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The Importance of Franklin Hearings for Young People Convicted of Serious Crimes

The concept that children behave differently than adults is nothing new. Children lack the impulse control and foresight that adults do, resulting in them having less appreciation for their actions. However, until relatively recently, the criminal law did not consider a person’s age or its effect on their actions and ability to be rehabilitated. A Franklin hearing is a procedural mechanism that allows a person convicted of a serious crime to present evidence of their youthfulness, not to excuse their actions but to put them into context.

Franklin hearings arose out of a 2016 case involving a 16-year-old boy who shot and killed another teenager. At trial, Tyris Lamar Franklin was sentenced to a total term of 50 years to life. On appeal, Franklin argued that his sentence was the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole. Previously, the California Supreme Court determined that juveniles found guilty of non-homicide offenses could not be sentenced to the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole. Franklin argued that his 50-plus year sentence qualified as such, and sought relief.

The court denied Franklin the relief he was seeking, noting that subsequent changes to California law allowed Franklin a parole hearing after 25 years. However, under existing state law, at Franklin’s eventual parole hearing, the parole board must “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.” Because Franklin was sentenced before these changes went into effect, he did not have an opportunity to put this evidence on the record.

Thus, the court ordered Franklin was entitled to a hearing at which he could place all “youth-related mitigating factors” on the record so that the parole board would be able to afford them meaningful consideration. This hearing has come to be known as a Franklin hearing.

A Franklin hearing is appropriate for anyone who was convicted of a serious crime at 26 years old or younger and sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment. Additionally, they must not have had the opportunity to put this evidence on the record at trial. To obtain a Franklin hearing, an inmate must file a writ of habeas corpus requesting the hearing. The court will then recall the case and allow the inmate an opportunity to put additional evidence on the record. The process by which courts conduct Franklin hearings varies throughout the state. However, whenever possible, an expert should be appointed. The expert will conduct in-depth interviews with the inmate and family members to better understand the circumstances surrounding the inmate’s childhood. The goal is to gather compelling evidence that the inmate’s youthful characteristics played a role in the commission of the offense and that they are capable of rehabilitation.

Are You Serving a Lengthy Prison Sentence for a Youthful Offense?

If you or someone you love is serving a lengthy prison sentence and never had the chance to put mitigating evidence on the record, a Franklin hearing may be crucial to securing an early release. At Barhoma Law, we work closely with clients, their families, and respected experts to create compelling mitigation reports that can significantly increase the chances of being granted parole. As a renowned California criminal appeals attorney, Matthew Barhoma strategically positions clients for earlier release through other available avenues, such as resentencings under 1170(d)(1) and AB 2942. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call Barhoma Law at 213-800-7664 today.


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