NORWICH – The prosecution and defense gave closing statements on Friday, and within two-and-a-half hours the jury had convicted a Guilford man for the murder of his 16-year-old adopted son.
Prosecutors said at around midnight on March 1, 2017 at their home at 457 State Route 8 in the Town of Guilford, Ernest Franklin worked with his wife to kill their 16-year-old disabled son Jeffrey Franklin and burn the evidence. Franklin was convicted for second-degree murder, third-degree arson, and tampering with physical evidence.
His wife, Heather Franklin, has also pleaded not guilty to the charges and is expected to have her case presented before a jury in the next month.
Defense Attorney Veronica Gorman and District Attorney Michael Ferrarese gave closing statements, describing the night of the fatal fire.
Approximately two-and-a-half hours after closing statements, the jurors convicted Ernest Franklin for the murder of his adopted son, Jeffrey. Franklin’s sentencing will be at 9:30 a.m. on May 3 in Chenango County Court.
“If you look at every piece of this case together, all of the evidence, the GPS information, the fire investigator’s testimony, the autopsy report, the defendant and co-defendant's timelines, and the story of, “Manchester by the Sea,” you will find Ernest Franklin guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Ferrarese. “The evidence in this case proves that Jeffrey’s last breaths on this Earth were cut short by violent means.”
He said that the Franklins had been thinking of ways they could kill their son prior to the fire, and after watching, “Manchester by the Sea,” they formed a plan and put it into action.
“When the first officer on scene ran up his driveway, Franklin stayed back and let the officer run right past him,” said Ferrarese. “Through his actions you can see there was absolutely no sense of urgency from the defendant.”
He said when the fire department arrived on scene, Franklin mislead them by saying Jeffrey was, “Where the fire is." He added that Franklin knew his son was already dead in his bedroom but lied to help the spread of the fire destroy evidence.
“His child is in that house, the firefighter was walking away, why wouldn’t he stop him,” asked Ferrarese. “He didn’t stop him because he needed the fire to continue to spread and destroy Jeffrey’s body.”
According to Ferrarese, Franklin never made a meaningful attempt to get into Jeffrey’s room, and he was aware that the fire was going to take place because he had already removed his animals from the house.
He said that if Jeffrey were alive when the fire started, he would have tried to escape, and there would have been signs inside his body showing that he had breathed-in during the fire.
“Jeffrey would have been breathing in soot, carbon monoxide, and other gases if he were still alive at the time of the fire,” said Ferrarese. “Even the defense’s own witness Dr. Beno couldn’t recall a single case where an individual had a low carboxyhemoglobin level, but a high cyanide level.”
He said if Jeffrey could smell and feel heat, and his pediatrician since 2012 said he could, then he could perceive danger.
“There is only one verdict in this case that is just,” said Ferrarese. “I ask that you come back with a verdict of guilty, because he is.”
According to Gorman, a misguided investigation from law enforcement and a blood sample that was analyzed for cyanide weeks later then it should have been resulted in Franklin's arrest.
"Where does this case go wrong," she asked. "From the defense's point of view, very early on."
She said Ernest Franklin has consistently maintained his innocence, but a faulty medical examiner's report turned an accidental fire investigation into a witch hunt...