A Los Angeles County judge dismissed criminal charges Monday against a man who spent more than 20 years behind bars for a murder he insists he did not commit.
The action brings to an end a two-decade legal saga in which five of the six witnesses who identified Francisco "Franky" Carrillo in court as the gunman in a fatal drive-by shooting recanted their testimony last month.
Though Carrillo's conviction was overturned three weeks ago, prosecutors could have sought to retry the murder case. But the district attorney's office asked Superior Court Judge Paul A. Bacigalupo on Monday to dismiss the charges.
After the Compton court hearing, Carrillo, 37, said he felt relieved.
"I knew that this was hovering over me," he said. "For all these years, I envisioned the case getting dismissed. To hear the judge say that and the D.A. say that, it was a beautiful moment."
The case against Carrillo hinged solely on the word of six teenage boys who had been standing with the victim on a Lynwood street in 1991 when the gunman drove by. One jury deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of acquitting Carrillo, but a second jury found him guilty. He was sentenced to two life terms.
Last month, five of the six witnesses testified they had not clearly seen the gunman. Among them was the victim's son, who said he made his identification because one of his friends at the scene said he recognized Carrillo as the shooter. That friend also recanted.
Brentford Ferreira, a supervising prosecutor with the L.A. County district attorney's office, said the recantations made it impossible to proceed with the case.
"There's no evidence left for a retrial," Ferreira said.