Former McPherson College football player Alton Franklin was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Tabor football player Brandon Brown in McPherson County District Court today.
Franklin, who has been in custody since the September, was released from custody after the reading of the verdict.
Members of Brown's family, including Brown's mother, were in the courtroom when the verdict was read. She appeared stunned when the verdict was announced. Her aunt and McPherson County Attorney David Page attempted to comfort her.
The jury received the case at about 11:30 this morning after the state and defense gave their closing arguments. The jury returned about 2 p.m.
Franklin and a codefendant, DeQunite Flournoy, were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder in Brown's death.
Flournoy pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of aggravated battery in this case in exchange for his testimony. He has yet to be sentenced but likely will receive probation.
Franklin and Flournoy, also a former McPherson College football player, were at an off-campus party at 438 N. Carrie in the early morning hours of Sept. 16. Brown and two other Tabor College football players also were in attendance at the party. According to testimony in the case, an altercation broke out between one of the Tabor College students, Ilai Eteaki, and the resident of the house after Eteaki broke one of the house's windows.
The state asserted Brown was standing in the yard watching the altercation when Franklin struck him. Flournoy also testified in the case that he held Brown down by his head.
Defense attorney David Harger in his closing statement laid out a number of reasons why Franklin should be found not guilty.
He pointed out variations and discrepancies in the witnesses' stories.
Harger also said the state did not prove Franklin caused Brown's death. Medical personnel in the case testified Brown suffered from a condition known as negative pulmonary edema as a result of unconscious. The physician who treated Brown said it was a rare condition in which the pressure is reversed in the air sacks in the lungs where carbon dioxide and oxygen are exchanged.
The defense argued Franklin did not act with extreme indifference to human life, as required in the second-degree murder charge.
Harger said Franklin had no way of knowing his actions would result in Franklin suffering from this condition. The defense also argued Brown's blood alcohol content, which was .3, almost four times the legal limit to drive, contributed to his death.
To conclude, the defense argued 13 points of why Franklin actions should be construed as self defense. Some of these included the Tabor College students rowdy behavior at the party, the Tabor students resistance to leave the party, Brown's alleged possession of a knife at one point during the party, the metal sign being thrown through the duplex window and Brown's entrance into the yard during the altercation between Eteaki and the home's renter.
Page 2 of 2 - "There is reasonable doubt to each and every one of these five points," Harger said. "You need to return a verdict of not guilty."