Last updated: 5 months ago
The prosecuting attorney for Franklin County will not seek charges on three officers for the death of an inmate this May.
An investigation by David Gibbons, prosecuting attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, and a state medical examiner concluded methamphetamine intoxication, fighting and Tasers were a “perfect storm” in the death of 20-year-old Cody Franklin from Mountainburg who was being subdued after an altercation with other inmates.
It is actually a common practice in law enforcement to isolate inmates who are suspected of being intoxicated. Franklin County Sheriff Anthony Boen said in a text message Thursday the practice is “usually” done, however “it depends on how high or drunk they are.”
Gibbons states in a letter to the Arkansas State Police dated Wednesday he found no evidence of criminal liability with the three officers who used Tasers to subdue Franklin following the altercation with other inmates and jailers while separating the inmates.
After being booked into the Franklin County Detention Center in Ozark around 10:50 p.m. May 10 on “obstructing government operations,” Franklin was placed into a cell where he “got into fights with other inmates,” the report states.
Franklin had been reported to police by a woman who said she saw him on West View Road “acting very strange,” crawling into a ditch and hiding in the trees for about an hour before he “stood in the middle of the highway with a stick over his head” for 15 minutes. A deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office found Franklin “walking in the ditch with a stick in his hand and sweating profusely.” After several inconsistent statements, Franklin was taken into custody. By 11.55 p.m. he was placed in Cell 33 at the Franklin County jail with at least three other inmates.
An inmate with the last name Wilson stated Franklin had hit him and his friend in the face before starting to wrestle them. A jailer interjected to move prisoners from one cell to another “when he came aware of Franklin’s strange behavior and altercation with other inmates.”
The jailer asked for assistance in moving Franklin to the “drunk tank.” The assistant was grabbed by Franklin and they went to the ground. Franklin was Tased and placed in handcuffs. According to the Taser report, the device was activated five times for 18 seconds between 1:12-1:14 a.m. The first three applications were for five seconds each, and the last two were for two seconds and one second each, the report states.
“After Franklin was handcuffed he was dragged to the drunk tank, where he again resisted and was Tased,” the report adds.
The second sequence of the Taser was three applications between 1:22-1:23 a.m. for a total of 17 seconds: the first and third were for five seconds each and the second for seven seconds, the report states.
Franklin became still, the handcuffs were removed and two jailers felt for and found, according to their statements, a pulse. They exited the “drunk tank” and within two to three minutes realized that Franklin had not moved. The officers checked on Franklin, found no pulse, started CPR and called Emergency Medical Services, the report adds. Franklin was pronounced dead at Mercy Hospital Ozark after multiple attempts at resuscitation.
Gibbons wrote in his report to the state police that the autopsy of Franklin’s body was performed by Dr. Stephen Erickson, deputy chief medical examiner for the state of Arkansas.
Erickson found that the manner of death was a “homicide, in that the death resulted in some part from actions of people other than the deceased.”
“However, the critical aspect in this unfortunate incident is what caused the death of Cody Franklin,” Gibbons writes. “The cause of death was as Dr. Erickson explained during our meeting, ‘a perfect storm’ of multiple factors.”
Those factors included a “methamphetamine level of .52 ug/ml,” the report states, as well as “exertion and struggle over a long period of time … restraint … and, finally, the electro muscular disruption by application of the CEW (conducted electrical weapons) by the officers.”
According to Erickson, Gibbons continued, the methamphetamine intoxication caused cardiac irritability and an abnormally faster and harder pumping of Franklin’s heart. This was compounded by the exertion and struggle, to include multiple fights Franklin had with other inmates before the officers became involved.
“The exertion and struggles caused a lactic acid build up which also affected cardiac irritability,” Gibbons wrote. “In addition, the methamphetamine intoxication likely put Franklin in a state of excited delirium, which would have prevented him from perceiving the lactic acid buildup and allowed him, to his detriment, to continue his physical aggression.”
There were eight applications of the Taser over a period of 11 minutes.
Gibbons states in the letter that taking into consideration the methamphetamine, the multiple fights with inmates and fatal acidosis, there is “insufficient evidence to convince all 12 members of a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of the officers caused the death of Cody Franklin. For that reason, I have decided to decline prosecution of this case.”
September 2016 No prosecution for murder of Cody.