LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Nearly one year after his release from prison for a wrongful murder conviction, Frank O’Connell is striking back at the justice system.
O’Connell Monday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles against the county and one of the detectives involved in his 1984 case.
He spent 27 years in prison for the fatal shooting of Jay French, which, he says, tore his family apart and caused his father to doubt his innocence.
“That was the worst. There was nothing in prison more harder than that,” O’Connell told CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen.
His attorneys are seeking around $1 million for each of the 27 years he spent in prison.
Last year, the case against the former Glendora High School football star was dismissed after a judge found Sheriff’s detectives may have improperly influenced witnesses.
“There is a rule in the law that says that police and prosecutors are required to turn over any evidence that’s helpful to the defense. That’s called exculpatory evidence,” attorney Barry Litt said.
O’Connell’s son, Nick, was only 4 years old when his father was sent to prison.
Since he was 15, he helped to rally support for his father’s release with a group called Centurion Ministries.
The family says that if they win judgment, they will donate at least half of it to legal reform efforts.
“I can’t think of a better demonstration of what a man should be like than my father,” Nick O’Connell said.
Since his release on April 21 of last year, O’Connell says he feels no bitterness for losing more than a quarter century of his life.
“I’ve basically forgiven everybody that’s involved in this that put me in prison,” he said.
O’Connell and his son currently live in in Colorado, where he works at a cabinet shop.
His attorneys believe it may be another two years before they’ll know if his case will go to trial in federal court.