Netflix’s The Innocence Files showcases several men who were imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, and how the nonprofit organization, The Innocence Project, helped them get exonerated. The cases featured in the true crime docuseries has sparked a lot of conversation about the criminal justice system, and how false testimonies and flimsy evidence can send people behind bars for decades. 

The arrest of Franky Carrillo is the subject of the fourth and fifth episodes of the series. In 1991, at the age of 16, he was arrested for the murder of Donald Sarpy. The victim had been killed in a drive-by shooting in January of 1991, and eyewitness testimony linked Carrillo to the crime. Police assumed that the murder was gang-related, and they limited their search to suspected teenage gang members. 

What happened to Donald Sarpy on ‘The Innocence Files’?

The murder of Donald Sarpy took place on January 18, 1991 in the L.A. County neighborhood of Lynwood, Calif. The Sarpy family had recently moved to the neighborhood. Donald Sarpy’s son, Dameon Sarpy, contributed to The Innocence Files, and he described the home as being on a nice street that was nestled between some more troublesome areas. He was just 15-years-old when his father was shot.

On the night of his father’s murder, Dameon Sarpy had four friends over to his home. 

“I remember it was a normal day, and then my life changed forever,” Dameon Sarpy said on The Innocence Files. “I had a few guys come to my house… we were kids, a few guys hanging out.” 

Dameon Sarpy said that the trouble began once it got dark at around 7 p.m. The boys were standing by the curb, having a discussion, when they noticed a car drive by.

Source: Netflix

Donald Sarpy’s son, Dameon Sarpy, for ‘The Innocence Files.’

When the teenagers were being loud, Donald Sarpy came out to tell them to be quieter. 

As he was speaking with the boys, the car slowly rolled by the house again. The group watched it drive down the end of the block. Then, shots rang out from the passenger side of the car. 

Dameon Sarpy and his friends dispersed, but Donald Sarpy didn’t move. 

“My dad wasn’t super aware of the magnitude of the gang problems,” Dameon Sarpy said. “He was probably just caught off guard.”

Donald Sarpy was shot in the chest, and he was soon taken to the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Willowbrook, Calif. Dameon Sarpy’s friends described hearing his mom’s screams as she learned that her husband had been shot. 

Several hours after being taken to the hospital, Donald Sarpy succumbed to his injuries. Neither Dameon Sarpy nor his friends were injured in the attack. 

Dameon Sarpy and his friends misidentified Franky Carrillo as the shooter.

On the night of Donald Sarpy’s murder, one of Dameon Sarpy’s friends, Scott Turner (who also appears in The Innocence Files) identified Franky Carrillo as the shooter from a photo lineup. He had been shown Carrillo’s picture in the first place because he was already suspected of being the shooter in another crime. 

Carrillo was also believed to be involved in the Young Crowd gang, which was prevalent in his neighborhood. His sister was also married to a leader in the gang. 

Source: Netflix

After Turner identified Carrillo as the shooter, he told Dameon Sarpy and the other teenagers present at the scene on the night of the murder about it. The group then subsequently identified Carrillo as the shooter, even though he had an alibi of being at home on the night of the murder. 

Though there was no evidence linking Carrillo to the crime, the witness statements were enough to lead to an arrest. The first trial ended in a mistrial because the jury could not make a decision based on the witness testimonies. 

In 1992, Carrillo was tried again, and he was found guilty of the murder of Donald Sarpy. 

Interestingly, a man admitted to being the gunman and he had told police that he had not seen Carrillo near the crime scene. He was not allowed to testify in court. 

Turner had also recanted his identification of Carrillo as the gunman, and he did not testify during the trial. Afterwards, Dameon Sarpy learned about the confession from the man not allowed to testify. He later admitted that he had not seen the shooter at all. 

Eventually, all six of the witnesses took back their identification of Carrillo.

The conviction was vacated in 2011 after Carrillo had been imprisoned for 19 years. 

Carrillo’s conviction and others’ stories are available to stream on Netflix in The Innocence Files.

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