Jurors in McPherson County brought back a not guilty verdict today in the second-degree murder trial of ex-McPherson College football player Alton Franklin, who stood accused of killing Tabor College football player Brandon Brown last September in at a house party in McPherson. Brown died of trauma to the head — witnesses said Franklin sucker-punched him and then hit him while he was on the ground.
Another Ex-McPherson College football player, DeQuinte Flournoy, was also charged with second-degree murder, but he pleaded down to aggravated battery in exchange for his testimony.
Jurors also had the option of finding Franklin guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
The verdict is a high-profile defeat for McPherson County Attorney David Page and a black eye for the McPherson Police Department, who were heard on videotape laughing and joking as Brown lay unconscious in the front yard of the house party.
Some questions I have from the trial:
-What happened with the other witnesses?
Two Mac College football players — Taajon Richardson and Torry Hammill — were the only two people who testified that they saw Franklin strike Brown. And both lied to police initially. Why weren’t the neighbors — specifically next-door neighbor Chris Garcia and McPherson College football player DeMarcus Trotter, who was hosting the party, brought in to testify? Trotter seemed to have been the calmest of everyone at the party and Garcia actually watched, hidden from his window next door as the whole thing went down. Garcia even spoke to me on the record about what he saw. Garcia’s description of the person who he said he saw hit Brown matches Franklin almost to a tee.
I also don’t understand why Brown’s Tabor teammate who was with him that night, Ilai Eteaki, wasn’t called to the witness stand to at least give his account of the night up until whenever he could remember — he was drinking Everclear — which is the same line of questioning Page had for several witnesses from McPherson College.
There was also a jailhouse witness who Judge Richard Walker likely would’ve let testify against Franklin but Page didn’t give the defense proper notice and the judge wouldn’t allow the witness to testify — something Hutch News reporter Darcy Gray pointed out to me after the trial. His testimony about Franklin talking about the case in lockup, where he’ s been since September, could have been damning.
-Franklin never confessed?
Franklin never admitted to hitting Brown, although almost all involved testified someone hit Brown and Garcia said he saw a “shorter, stockier” guy strike Brown and knock him out, then the beating continued on the ground. Which leads me to…
How in the world was Flournoy able to cut a deal that reduced his charges from second-degree murder to aggravated battery when his testimony seemed to help the defense more than anything? Flournoy testified that he held Brown down after he got hit, but that he never saw who hit Brown in the first place or who struck him while he was holding him. How was he able to cop a plea when his testimony did so little to help the prosecution’s case?
Probably the most compelling reason to get Eteaki up to the stand would have been to ask him about the knife several witnesses said they saw both Eteaki and Brown with. Did he say he had it in his possession that night? Did he remembered how he got the cuts and lacerations on his hands. The witnesses said they saw both Eteaki and Brown with a small knife, but one has to question how reliable they are after lying to the police initially — one of the contributing factors to Franklin’s not guilty verdict.
-Who killed Brandon Brown?
Brandon Brown is dead, and the person responsible for that is yet to face justice. Somebody did it. He didn’t fracture his own cheekbone. He didn’t give himself enough of a beating to the head that he was bleeding out of the mouth.
I tried to speak with Brown’s mother and aunt earlier today. They were not up for talking. I will continue to try to get their thoughts on what happened Tuesday.