GLENDORA (CBS) — A convicted murderer, who has maintained his innocence for the past 27 years, was freed from prison Saturday morning after a judge ruled that his right to a fair trial had been violated.
Frank O’Connell, 54, was ordered to be released Friday on $75,000 bail.
Rachel Kim, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, says the former Glendora High football star was sentenced to life in prison in 1985 for shooting and killing Jay French of South Pasadena.
Police said French was fighting his ex-wife in court over custody of their son.
Investigators soon turned their attention O’Connell, who had a romantic relationship with French’s ex-wife. They eventually arrested him after a witness identified O’Connell as the shooter.
“I had a very difficult time visiting him because I could not take him out of the prison. And so he always encouraged me,” O’Connell’s mother, Rosemarie, told Kim.
Last month, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Suzette Clover ruled that O’Connell should get a new trial after finding that during the first trial, detectives did not disclose evidence of another possible suspect.
The prosecution’s key witness also recanted, saying he never got a good look at the shooter and said he felt pressured to identify O’Connell as the gunman.
“I really do believe that he is responsible,” Jolene Cordova, the victim’s sister said. “He ID’d Frank O’Connell. He did the stance like Frank… pulled the trigger and stuff.”
French’s family says that witness is now feeling the pressure from the other side to recant his story.
In May, the District Attorney’s office is expected to announce whether they have enough evidence to retry the case.