People v. Franklin

Decision Date26 May 2016
Docket NumberNo. S217699.,S217699.
Citation202 Cal.Rptr.3d 496,370 P.3d 1053,63 Cal.4th 261
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Tyris Lamar FRANKLIN, Defendant and Appellant.

Gene D. Vorobyov, San Francisco, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic, Constance de la Vega; Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton and Neil A.F. Popovi for Human Rights Advocates as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Heidi L. Rummel and Kristen Bell for Post–Conviction Justice Project as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette and Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistants Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Assistant Attorney General, Rene A. Chacon, Laurence K. Sullivan and Juliet B. Haley, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


, J.

Defendant Tyris Lamar Franklin was 16 years old at the time he shot and killed another teenager. A jury convicted Franklin of first degree murder and found true a personal firearm-discharge enhancement. The trial court was obligated by statute to impose two consecutive 25–year–to–life sentences, so Franklin's total sentence was life in state prison with the possibility of parole after 50 years.

After Franklin was sentenced, the United States Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment to the federal Constitution prohibits a mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentence for a juvenile offender who commits homicide. (Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. ––––, ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2460, 183 L.Ed.2d 407

(Miller ).) Shortly thereafter, we held in People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262, 145 Cal.Rptr.3d 286, 282 P.3d 291 (Caballero ) that the prohibition on life without parole sentences for all juvenile nonhomicide offenders established in Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (Graham ) applied to sentences that were the “functional equivalent of a life without parole sentence,” including Caballero's term of 110 years to life. (Caballero, at p. 268, 145 Cal.Rptr.3d 286, 282 P.3d 291.) Franklin challenges the constitutionality of his 50–year–to–life sentence under these authorities.

We granted review to answer two questions: Does Penal Code section 3051

moot Franklin's constitutional challenge to his sentence by requiring that he receive a parole hearing during his 25th year of incarceration? If not, then does the state's sentencing scheme, which required the trial court to sentence Franklin to 50 years to life in prison for his crimes, violate Miller's prohibition against mandatory LWOP sentences for juveniles?

We answer the first question in the affirmative: Penal Code sections 3051

and 4801 —recently enacted by the Legislature to bring juvenile sentencing in conformity with Miller, Graham , and Caballero —moot Franklin's constitutional claim. Consistent with constitutional dictates, those statutes provide Franklin with the possibility of release after 25 years of imprisonment (Pen.Code § 3051, subd. (b)(3) ) and require the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) to “give great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity” (id., § 4801, subd. (c) ). In light of this holding, we need not decide whether a life sentence with parole eligibility after 50 years of incarceration is the functional equivalent of an LWOP sentence and, if so, whether it is unconstitutional in Franklin's case.

Although Franklin's constitutional claim has been mooted by the passage of Senate Bill No. 260 (2013–2014 Reg. Sess.) (Senate Bill No. 260), he raises colorable concerns as to whether he was given adequate opportunity at sentencing to make a record of mitigating evidence tied to his youth. The criteria for parole suitability set forth in Penal Code sections 3051

and 4801 contemplate that the Board's decisionmaking at Franklin's eventual parole hearing will be informed by youth-related factors, such as his cognitive ability, character, and social and family background at the time of the offense. Because Franklin was sentenced before the high court decided Miller and before our Legislature enacted Senate Bill No. 260, the trial court understandably saw no relevance to mitigation evidence at sentencing. In light of the changed legal landscape, we remand this case so that the trial court may determine whether Franklin was afforded sufficient opportunity to make such a record at sentencing. This remand is necessarily limited; as section 3051

contemplates, Franklin's two consecutive 25–years–to–life sentences remain valid, even though the statute has made him eligible for parole during his 25th year of incarceration.


