Wrongfully Imprisoned for 20 Years, Exoneree Now Running for Congress

"I will never let go of the idea that justice will prevail,” Franky Carrillo said in a campaign video

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Once imprisoned for 20 years for a murder he didn’t commit, a Southern California exoneree will now run to represent one of the nation’s most competitive congressional seats.

Francisco “Franky” Carrillo announced Wednesday that he will run as a Democrat to unseat Republican incumbent Mike Garcia in California’s 27th District. The district includes part of the San Fernando Valley, a swath of the Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita. It has flip-flopped between Democrats and Republicans in recent elections after years of providing a reliable GOP stronghold.

Cook Political Report recently changed its prediction for the possible outcome of the race from "lean Republican" to a tossup.

“I want to help stop the corporations and CEOs who keep trying to rig the system against us, stand up against reckless politicians who are willing to subvert democracy at all costs, and to make sure we have judges who follow the law, not their political or financial benefactors,” Carrillo said in a video announcing his candidacy.

Carrillo called Garcia a “MAGA extremist.” NBC4 reached out to Garcia's office for comment but did not immediately receive a reply.

In 2020, Garcia won a narrow victory in the 27th District. The former Navy fighter pilot was endorsed by Donald Trump that year, then joined House Republicans who rejected electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania and opposed Trump’s impeachment after the Capitol insurrection.

In this 2012 interview, Franky Carrillo speaks about his freedom after having been released from prison. Carrillo spent 20 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit.

Carrillo was 16 when he was arrested. In a 2012 interview, he told NBC4 that 15 Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies stormed through the door of his Lynwood home with guns drawn.

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Carrillo said corrupt deputies coerced and threatened key witnesses into identifying him in a photo lineup.

His lawyer at the time, Ellen Eggers, said there was no DNA evidence linking Carrillo to the murder and that every witness later recanted their testimony.

In 2011, Carrillo’s conviction was reversed. He went on to graduate from Loyola Marymount University in 2016 and became a policy advisor for The Innocence Project.

“When I was sent to prison for a crime I didn’t commit, I lost complete faith in the system. But as time went on, I learned that we’re capable of changing the system and improving our lives as long as there are good people who are willing to fight for what’s right, and that’s exactly what I’ll do. I will never let go of the idea that justice will prevail,” Carrillo said in his campaign video.

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