faulty identifications are the biggest factor in wrongful convictions and that witnesses are particularly unreliable when identifying someone of a different race. The witnesses who identified Carrillo are black, while he is Latino. Carrillo’s quest for freedom won the support of the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University and the law firm Morrison & Foerster, which provided lawyers and investigators free of charge.