On January 10, 2011, Franklin, at age 16, murdered another 16–year–old boy, Gene Grisby. Over the course of a one-year period preceding the crime, Franklin had been involved in numerous and increasingly dangerous altercations with a group of boys who lived in the Crescent Park housing project in Richmond and referred to themselves as the “Crescent Park gang.” At first, Franklin engaged in fistfights with members of the Crescent Park gang, including Gene and another juvenile named Kian. But the boys soon began to arm themselves. According to Franklin and his grandmother, Crescent Park gang members had fired multiple gunshots into his home while his family was inside. Franklin believed that Gene associated with the individuals responsible for this incident. Crescent Park gang members had also shot the windows out of Franklin's mother's car and slashed her tires. Franklin also testified that the Friday before the murder, Kian and another Crescent Park gang member had come to his classroom, where Kian pulled up his shirt to display a gun on his hip. Franklin saw this gesture as a serious threat.

After the incident at school, Franklin told his older brother, Demond, that Kian had threatened him with a gun at school. This prompted Demond to loan him a .22–caliber pistol for protection the following Monday morning, the day of the murder. That same day, Kian and other Crescent Park gang members attacked Franklin's 13–year–old brother, Terrell. The attackers told Terrell that they were also looking for Franklin. Demond called Franklin to inform him that Terrell had been attacked.

After learning about the attack, Franklin told his friends that Terrell had been “jumped” and asked an older teenager for a ride to the Crescent Park housing complex. Franklin testified at trial that he was angry and afraid for his family. He did not know what the Crescent Park gang was going to do next and wanted to confront them. According to Franklin, he did not plan to shoot anyone but knew there was a “possibility that I might.”

Upon arriving at the housing complex, Franklin spotted Gene walking on a street and asked the driver to unlock the car door. Another passenger in the car, Khalifa, asked: “Why we riding up on Gene when he don't have anything to do with the situation?” According to Khalifa, Franklin answered something like, “It don't matter. He is from the Crescents” or “It doesn't matter. They beat up my brother.” According to another passenger, Jaswinder, Franklin said something like, “It doesn't matter. He's still from Crescent Park.”

As Franklin exited the car, he pulled the .22–caliber pistol from his waistband. According to a witness who observed the murder from a balcony across the street, Franklin walked around the car and, without saying anything, shot Gene several times. The witness testified that Franklin began shooting “shortly after he got out of the car” and before he reached Gene. Jaswinder and Khalifa also did not hear any conversation between Franklin and Gene before Franklin began shooting.

Franklin testified that as he approached Gene, he asked, “ Which one of you motherfuckers just jumped my little brother?”

Gene replied, “Fuck you and fuck your little brother.” Franklin testified that Gene's response angered him and made him feel “numb.” According to Franklin: “It was like—it was so much. It was, it was like everything just—I don't know, just—it just, I don't know. Like, I—I wasn't in my body no more. It was like I don't remember everything like.” After shooting Gene, Franklin got back into the car, and the car sped off. Inside the car, Franklin said something like, “That Crescent Park dude is a sucker.”

Gene's aunt testified that when she heard the gunshots, she looked out the window of the apartment where she and Gene lived and saw a young man with a handgun fire multiple shots. A few minutes later, Gene ran through the front door of the apartment, holding his right shoulder exclaiming, “I've been hit,” before collapsing on the floor. Richmond police responded to the shooting and found Gene on the floor of his apartment with multiple gunshot wounds

to his head and body. Gene was pronounced dead at the scene.

The district attorney charged Franklin with first degree murder under Penal Code section 187

and alleged a personal firearm-discharge enhancement under Penal Code section 12022.53, subdivision (a)(1). (All undesignated statutory references are to the Penal Code.) Because Franklin was charged with murder and was 16 years of age at the time of the offense, the district attorney exercised his discretion to file charges directly in criminal court rather than juvenile court. (Welf. & Inst.Code § 707, subds. (b)

, (d).) A jury convicted Franklin of first degree murder and found true the firearm-personal discharge allegation.

At sentencing, Franklin apologized for his crime: “I do want to say I'm sorry, but sorry is a simple word, though. I didn't have no thoughts about killing him, you know. I don't know. It's hard to explain. But I do want to apologize to the family for taking your son, and I do want to apologize to my mother for taking me away from her and my family. I want to say sorry, but, like I said,...

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