Former DA Helps Loyola Clinic Make Case for Wrongfully Convicted

Brentford Ferreira
Brentford Ferreira

If you’ve been wrongfully convicted, you want to know Brentford Ferreira ’83.

Now special counsel and adjunct professor at the Loyola Project for the Innocent, the former deputy district attorney has devoted his life to pursuing justice. As head of the habeas corpus unit of Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office for a decade, Ferreira was the prosecution’s representative in cases of inmates challenging their convictions. A 32-year veteran of the office, he was tasked with debunking defense lawyers’ arguments, but he was not afraid to admit when they were right.

One such case was that of Frankie Carrillo, who served more than 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Citing flaws in the process, Carrillo challenged his conviction.  Pivotal trial witness recanted their testimony, and the victim’s son testified on Carrillo’s behalf.  Reviewing trial mistakes, Ferreira determined the conviction was faulty. Carrillo walked out of prison in 2011, later matriculating at Loyola Marymount University and graduating in 2016.

The Project for the Innocent is a natural extension of Ferreira’s habeas work. Pursuing claims of innocence, he works with students to review inmate correspondence, interview witnesses, draft habeas petitions and even argue in court.

The project has secured the release of two clients serving life sentences for murders they did not commit. That’s no surprise. “I only take cases where I believe an injustice has been done,” said Ferreira.

As an evening student at Loyola, Ferreira worked full-time as a clerk in the DA’s office. He joined the office as an attorney after graduating.

“I was very fortunate.  Because the LA county DA’s office is the biggest prosecutorial agency in the country, and because they have specialized units, I got to argue all sorts of cutting-edge issues,” Ferreira said.

He relishes his new role as both teacher and advocate, and he’s making a difference.  “I like teaching – seeing all the optimism and naivety kind of cuts through the cynicism that 30 years will give you,” says Ferreira.