Fighting false accusations

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 1 hour ago Former Fort Worth, Texas, policeman Brian Franklin is finally free. But he is still fighting to clear his name. “I've been vindicated,” he told me, “but not yet exonerated.” Franklin...

Fighting false accusations

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Updated 1 hour ago

Former Fort Worth, Texas, policeman Brian Franklin is finally free. But he is still fighting to clear his name.

“I've been vindicated,” he told me, “but not yet exonerated.” Franklin served 21 years of a life prison sentence after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 1995. But he steadfastly maintained his innocence, studied law in the prison library and won a reversal of his conviction last spring. In December, a jury acquitted him after a second criminal trial.

“It's been a roller-coaster ride up and down,” Franklin reflected. His accuser had lied that she was a virgin. Prosecutors produced physical exam results as proof of his crime. In fact, she had been the victim of molestation by her stepfather for years.

Moreover, her story changed to fit a timeline, developed by prosecutors, that was debunked when Franklin's employment time records and store receipts showed he was nowhere near the alleged rape location — the backyard of her biological father, who was a friend of Franklin's.

There were no witnesses, no DNA. Yet Franklin lost his job, reputation and freedom.

“It's the easiest crime to be falsely accused of,” he told me. Prosecutors “used my position as a police officer against me.” His family and church stood by him. But as soon as he was arrested, he had been branded a “rapist” in the court of public opinion. His original jury “prejudged me,” Franklin recalled. Given the reckless witch hunts in cases like his and the Duke lacrosse case, he observed, “I'm surprised anybody gets acquitted these days.”

After Franklin's conviction, lead prosecutor Rose Salinas learned his accuser had signed an affidavit detailing sexual abuse by her stepfather. Those claims, Salinas concluded, “render irrelevant any medical evidence introduced at Brian Franklin's trial to show guilt,” “clearly show she that she testified falsely” and “cast serious doubts on the integrity of his conviction.” Had she known of the accuser's withheld evidence, Salinas acknowledged, she “would have immediately dismissed the charges” against Franklin.

But he was still years away from winning his release through the laborious criminal justice system. “There were times when a court would rule against me and I felt hit it in the stomach and down in the dumps,” Franklin said. He leaned on his faith and family to get through the darkest times.

“I did not become hardened and I did not become institutionalized. I would not let myself become one of them.”

Franklin must still win a declaration of actual innocence from the state of Texas before he can be eligible for financial reparations for the falsely accused. He took a job at a grocery store and is trying to raise money on GoFundMe for his legal bills.

Someday, he told me, he would like to work full-time again in law enforcement and help others who have been wrongfully charged, convicted and imprisoned.

Franklin is a beacon not only for law enforcement officers fighting the tyranny of “guilty until proven innocent,” but for every falsely accused citizen. His vow: “I will not give up. I will persevere. I am right. I'm not gonna give up.”

Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on CRTV.com.

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