A Southern California man has been jailed for 20 years for a murder he did not commit. After being exonerated, he will run for one of the most competitive congressional seats in the nation.

Francisco “Franky” Carrillo announced Wednesday that he would 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 fringe of the Antelope Valley, and Santa Clarita. He swung between Democrats and Republicans in recent elections after years of providing a reliable Republican stronghold.

Martin Santillan was arrested in 1997, charged with the robbery and murder of Damond Wittman outside a nightclub in the resort town of Deep Ellum. Today he was officially released.

The Cook Political Report recently changed its prediction on the potential outcome of the race from “skinny Republican” to a reshuffle.

“I want to help stop the corporations and CEOs who continue to try to rig the system against us, stand up to reckless politicians who seek to overthrow democracy at all costs, and make sure we have judges who uphold the law. , not with its political laws. or financial benefactors,” Carrillo said in a video announcing her candidacy.

Carrillo called Garcia a “MAGA extremist”. Sister station NBC4 contacted Garcia’s office for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

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

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

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Carrillo said corrupt officers coerced and threatened key witnesses into identifying him during a line-up.

A Latino who spent more than two decades serving time in maximum security prisons for a murder he did not commit, today he is a free man once again. Raymond Mesa has the details of how he was exonerated thanks to his family who never doubted his innocence.

His attorney at the time, Ellen Eggers, said there was no DNA evidence linking Carrillo to the murder and all witnesses later recanted.

In 2011, Carrillo’s conviction was overturned. He then graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2016 and became a policy adviser for The Innocence Project.

“When I was sent to prison for a crime I didn’t commit, I completely lost faith in the system,” Carrillo said in his campaign video.

“But over time, I’ve learned that we are 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 will do. I will never give up on the idea that justice will prevail.”

This story first appeared on Telemundo 52’s sister station NBCLA. Click on here to read this story in English.

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