Sean Alan O’Brien was wrongfully convicted in adult court at age 16 and sentenced to Life without the possibility of Parole plus 10 years. He has spent over half his life incarcerated for a crime he had no involvement with. Today he is 34 years old, and still waiting for justice.
Sean grew up in a small rural town in Northern California. He participated in Boy Scouts for many years, as well as 4-H which is a youth organization program that involved raising animals. Sean participated on his school’s wrestling and football teams as well as leadership and art classes. Sean loved his dogs, fishing, and he loved nature. In 2003 on the day of the crime, Sean was at home all day at the house where he lived with his mother. He had friends come over in the afternoon, as well as his older sister so he could install her car stereo system. He took no part in any crime and he has proved his factual innocence in a court of law, twice.
At age 16, Sean was wrongfully accused of committing a crime. Sean was interrogated without being read his Miranda Rights, without an adult present or obtaining parental consent. Yet even as a child alone backed into a corner by men who were accusing him of a horrible crime, he denied having any involvement in the crime when he was asked multiple times in many different ways if he had any involvement. He was arrested on charges of First-Degree Felony-Murder in El Dorado County, California. Besides the alleged 'confessions' of two young men who were guilty of the crime and a handful of their friends, the police had nothing to base their suspicion on. To this day they have even less. There is no factual evidence to substantiate any of their claims. There is not one shred of physical evidence tying Sean O’Brien to the crime. Yet the prosecutor filed charges directly against him into adult court; which is no longer legal in California under Proposition 57. At Sean’s trial in 2004, the prosecution completely changed their theory of the crime on the second day, rendering his prepared defense irrelevant. During Sean’s trial he was inadequately defended by a lawyer who has since written a 19-page declaration outlining his inability to defend an innocent child. He was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not participate in nor had any knowledge of and sentenced to the harshest sentence imaginable; Life in Prison Without the possibility of Parole plus 10 years. The police, investigators, and prosecuting attorneys have acted with complete disregard for the truth. So far, they have systematically manipulated the legal system to ignore every claim we raise in Sean’s defense. They have been allowed to do this by judge after judge who has done the same, despite the substantial amount of evidence proving Sean’s factual innocence.
In 2015, things finally began to change. After a hearing, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Sean's favor and granted him an Evidentiary Hearing based on his claim of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, stating "The evidence, if believed, makes it virtually impossible for Mr. O'Brien to have committed the crime for which he was sentenced." Further "no competent council would have failed to present such evidence." In January 2017 Sean’s Evidentiary Hearing was held in Federal District Court in Sacramento, CA. He proved everything the Ninth Circuit based their ruling on and the state’s star witness admitted he had only changed the time of the crime because his lawyer had told him to do so, which is perjury. Now as of 2020, Sean and his wife are still waiting for the Magistrate's ruling.
Sean O’Brien was forced to grow up within the harsh prison system. Despite this, Sean is a very positive, optimistic and kind individual. Sean has remained disciplinary-free for his entire incarceration. He is happily married to his childhood friend and they get Family Visits (46 hour visits) at the prison. Sean is a hard-working college student with a 4.0 GPA, two classes away from obtaining his Associate’s degree. He made the 2018 Bakersfield College Dean's list and was accepted into Project Rebound at Sacramento State University so he can continue his education upon re-entry. He participates in many positive programs such as Life and Beyond, REACH and Inside Out Writers Group. Sean is actively involved with the advocacy groups Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Initiate Justice, and serves as Chairman of the Men's Advisory Council of his facility. He tutors and is a mentor to other inmates through the youth offender mentorship program. Sean was recommended for resentencing by California Department of Corrections in Fall 2019. Sean is also an accomplished artist and his colored pencil drawings have won awards at the California State Fair. Sean has many letters of recommendation from officers, college professors, prison staff, advocacy groups, and family. Sean plans to advocate for juvenile justice reform and wrongful conviction when he comes home.