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Denial of Inmate’s Franklin Motion Premature

To request a Franklin proceeding to add mitigating evidence of an inmate’s youthfulness at the time of a crime, an inmate (or an attorney acting on the inmate’s behalf) must file a motion in superior court under the original caption and case number, citing to the authority of Penal Code § 1203.01, Franklin (2016) 63 Cal. 4th 261 and In re Cook (2019) 7 Cal. 5th 439. 

The purpose of the proceeding is not resentencing, but to preserve such evidence for consideration at a future parole hearing.

The motion must establish the inmate’s entitlement to a youth offender parole hearing based on his age at the time the offense was committed and the length of the sentence imposed (if it is the functional equivalent of life in prison) and indicate when such a hearing is anticipated to take place, or if one or more hearings have already occurred.  In other words, the requirements for the motion are minimal.
In a Nutshell: A judge may not deny a prisoner the right to add evidence of the mitigating factors of his or her youthfulness at the time of the crime (under Franklin and, or, In re Cook), even if there is such evidence in abundance through parole hearing documents, without first letting defendant explain what relevant and noncumulative evidence there is that the prisoner seeks to add to his court file.           
If the trial court agrees that such a proceeding is merited, the judge must then provide the inmate a meaningful opportunity to describe the evidence he or she seeks to preserve in the record before doing so.  Such evidence may include, but is not limited to, the inmate’s early use of alcohol or drugs, parental neglect (including foster parent experiences), bullying, gang membership, educational failures, family tragedies, and psychological or psychiatric treatment.

A trial court judge can deny the motion if a meaningful opportunity to provide such evidence was previously provided (and not fully responded to), or when the judge determines no relevant noncumulative evidence likely exists. 

In the following summary, the Fourth Appellate District considered a request for a Franklin proceeding for Harry Lloyd Howard three decades after he committed the underlying offense.  Mr. Howard had already introduced youth-related evidence at a prior parole hearing, but he had never requested a Franklin proceeding. 

The trial court judge, Kimberly Menninger, denied Howard’s motion for a Franklin proceeding because Howard failed to show what material merited preservation.

Howard appealed the denial to the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District, which reversed the trial court, finding it had prematurely denied the motion because it had not given Howard the opportunity to first explain the evidence he sought to introduce.

Justice Eileen Moore explained the Fourth District’s position, writing for the court an opinion that anyone interested in a Franklin motion should read for himself or herself.

Justice Moore explained how in 1989, when Howard was 25 years old and while under the influence of various drugs and alcohol, he went into a liquor store to request some change.  The storeowner refused and an argument ensued.  The storeowner pushed Howard out of the store into the parking lot, where Howard struck the storeowner in the head multiple times with a skateboard, causing him to collapse.  Howard then attempted to hide the storeowner’s body behind a car and fled.  The storeowner later passed away at the hospital.  A jury convicted Howard of first degree murder and the judge sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison.

Howard then had parole hearings in 2009 and 2012, but was denied parole both times.  He then had a third parole hearing in 2019, at which time he testified that his parents divorced when he was young and his mom remarried to an alcoholic and abusive man.  This was in Texas.  That marriage ended and Howard ended up living with his maternal grandparents.  Howard testified that he was bullied in elementary school, causing him to drop out in sixth grade.

He then began hanging out with older kids and using drugs.  He stated he started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana at age 10.  In his 20’s, he started using stronger drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.  He then moved from Texas to California, where he had no family support. 

At the time of the murder, Howard testified, he had lost his job and had no car.  He was behind on rent and began selling cocaine.  At the time of the murder, the shop owner’s pushing him evoked memories of being bullied as a youth in Texas and he exploded in violence.
Before the 2019 hearing, he was examined by a psychiatrist, retained by the Parole Board, who wrote a report with the relevant youth offender considerations.

After being denied parole a third time, Howard filed a motion for a Franklin proceeding.  Judge Menninger denied the motion, noting that there already was a substantial amount of information pertaining to the Youth Offender factors in the record for Howard and was already considered.

The Fourth Appellate District, however, found such a denial was premature.  It remanded the case to the trial court with orders that the trial court judge allow Howard the opportunity to offer proof of any relevant, noncumulative evidence he sought to preserve.  The trial court can then decide if further proceedings are warranted.

We present this summary to the reader because there is a great deal of confusion about how a Franklin hearing proceeds and what can be introduced to the record, even after an inmate may have already had a Youth Offender Parole hearing, as here.

The citation for the Fourth Appellate District Court ruling discussed above is People v. Harry Lloyd Howard (4th App. Dist., 2021) 74 Cal. App. 5th 141, 288 Cal. Rptr. 3d 114.

For more information about Franklin motions, please click on the following articles:
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