Cobb DA to try imprisoned killer in 32-year-old crime

The armed robbery was 32 years ago, and the man accused of it has been in prison all that time for killing a 72-year-old man while running from police.

Still, Cobb County’s district attorney says it’s time Raymond Franklin face the charges that he used a shotgun to steal money and a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle on Jan. 7, 1979 . DA Pat Head says it’s irrelevant that Franklin already is in prison for the unrelated killing of Claude Collie.

Head reopened the long-closed case five days before Franklin was to have been paroled after 28 years in prison because, the prosecutor said, there are some people who should never leave prison and Franklin is one of them.

“Why not now?” Head said of his decision to take the armed robbery charge to trial. "It’s been on the dead docket all this time. I’ve got all the witnesses [ready to testify].”

So on Monday, Franklin will go on trial in Cobb County in connection with a theft, armed robbery and aggravated assault committed 10 days before Collie was killed in his home.

"I's a fairly unusual step to, after 30 years, bring up charges that have languished that long," University of Georgia law professor Ron Carlson said. "All over the state they [prosecutors] will take cases off the table, but this [Franklin case] is not due to any new discovery [of evidence or a witness]. This is simply to ensure that this person stays in jail."

There will be no jury. Franklin has asked Cobb Judge Lark Ingram to decide the case because of the complicated legal questions that will be more central to this case than the question of Franklin's guilt or innocence.

“One of the largest issues that’s going to be addressed ... will be how much credit he would get for the time served in prison since 1979,” said Jason Swindle, who is representing Franklin. “I’m going to employ every legal tool I have to make sure he gets out of prison at some point. Mr. Franklin has truly, truly been rehabilitated.”

Since the Georgia Supreme Court has already said Franklin’s right to a speedy trial was abused, Swindle said he will argue Monday that the passage of time violates Franklin's right to due process and that it's too late to try the charges.

But John Marshall Law School professor Michael Mears pointed out that the statute of limitations shouldn't be an issue because Franklin was indicted in 1979; that stopped the legal clock. But the decision to try the armed robbery charge "runs counter to the intent of the [dead docket] procedures,” Mears said.

Collie’s daughter declined to comment before the trial, but in 2007, when the armed robbery case was revived,  she was adamant Franklin should never be free.

Convicting him of armed robbery should ensure he will stay in prison for many more years, Gladys Collie told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution four years ago.

"That boy is mean," she said. "I don't think he's reformed. I think if he gets out, he'll kill again."

Court Administrator Tom Charron, the district attorney in 1979, remembers the crime well.

“It took the whole county by storm because there was a manhunt,” Charron said.

Franklin, in jail just on charges, was one of four inmates shackled and chained together and taken to a local dentist’s office for treatment the morning of Jan. 17, 1979. Before he could be put back in leg irons, Franklin grabbed a deputy’s revolver and escaped, taking a 24-year-old dental hygienist hostage.

Moments later, Franklin knocked on Collie’s door, demanding the key to the car in the driveway.

Collie slammed the door and Franklin shot twice. One bullet passed through the door, striking Collie. Franklin claimed it was an accident, that he never intended to kill Collie.

A jury saw it differently, saying Franklin should die.

In 1985 the U.S. Supreme Court threw out that conviction. Franklin was convicted a second time, but that jury said his punishment should be life in prison.

Crime had been Franklin's life for many years before he killed Collie, according to records. He was convicted at 14 for stealing a car and at 16 for drug possession. He pleaded guilty at age 17 to robbery by snatch. His next crime was burglary, and he pleaded guilty to that, too.

But Franklin’s file also shows he tried to improve himself once in prison. He received his GED, then two two-year college degrees and certificates for classes in various trades.

Franklin was eligible for parole in 1986, the year after his second trial, but he was turned down 12 times until the Parole Board tentatively agreed to release him in the fall of 2006.

Franklin was in a halfway house in Macon and working for a moving company in October 2006 when he was notified five days before he was to be paroled that he would return to prison. Head had put a "hold" on his release and notified the Parole Board that there was a case pending against Franklin.

Franklin and his attorney insist that the Raymond Franklin of 1979 -- the 21-year-old killer -- is gone.

“Back in the '70s, there’s no question he was extremely violent,” said Swindle, his attorney.

At 53, Franklin says he’s rehabilitated, noting that at the halfway house he lived and worked in a free world for months.

“My conduct 32 years ago is inexcusable,” Franklin said in a letter to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But the Parole Board had decided I was ready for release.”