Case Name: People v. Benzler (2021) 72 Cal.App.5th 743, District: 3 DCA, Case #: C092779 Opinion Date: 12/21/2021
FRANKLIN HEARING (in General):
A Franklin hearing is a supplemental sentencing hearing for defendants who were convicted for a controlling offense when they were under 26 years of age (Youth Offender in California). The hearing gives these inmates an opportunity to provide additional mitigating evidence related to their youth to the court. Franklin proceeding: the purpose of which is to allow the offender to assemble evidence at or near the time of the crime rather than years later when it may prove difficult to reconstruct. That evidence can then be used by the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH a.k.a. BPT) when it holds the eventual Youth Offender Parole Hearing (YOPH).
NOTE: The Public Defender will normally do the Franklin Hearing for the inmate. Different Counties execute this process differently. On occasion a Psychologist or a Social Worker will interview the inmate and/or the family to gather background information. A report will be produced and attached to a Motion for a Franklin Hearing, filed with the Court. If your Love One was a Youth Offender, s/he may qualify for this hearing. Call the Local Public Defender for free representation. You can also hire a private attorney but it seems like the Public Defender for a specific County may have more free resources at their disposal to assist.
The name for a Franklin hearing comes from the California Supreme Court case, People v. Tyris Lamar Franklin.
Evidence provided during Franklin Hearings (FH) often deal with the inmates’:
- young age at the time of the offense and related factors,
- upbringing and any negative influences in the defendant’s early years,
- mental and emotional state,
- juvenile record,
- ability to understand that the offense was wrong,
- diminished culpability, when compared to adults,
- hallmark features of youth at the time of the offense, and
- subsequent growth and increased maturity while in prison
Trial court erred in summarily denying defendant’s petition for a Franklin proceeding, as it set forth a prima facie case for a hearing. In 2011, when defendant was 18 years old, he killed the victim. The jury hung on whether defendant committed second degree murder and he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. “In 2020, defendant filed a ‘Motion for Franklin Hearing’ in the trial court, under the original caption and case number, seeking a Franklin hearing under [Pen. Code] section 1203.01, and citing [In re Cook (2019) 7 Cal.5th 439].” The request was summarily denied. Defendant appealed. Held: Reversed.
Senate Bill No. 260 (effective 1/1/2014), created statutes regarding parole eligibility for offenders who committed their crimes at a young age. The statutes have been amended to apply to offenders who were under the age of 26 at the time of the offense. “In Cook, our Supreme Court explained the proper avenue to seek a Franklin proceeding for a final conviction is through a motion under section 1203.01,” bearing the original caption and case number. Defendant “was sentenced before section 3051 had been extended to his age group and before Franklin was decided, and thus had no opportunity or reason to place the relevant information on the record. This made him eligible for a Franklin proceeding,” the purpose of which is to allow the offender to assemble evidence at or near the time of the crime rather than years later when it may prove difficult to reconstruct.
“Here, defendant’s motion met the initial requirements for eligibility.” There is no evidence defendant has had an opportunity to place evidence relevant to a Franklin hearing on the record, and the passage of time since his conviction cannot be the sole reason for disqualifying him from a Franklin proceeding, absent affirmative evidence supporting disqualification on this ground. The trial court did not provide any rationale for denying defendant’s motion, so there is no indication why it felt defendant was ineligible for a hearing. The denial of defendant’s motion was reversed.
The full opinion may still be available on the court’s website:
A Big Thank you to CCAP for the summary of People v. Benzler case. It is re-published here for education purpose.