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Life sentence stands in murder

June 08, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

One of two brothers sentenced to life in prison for the 1979 murder of a Hagerstown man has been denied relief from his sentence, Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell ruled in an opinion filed last week.

Charles Bruce Franklin, 49, alleged in a petition filed Oct. 8, 2004, that his defense attorney, now a Circuit judge, coerced him to plead guilty to the Aug. 26, 1979, murder of Raymond King. Under an agreement that the prosecution would not seek the death penalty, Franklin and his brother, Warren Douglas Franklin, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in connection with King's death and received life sentences, according to the opinion.

In a May hearing, Franklin's current attorney, Garrick Greenblatt, assistant public defender in the collateral review division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, said Franklin's defense attorney in King's murder, now Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III, coerced Franklin's plea by telling his family that he would get the death penalty if he didn't plead. Greenblatt also alleged at the time that Boone did not investigate Franklin's intoxication on the night of the murder as a possible defense.

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In his 20-page opinion, McDowell wrote that it appeared Boone looked into all possibilities and considered whether a finder of fact would accept Franklin's claim that he was so intoxicated he couldn't have formed the intent to commit murder.

"Looking at all the factors objectively, therefore, it cannot be doubted that the strategy of defense counsel was effective and, viewed as of the time of counsel's conduct, fell within the wide range of reasonable, professional assistance. Furthermore, the plea produced a result that was fundamentally fair, as well as advantageous to (Charles Franklin)," McDowell wrote.

Greenblatt also had argued that Franklin, who was not present at the May hearing, was borderline mentally retarded, which might have hindered his ability to understand his plea and its consequences. However, McDowell wrote in his opinion that he found a brief that revealed Franklin had a 12th-grade education and "was literate," making it "quite clear that (Franklin) had the ability to understand the nature of the charges against him."

King was attacked by the brothers between 3 and 4 a.m. while walking home on West Antietam Street, according to published reports. He was punched, kicked and had his head pounded into the pavement before he was robbed of his wallet, reports said.

Franklin's original court file and transcripts of the court proceedings have been destroyed due to their age, "leaving very little information for review in order to evaluate the claims of error raised by the petitioner," McDowell wrote in the opinion.

Franklin and his brother escaped from Maryland Correctional Institute-Hagerstown and area jails, according to published reports.

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