Man freed from prison after serving 44 years returns to court in Philadelphia

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Saturday, March 23, 2024
Man freed from prison after 44 years returns to court
Man freed from prison after 44 years returns to court

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It was a return to court for a man who served more than four decades in prison for a murder he says he didn't commit. Even though his conviction was vacated, the case is far from over.

While William Franklin says he's innocent, the Philadelphia District Attorney's office is not convinced.

The 77-year-old was released from prison on March 5 and has been home with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren ever since.

"Every day with my family, that's where the smiles come from," he said.

Franklin was freed after serving 44 years for a North Philadelphia murder that he says he didn't commit.

"My dad was somewhere at the wrong place, wrong time. Don't even know! Didn't do it," said Franklin's daughter, Rasheedah Franklin.

In February, a judge vacated Franklin's conviction, citing flaws with the prosecution. But the Philadelphia District Attorney's office appealed the judge's decision.

"Did I expect them to appeal? No," said Franklin's grandson Michael Way, Jr. "I felt like we were gonna be able to walk away from this case and press forward with our lives."

Now on house arrest, Franklin and his lawyer returned to court on Friday, asking a judge to expand bail conditions and allow him to work.

His attorney says Franklin has been offered a job with the nonprofit Mothers in Charge, which advocates for people affected by violence.

"It's been 44 years that he's served in state prison for something he didn't do," said Franklin's attorney Joseph M. Marrone.

One of the issues in the original prosecution was a witness who pointed the finger at Franklin. That person later said he was coerced by investigators.

He recanted his testimony, but the district attorney's office says the witness never recanted in court.

The DA's office has a Conviction Integrity Unit that has resulted in the exoneration of more than 35 wrongfully convicted people, but this is one case they may opt to re-try.

"We don't want to think about that," said Rasheedah Franklin.

"It's just mind-boggling because you don't know just what they're going to do," said William Franklin.

The family is, instead, trying to make the most of the time they have now.

"To have him in my house, it's surreal," said Franklin's grandson Steven Crawford Jr. "Every time I walk through the door, it's like, 'Oh my God!'"

Franklin's attorney says it could take months for the court to decide on the appeal filed by the district attorney's office.

In the meantime, Franklin will be back in court in two weeks for a judge's decision on expanding the conditions of his bail.