LOS ANGELES >> Los Angeles County officials voted today to pay $15 million to a man who spent nearly half of his life in prison for a killing he insists he didn’t commit.
The Board of Supervisors approved the money to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Frank O’Connell, who was serving 25 years to life for the 1984 shooting of Jay French at a South Pasadena apartment complex.
French had been in a bitter custody battle with his ex-wife over their son. She told investigators that she’d had a brief affair with O’Connell.
O’Connell, 60, was released from prison in 2012 after a witness recanted and a judge overturned the first-degree murder conviction. The judge said investigators had failed to turn over important information to the defense, including a report that a boyfriend of French’s ex-wife had been suspected of trying to kill French years earlier.
O’Connell, a former Glendora resident, sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“My incarceration was 27 years, four months. I forgave everybody involved,” he said at a news conference today.
O’Connell has reconnected with his son, who was a child when he was convicted. The father now works at an auto repair shop in Colorado, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“This brings a sense of closure. It’s been a long road,” O’Connell said. “It’ll be a new beginning for me, and I can really start my life over. I can’t make up for the time that was stolen from me, but I can take positive action with what’s left.”
French’s sister and brother-in-law and Los Angeles County sheriff’s Detective Steve Langford told KCAL-TV that they believe he is guilty.
The murder investigation is continuing and as a result of the case, the Sheriff’s Department has developed a checklist to make sure that all important evidence is turned over to prosecutors, the department said in a statement.
O’Connell said he was not worried about the possibility of facing another trial.
“Sir, an innocent man doesn’t have fear,” he said.