Politics

He spent 20 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Now he's running for office.

After two decades in prison for a murder he did not commit, Franky Carrillo, 46, has spent his first year of freedom just trying to get back to a normal life.
After two decades in prison for a murder he did not commit, Franky Carrillo, 46, has spent his first year of freedom just trying to get back to a normal life.
Michael Juliano/KPCC

Nearly a year after receiving a $10.1 million payout from L.A. County, a Lynwood man who spent two decades in prison for a murder he did not commit has announced his campaign to represent California's 51st Assembly District.

On Thursday, Franky Carrillo said in a statement he aims to fill the seat formerly occupied by Jimmy Gomez, who was elected Tuesday to Xavier Becerra's former congressional post. A date for the special election has yet to be set by Governor Jerry Brown. 

“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. “I know firsthand what it means to face hardship, and how important it is to know you have an advocate in your corner.”

In 2011, Carrillo’s conviction for the 1991 drive-by shooting of Donald Sarpy was reversed by a judge after he had served 20 years in state prison, according to Carrillo's Spokesman Roy Behr. 

At the age of 16, Carrillo was arrested and later convicted of the Lynwood murder, Behr told KPCC. A judge sentenced him to life in prison. 

While incarcerated, Carrillo taught himself law and maintained his innocence, Behr said.

Eventually, a public defender took his case, and after a five-year investigation, witnesses admitted they had been coerced to falsely accuse Carrillo, Behr said. 

Photography has become one of Carrillo's favorite hobbies, as has sharing his photos on Facebook. He lays out his camera and some photos he collected of his time in prison and his release.
Photography has become one of Carrillo's favorite hobbies, as has sharing his photos on Facebook. He lays out his camera and some photos he collected of his time in prison and his release.
Michael Juliano/KPCC

After the new evidence was presented in court, prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss all charges against Carrillo and release him, Behr said. 

After coming home, he earned a college degree, started a family, and became an advocate for justice and equal opportunity, according to Carrillo's statement. 

“I’m running because I believe that every family deserves an advocate who is dedicated to helping them triumph over the challenges and unfairness in their lives,” Carrillo said. “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.”

Carrillo isn't the only one who has announced a bid for Gomez's vacant seat. The list of others who have announced their candidacy online includes:

The 51st district covers northeastern L.A. and represents almost 500,000 Angelenos, according to the California State Legislature. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story included a list of possible candidates that was not accurate. KPCC regrets the error.