• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Wrongly convicted man Frank O'Connell suing LA County Sheriff's Department

March 18, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A man who spent more than a quarter century behind bars for a murder he says he didn't commit is taking legal action against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The former inmate was released from prison last year after his conviction was overturned by a judge who found detectives failed to disclose evidence that pointed to another possible suspect.

Frank O'Connell was convicted in 1985 of killing Jay French of Pasadena. He says he spent 9,962 days behind bars before he was released from Solano State Prison in Vacaville in April 2012 after his conviction was overturned.

"I've basically forgiven everybody who has been involved in this to put me in prison," O'Connell said.

In his lawsuit, his lawyers claim the detectives coerced witnesses to identify O'Connell as the killer. O'Connell has maintained he was with friends at the time of the 1984 murder.

O'Connell wants to be compensated for the 27 he spent behind bars.

"The truth of the matter is, if I had $50 million and asked to pay that to get out of prison, I'd give up every penny I got for the rest of my life," he said. "Freedom is more important than any type of monetary value."

O'Connell was helped by Centurion Ministries, a group dedicated to free innocent people from prison. He says he's likely to donate half of whatever a jury awards him to help groups like Centurion Ministries.

He now lives in Colorado near his son Nick, who was 4 when his father was sent away to state prison. Nick O'Connell says the two have been making up for lost time since his release.

"This first year has been a very, very special treat because we've gotten to experience the firsts for every single thing that we didn't get to experience for 27 years," Nick O'Connell said.

While the sheriffs' department says it stands by their detectives' work, the district attorney's office says it's not going to proceed with a retrial -- for now.


Load Comments