The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday unanimously affirmed the malice murder conviction of Tracen Franklin for his role in brutally beating and stomping 18-year-old Bobby Tillman to death at a high school party on Nov. 6, 2010.
According to the Douglas County District Attorney's Office:
Franklin’s trial began in August 2012. On Sept.12, 2012, the jury convicted Franklin of malice murder after less than 90 minutes of deliberation. The jury then considered whether to sentence Franklin to the death penalty for Bobby Tillman’s murder. When the jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision as to punishment, Superior Court Judge William H. “Beau” McClain sentenced Franklin to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Franklin appealed his case to the Georgia Supreme Court, raising issues about the District Attorney’s authority to seek the death penalty (even though Franklin did not receive the death penalty) and alleging errors in the process used to select the Grand Jurors who issued Franklin’s Indictment for murder.
The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the evidence presented at trial by the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office was sufficient to find Franklin guilty of the murder of Bobby Tillman beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Supreme Court also reaffirmed that, in Georgia, prosecutors have the discretion to seek the death penalty for eligible murders and jurors then decide whether or not to impose it, and the Supreme Court declined to give a trial judge the right to dismiss a District Attorney’s notice to seek the death penalty based on a defendant’s pre-trial factual challenge.
Finally, the Supreme Court held that the Grand Jury that issued Franklin’s Indictment was properly drawn under the law. The court upheld Franklin’s malice murder conviction and his life without parole sentence.
Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner, who prosecuted Franklin’s murder trial in 2012, stated, “I am very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision. The appeals process is essential to our system. A defendant deserves to have his conviction reviewed to make sure the law was followed and his or her rights were respected. Bobby Tillman and his family deserve justice and some level of closure in this case. I remain confident that everybody involved in the case followed the law and their duties. The unanimous decision from the Supreme Court confirms that. The District Attorney’s Office will continue to stand up for Bobby Tillman and other victims throughout the entire judicial process.”