This is an ongoing series telling the stories of wrongful convictions in North America. To read more of these stories, please click here. If you have a story of someone wrongfully convicted, or you were yourself and want to talk about it, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See my two previous series on the American Justice System, The Ultimate Price and Reasonable Doubt.
Unlike many of the other stories in this series, this exoneree was not freed when the crime scene DNA was tested. In fact, there was no crime scene DNA to be tested at all. The only evidence to suggest a crime had even taken place was the word of a serially molested thirteen year old girl and the state of her teenaged body. There is no real, clear answer here. The crime may have occurred as the girl testified and it may not have. We have absolutely no idea if police officer Brian Franklin did, in fact, rape Brandi. We have no idea if he actually is innocent or not. What we do know, and what was the point of my Reasonable Doubt series, is that there is doubt. There is doubt, and so he ought never to have been convicted in the first place.
In 1994, Brian Franklin and Matt Rachall were good friends. Brian would often visit Matt’s home for birthday parties and other sorts of friendly events. Matt’s 13 year old daughter, Brandi would also be at some of these events, though she wasn’t always at her dad’s. She also had a mom and a stepfather with whom she would stay.
It was sometime after spring break, 1994, that Brandi reported Franklin had raped her. At first, she claimed he raped her on March 6th, 1994 – the date of the child’s birthday party they had both attended. Later, the prosecution changed the dates to “sometime during spring break” and, more specifically, March 11-12th, 1994. Franklin presented an alibi for these days, but it was overlooked as medical examinations of the teenager showed her genitalia was bruised and torn up. With that and the girl’s word, Franklin was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1998, Franklin began his fight to overturn his conviction. Maintaining his innocence every step of the way, he set the appeals process in motion. With no physical evidence linking him to any crime, whatsoever, he felt his case was promising, as it should be in a justice system that sets the bar for acquittal at “reasonable doubt”. There is obvious and blaring doubt here, all of it beyond reasonable. This is the sort of case reasonable doubt was designed for. Franklin pushed through the appeals process, year after year, never making any headway, though.
In 2006, a break came for Franklin. Brandi’s stepbrother came forward and admitted that Brandi had confessed she made the whole story up, just days after she’d made the accusations. This fueled Franklin’s fire as he pressed on, trying to free himself. Years of preparation and hearings went by. Years behind bars went by. Years without his family, friends or freedom went by as he worked day in and day out to find a way to have the evidence reevaluated. He knew if he could get the new evidence to trial, he would be freed.
He was finally granted the right to hearings, to evaluate any new evidence, set to take place in 2014. Perhaps sensing a loss, prosecutors reached out to Franklin and offered him a deal. If he admitted to his guilt, he would be released from prison with time served. He could have had this all over with in 2014, but he turned the deal down, maintained his innocence and powered on.
When it was Brandi’s turn to give her testimony in a hearing, she admitted she had lied about being a virgin in the first trial. In fact, she had, sadly, been systematically abused by her own stepfather, which explained the state of her body at the time of her examination for evidence. She’d been afraid of her stepfather, who had been at her side every step through the entire process of reporting the crime. If she’d told the truth back then, she would have had to do it in front of him, and she was terrified. Nonetheless, this was an admission of perjury and under a new Texas law, this was enough to automatically grant a new trial.
At his trial, two years later, Brandi’s step-brother testified that she had admitted to making the whole thing up. Also heard, was the fact that her own mother believed she was lying about the entire ordeal. Now, the sole evidence against former police officer Brian Franklin, was the testimony of an admitted liar who had been a teenager at the time of the crime.
The jury had no trouble at all coming to a decision. Franklin was exonerated on Dec. 16th, 2016 after 21 years incarcerated. This was the right thing to do, considering the importance of reasonable doubt in the American justice system.
What do you think? Is Brian Franklin guilty or innocent?
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If you have a story of someone wrongfully convicted, or you were yourself and want to talk about it, please email me at email@example.com