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Mission (Im)Possible: Two Exonerations in Two Weeks!

Tuesday, Apr. 5, 2011
NCIP Legal Director Linda Starr
NCIP Legal Director Linda Starr

Santa Clara University-based Northern California Innocence Project has much to celebrate with an unprecedented feat last month: two back-to-back exonerations of wrongfully convicted defendants in just two weeks. 

The two men had served a combined  40 years for crimes for which it has now been determined they should not have been convicted. Both men will be at Santa Clara University April 13 to talk about their experiences and answer questions.

Their convictions serve as stark reminders that major problems continue to plague the criminal justice system, says NCIP legal director Linda Starr.

“Bad eyewitness identifications, poor police identification procedures, police tunnel vision and a reluctance to admit mistakes – all these factors contribute to innocent men and women being tragically denied their freedom or sometimes their lives,” she said.

The two most recent cases illustrate the problems.

On March 14 the Los Angeles County Superior Court reversed Francisco “Franky” Carrillo Jr.’s 1992 conviction for the murder of Donald Sarpy, and ordered Mr. Carrillo’s release after almost two decades of being imprisoned. The conviction was overturned when the six eyewitnesses all admitted that they did not really see anything, and were influenced to make their identifications of Carrillo. In addition, two other men have confessed to the shooting and said that Carrillo was not involved.

On March 25, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ordered the release of Maurice Caldwell from prison where he has spent the last 20 years after being convicted of a San Francisco murder he did not commit. Mr. Caldwell was convicted based solely on the testimony of a single eyewitness that later proved to be a misidentification. NCIP located two witnesses who actually saw the murder and said Mr. Caldwell was not involved in any way, and a statement from another man that he was the real killer and that Mr. Caldwell was not involved in any way.

Congratulations for the herculean efforts of NCIP's legal director Starr; staff attorney Paige Kaneb, and legal team of Ellen Eggers, Alison Tucher, George Harris, Erika Drous, and Pam Siller, who worked together to free Mr. Carrillo. San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Steve Olmo also helped Starr and Kaneb free Mr. Caldwell.

SCU faculty, staff and other interested parties are invited to a breakfast briefing April 13, to hear the extraordinary stories of these two men, both of whom will be on hand with their attorneys to tell their stories. Continental breakfast at 7:30 a.m. will be followed by a one-hour presentation in Adobe Lodge. Registration is necessary as seating is limited. Go to RSVP online to or call Haley at 408-551-3000 ext 5604 or email

April 5, 2011

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