Murder Conviction Overturned After Man Spends 27 Years Behind Bars
Frank O’Connell was convicted by a Judge of the murder of Jay French in 1985. O’Connell has always maintained his innocence and now a Judge has ruled that key evidence was withheld by the Sheriff’s department that could have exonerated O’Connell or at the very least assisted in his defense.
The evidence against O’Connell was weak to begin with. Only circumstantial evidence linked him to the shooting death of Jay French in South Pasadena 27 years ago. O’Connell opted to waive his right to a jury trial and have the facts of his case decided by a Judge. However, what he didn’t know was that the law enforcement agency that was investigating the crime was not providing the attorneys with all of the information. They withheld key information that could have provided exculpatory value to the defense’s case. Judge Suzette Clover, in overturning O’Connell’s conviction, also found that the same law enforcement agency may have inappropriately influenced witnesses. One key witness in the case has since backed off of their account of the facts.
The nightmare is not over for O’Connell, however. He has been released on $75,000 bail while the District Attorney’s Office decides whether there is enough evidence to re-try the case. The DA’s office will most likely have made this decision by the next court date of May 18th.