Jury selection to start in Douglasville beating death

Prosecutors and defenses attorneys will begin sorting through almost 300 potential Douglas County jurors Monday morning in search of 12 who have not decided whether a former high school football standout murdered Bobby Tillman.

The 2010 beating death drew shock and outrage nationwide because of its randomness and callousness.

Tracen Franklin, who was 19 at the time of Tillman’s death, is the only one of the four initially charged who is expected to go to trial. That means he could be the only one sentenced to death if he is convicted of beating and stomping to death the affable 18-year-old Tillman outside a Douglasville house where a party was being held.

The attack has been described as “senseless” by prosecutors, police, witnesses and even the judge in the case.

As Franklin faces the possibility of dying by lethal injection, the other three appear to have avoided death sentences.

In April, as his trial date neared, Emanuel Boykins pleaded guilty to murder and throwing the first punch that set off the frenzy of kicks and blows that killed Tillman. At the age of 20, Boykins was sentenced to life in prison but with a possibility of parole.

“It was senseless, without justification. … Your actions have imposed a sentence on this family they will never be free of, ” Douglas County Judge William H. McClain said as he sentenced Boykins.

Fifteen months ago the other two — Quantez Devonta Mallory and Horace Damon Coleman — accepted District Attorney David McDade’s offer to plead guilty in exchange for abandoning plans to seek the death penalty. They have not said so, however, in court.

Seating a jury is expected to take at least two weeks, but no one is predicting how long the trial will take.

Tillman’s death received national attention, so prosecutors and defense attorneys may find it hard to find anyone who has not heard of the case. They will look for prospective jurors who have not decided what happened as teenagers spilled into the yard after the party celebrating two female students from Chapel Hill High School for earning good grades.

Tillman showed up late for the party that started the evening of Nov. 5, 2010, and continued after midnight. The freshman from Georgia Perimeter College had gone to a program at church first. By the time he arrived, the small gathering had grown out of control once word of it had reached social networking sites; 10, including Tillman, were invited, but about 60 showed up.

Franklin, home for the weekend to visit his mother who was recovering from surgery, was a freshman at Alabama State, where he planned to play football. Franklin and his friends crashed the party.

A “mob mentality” took over after a few young women got into fights in the front yard as everyone was leaving, McDade said in April. Boykins was overheard walking up the hill of the driveway saying that he was going to “pop the next [slur] he saw” and “across the street, Bobby Tillman was leaning on a car, talking to friends,” McDade said.

McDade said Boykins “sucker-punched” the much smaller Tillman, knocking him to the ground with one punch.

The others joined in, the prosecutor said, with a frenzy of kicks and stomps, leaving Tillman dead in the street.