Former Police Officer Released After 21 Years, But Faces New Rape Trial

Former Fort Worth police officer Brian Franklin is having a good news/bad news kind of week. The good news is he has been released from prison after serving 21 years of a life sentence when his alleged victim admitted to lying about a previous sexual assault during his trial. The bad news is he’ll likely face a new trial for sexual assault charges, so his freedom may be short-lived.

According to Fox News, at the time of the rape in question, his accuser was only 13-years-old and testified that she had never had any sexual encounters prior to the incident with Franklin. The woman, who is now in her 30s, has recanted part of her testimony, saying that she had actually been sexually abused by her stepfather for years before and after Franklin raped her.

While the woman admits lying about her previous sexual history of rapes due to her fear of testifying against her stepfather at the time, she maintains that the rape by Franklin was true, yet Franklin was still released on $10,000 bail this week. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said that because of the lies in part of the woman’s testimony, Franklin did not get a fair trial back in 1995. Tarrant County prosecutors confirm that they intend to retry the case to obtain a new conviction and sentencing.

rape victim testimony [Image courrtesy of Shutterstock]The rationale? Because the woman committed perjury, not only was part of her testimony false, but the court said that it led others to give false testimony during the trial. Franklin’s accuser did eventually report her stepfather’s sexual abuse, and he pled guilty to injury of a child with a sentence of only 10 years of probation. He has since died.

Franklin was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to life imprisonment but would have been eligible for parole in 2025. The case now goes before a grand jury to determine whether he will be indicted and tried a second time. His attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said that the false testimony in the original trial “has infected every aspect of the case” and plans to make it the main point of defense in a new trial, as her testimony was the main basis of the conviction.

Tarrant County district attorney’s spokesman Sam Jordan hopes that won’t be the case and that a new trial will yield the same outcome.

“We feel that the evidence still substantiates the claim against him. It was a police officer. We call on them to protect a child, not cause harm to them.”

Tarrant County Prosecutor Bill Vassar told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he was confident of a new trial and seemed just as confident of a second conviction.

“We are headed to a new trial. If the defense would like to plead, we will consider that.”

However, it looks like DeGuerin, who has represented many high profile clients, feels a reversal of the conviction is possible based on some precedents that indicate the Court of Criminal Appeals may reevaluate cases involving any kind of perjury. The most notable case was a murder conviction of Clay Chabot in 2009, when DNA showed that one of the witnesses perjured themselves about their role in the murder. Chabot reentered a guilty plea but was only sentenced to the 22 years he had already served in his second trial, getting an early release due to the false testimony.

new rape trial [Image courtesy of Shutterstock]DeGuerin also points out that Franklin turned down a plea deal three years ago for an early release because he refused to plead guilty, much like the famous rape case of Steven Avery in the controversial Making a Murderer documentary, where DNA proved he had been wrongfully convicted the first time around and he refused to plead guilty for an early release. Franklin’s defense is going all-in for an exoneration this time around, according to DeGuerin.

“Here’s a guy who’s so insistent upon his innocence that he was willing to spend three more years in prison to prove it. There’s not going to be a compromise or plea.”

Should a 13-year-old’s fear of telling the truth about her stepfather’s sexual abuse constitute a new trial for the man convicted of raping her 21 years ago? It’s worth noting that her allegations of a rape haven’t changed, but simply her allegation of having been a virgin at the time of the rape which she lied about out of fear of her stepfather. While her fear is understandable, one of the strongest points for the defense will be that part of the inital conviction hinged on the presumption that the genital injuries present could have only occurred if Franklin had raped the girl, according to her testimony of no previous sexual contact or assaults.

Do you think Franklin should have been released and should there be a new trial? Comment below.

[Photo by Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP]