Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson announces that today a jury convicted Lawrence resident Willie Kenith Franklin, 28, of involuntary manslaughter and criminal possession of a firearm. Both convictions are felonies.
Investigation into the case began on Wednesday, December 27, 2017 at approximately 11:10 p.m. when a person called 9-1-1 and stated that her sister had just been shot. The shooting occurred in the 2300 block of West 26th Street. Officers with the Lawrence Police Department (LPD) arrived on scene and they located a female victim lying on the kitchen floor with a single gunshot wound to her chest. Bystanders were administering first aid to the victim and then her care was taken over by medical personnel with Lawrence Douglas County Fire and Medical. Lifesaving measures were unsuccessful and the victim was pronounced deceased a few minutes before midnight.
Detectives with LPD interviewed multiple people that were inside the residence at the time of the shooting. Through that investigation, it was discovered that the shooter (identified as Franklin) had smoked marijuana and drank alcohol in the residence and was ready to leave the residence to travel to Kansas City. Franklin asked a person living at the residence to get his gun that she had stored for him while he was visiting. When Franklin had his gun, a bystander reported that he pointed the semiautomatic gun in her general direction and she asked him to put it away. Franklin removed the magazine from the gun, pulled the slide of the gun back, and the person saw there were no rounds in the chamber. Franklin then let the slide come forward, pointed the gun at the ground, and pulled the trigger. The bystander heard a click and no round fired. A few moments later, the same bystander heard a shot. She then saw the victim go to the ground, gasping for air. Another bystander heard Franklin say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to,” and he left the residence. Franklin was arrested on December 31, 2017.
Franklin’s jury trial began in the Division Six Courtroom on Wednesday, June 20 with jury selection. Opening statements were delivered later in the day. The case continued the remainder of Wednesday and through most of the day Thursday. Closing statements were delivered this morning and the case went to the jury at about 10:15 a.m. The jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning its verdict.
Franklin faces 31 to 136 months in prison for the first conviction and 7 to 23 months in prison for the second conviction. His actual sentence will depend on his prior criminal history. The Court ordered bond revoked, remanded Franklin to custody, and a sentencing date will be set at a later time.
The Honorable Peggy C. Kittel presided over the trial. The case was investigated by the Lawrence Police Department and Senior Assistant District Attorney Amy McGowan prosecuted the case.
*Rule 226 - Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct