For more than three decades, Frank O’Connell had told anyone who would listen that he did not murder a maintenance worker named Jay French in an apartment complex in Los Angeles County.
This week, the county’s Board of Supervisors awarded O’Connell a $15 million settlement to end his civil rights lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department.
“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” he said outside the county courthouse, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I can now try to put the past behind me, but I can never forget what happened to me during those years I was in prison.”
He was convicted of fatally shooting French. He had previously had an affair with French’s ex-wife, who was engaged in a bitter child custody dispute with French, authorities said.
O’Connell maintained his innocence from the beginning. In 2012, a judge overturned his conviction, saying detectives withheld evidence involving another possible suspect. Investigators also may have improperly influenced witnesses.
Prosecutors declined to refile the case.
The suppressed information included an anonymous tip that French’s ex-wife paid a man to kill her husband, according to court documents. the paper reported.
O’Connell filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2013, alleging detectives gave misleading evidence during his murder trial.
The murder has not been solved.
A similar suit in Baltimore resulted in another $15 million award in a wrongful conviction lawsuit filed by Sabein Burgess against the Baltimore Police Department and two detectives.
Burgess was charged with murdering his girlfriend in 1994 and sentenced to life plus 20 years. He was released in 2015, after the state found he did not kill Michelle Dyson.
The woman had been shot to death in her home. When investigators arrived, Burgess was cradling her bloodied body.
After his arrest, Burgess told detectives he did not kill his girlfriend and wanted the responsible person to be caught.
Investigators were told by the FBI that Dyson had died in a botched…