Charges:

Murder

Length of Sentence:

Life

Conviction Year:

1985

 

Exoneration Year:

2012

 

Causes of Wrongful Conviction:

Eye Witness Misidentification; False Testimony, Police Misconduct

FRANK O'CONNELL

On January 5, 1984, Jay French was shot to death at an apartment complex where he was working. A sole witness stated that a lone gunman has shot French and then sped off with another woman in a yellow Ford Pinto. The witness described the gunman as a white male with blond hair. As he was dying, French has told his wife that the shooting had something to do with his ex-wife Jeannie Lyon and that the person who shot him looked like someone Jeannie knew. At the time of the crime, Frank's ex-wife was in a bitter custody dispute with the French. When questioned, Jeannie implicated Frank O'Connell, whom she had previously dated.

 

Frank was convicted in 1985 for a murder he did not commit and served 27 years of a life sentence before Centurion Ministries helped exonerate him in 2012. Frank was convicted largely on the basis of false testimony by his ex-wife, unreliable testimony of the sole eyewitness, and police misconduct. Despite overwhelming evidence that Frank's ex-wife was involved in the murder, Frank was convicted. After years of investigating the case, Centurion was finally able to find new evidence that pointed to Frank's ex-wife as arranging to have the victim killed in order to gain custody of their son. Additionally, the key eyewitness in the case later recanted his testimony about being able to accurately identify the shooter. This recantation, coupled with exculpatory evidence obtained in the police files, convinced the court that Frank deserved a new trial. In 2015, the prosecutor in Frank's case dismissed all charges against him and Frank gained his freedom after over 27 years in prison. 

 

When Frank was wrongfully sent to prison in 1985, his son Nick was only 4 years old. Now that Frank is a free man, he is focused on making up for the years of his son's life that he missed. Frank and Nick have both dedicated themselves to helping to free the innocent and educate the public about wrongful convictions. Nick began working as the director of Centurion Ministries shortly after Frank's release, so he can help free more innocent people. Frank travels all over the country to provide much-needed support for exonerees and those still in prison.

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