McPherson County Attorney David Page said a sucker punch lead to murder during his opening arguments in McPherson County District Court Monday.
A jury was selected and opening arguments given Monday in the case of the alleged beating death of Tabor college football player Brandon Brown.
Dallas resident Alton Franklin, a former McPherson College football player, is charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder in Brown's death.
Both the prosecution and defense painted similar pictures of the early morning of Sept. 16, the day Brown was beaten.
“It began like any other college party,” Page said, “with alcohol.”
McPherson College football players Taajon Richardson, DeQuinte Flournoy, also a defendant in the case, and Franklin were gathered at Brick's Bar in McPherson. Tabor College football players Brown, Ilai Eteaki and Lepanona Fuimaono also were at the bar. The students left the bar and went to an off-campus party at 438 N. Carrie St. in McPherson, the home of Demarcus Trotter, the captain of the McPherson College football team.
At some point, Fuimaono left the party.
At about 4 a.m., there was a disturbance at the party, and the two remaining Tabor football players, Brown and Eteaki, were asked to leave.
As the two Tabor College students were being pushed out the door, witnesses said they saw a knife in Brown's hand.
Both Page and defense attorney David Harger stipulated that someone used a knife to stab Trotter's front door nine times after the two Tabor players exited the house.
Shortly after that, Eteaki threw a metal for-sale sign through a window of the home.
Trotter, Richardson and the rest of the attendees of the party spilled out into the yard and street.
Richardson confronted Eteaki about the broken window, but Page said neither man ever hit the other.
Brown was watching the confrontation from the street. At some point, he came back into the yard. At that point, Page said Franklin sucker punched Brown.
“Alton Franklin saw Brandon Brown as an easy target,” Page said. “Out of nowhere, he sucker punched him with his back hand and then struck him in his left upper cheek, fracturing his jaw.”
Flournoy then held Brown down as Franklin punched him two more times on the right side of the head, Page said. Flournoy had originally also been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder.
He accepted a plea agreement last week in which he pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of aggravated battery. As a part of that plea agreement, Flournoy agreed to testify during Franklin's murder trial.
Page 2 of 2 - Neighbors called law enforcement when they heard the sign crash through the window. When police arrived, they found Brown lying in the yard.
A knife with Eteaki's blood on it was found near where Eteaki had fallen during his confrontation with Trotter and Richardson.
Brown was transported to McPherson Hospital and then transferred to Via Christi on St. Francis, where he died Sept. 22. An autopsy report concluded Brown died as a result of blunt-force trauma and alcohol poising. Brown's blood alcohol level was measured at.3, almost four times more than the limit to legally drive.
In his opening statement, Harger said the state and defense could agree on most on the facts in the case. However, Harger painted a much different picture of Brown's actions and demeanor on the night of the party. He emphasized Brown and Eteaki's intoxication.
“The Tabor College students were very, very intoxicated,” Harger said. “These two men were very loud and disruptive. They were picking fights with each other.”
Harger said Brown stripped off his shirt and was challenging people. As the two men were being forced out of the house, witnesses saw the knife in Brown's hand, and word spread quickly through the party, Harger said.
Harger said Franklin and others at the party were afraid when Brown came back into the yard because they had seen him holding a knife earlier. Flournoy saw Brown reaching for his pocket and thought there would be a knife coming out, so he was holding Brown down until police arrived, Harger said. He said no one struck Brown while he was on the ground.
The police seized all of Franklin's clothing and found none of Brown's blood on them; they also did not find any marks on Franklin's hands, Harger said.
In order to prove second degree murder, the state must show Franklin caused Brown's death by acting with extreme indifference to human life, Harger said. He said Franklin did not act out of indifference but out of self defense. Harger outlined 12 points that indicated Franklin was acting in defense of himself or others the night of the party.
Among the points in that list were Brown's possession of the knife, his extreme intoxication and Brown and Eteaki's behavior before and after being forced out of the house.
Harger disputed Page's theory of the sucker punch or that Brown was an easy target. He noted Franklin is 5'-6” tall and weighs 197 pounds, whereas Brown was 6'-3” tall and weighed 365 pounds.
Testimony was scheduled to begin today in the case. The trial is anticipated to last all week.