The Importance of Franklin Hearings for Young People Convicted of Serious Crimes

A Franklin hearing is a procedural mechanism that allows a person convicted of a serious crime to present evidence of their youthfulness, not to excuse their actions but to put them into context.

Franklin hearings arose out of a 2016 case involving a 16-year-old boy who shot and killed another teenager. At trial, Tyris Lamar Franklin was sentenced to a total term of 50 years to life. On appeal, Franklin argued that his sentence was the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole. Previously, the California Supreme Court determined that juveniles found guilty of non-homicide offenses could not be sentenced to the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole. Franklin argued that his 50-plus year sentence qualified as such, and sought relief.

The court denied Franklin the relief he was seeking, noting that subsequent changes to California law allowed Franklin a parole hearing after 25 years. However, under existing state law, at Franklin’s eventual parole hearing, the parole board must “give great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity.” Because Franklin was sentenced before these changes went into effect, he did not have an opportunity to put this evidence on the record.

Thus, the court ordered Franklin was entitled to a hearing at which he could place all “youth-related mitigating factors” on the record so that the parole board would be able to afford them meaningful consideration. This hearing has come to be known as a Franklin hearing.

Generally, a Franklin hearing is appropriate for anyone who was convicted of a serious crime at 26 years old or younger and sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment. However, there are additional factors. If you believe you may be entitled, consult with an attorney. A qualifying petitioner may also file on their own and the court may appoint an attorney. The process by which courts conduct Franklin hearings varies throughout the state. The goal is to gather compelling evidence that the inmate’s youthful characteristics played a role in the commission of the offense and that they are capable of rehabilitation. And a record is made to the extent those items may exist.

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