Minneapolis prosecutor watches police killing of Terrance Franklin

ILast month, in the weeks leading up to the third anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, the Minneapolis City Council voted to settle two additional lawsuits brought by other black people over whom former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin , knelt down. The biggest payout, $7.5 million, went to John Pope, who was 14 and in his bedroom in 2017 when Chauvin pressed his knee on the boy’s back and neck for 15 minutes. A magistrate took the unusual step of ordering the body camera footage made public, calling it a “premonition of the same force used later” on Floyd.

The footage also showed the Minneapolis Police Department’s troubling command culture. After Chauvin has had his knee on Pope for over 10 minutes, his sergeant walks in, sees what’s going on, appears to ask if Chauvin needs a break, nods and walks out.

The sergeant, Lucas Peterson, had then already caused the death of a black suspect in a chokehold and had filed a false report in another case, claiming that a black woman had assaulted her partner. He was also one of two officers who, four years earlier, had shot and killed a 22-year-old black man named Terrance Franklin.

Learn more: Minneapolis police have been cleared in the murder of Terrance Franklin. Franklin’s family say video proves he was executed and case could now be reopened

But while the Franklin case escaped scrutiny at the time, a lot changed after Chauvin killed Floyd. Last November, voters in Hennepin County, Minnesota elected a chief prosecutor, Mary Moriarty, who campaigned on a promise to prosecute police and, according to local police chiefs, specifically called for the Franklin’s death.

“I remember the only name she brought up was Terrance Franklin,” recalls Stephanie Revering, police chief for the suburb of Crystal, Minn., who hosted a meeting of the county’s Association of Chiefs of Police de Hennepin a week before the elections. “She said she didn’t get the investigation she deserved. She would reopen that one.

Mary Moriarty at her chief public defender’s office in Minneapolis on October 25, 2019.

John Minchillo—AP

“I remember Mary raising her eyebrows, saying something to the effect of, this would be a specific case that she would look into,” said Daniel Wills, the chief of Rogers, Minnesota, who leads now the association. “The Terrance Franklin case, from the limited details that I know, certainly has details associated with it.”

It does. The May 10, 2013 shooting predated both body-worn cameras and smartphone video, and for years the public only knew the police-generated narrative. The details of this story would evolve (initially, the Minneapolis leader at the time claimed that Franklin was killed after attacking a police dog), but it was always a story of heroic cops facing a young black man who displayed the frightening way of an automaton – vacant stare, unmoved by pain – and the action movie chops of Tom Cruise.

In the account provided by the five officers involved (after being allowed to meet), Franklin overpowers four SWAT officers and a German Shepherd, then injures two of the officers in one motion, pushing two of them away. and attacking a third. – while simultaneously taking control of the submachine gun attached to that third cop, putting his own finger inside the trigger guard and firing once, then again, while falling to the ground with the officer still carrying the machine gun , in a tiny basement, in the dark. It was only then, according to police, that the burglary suspect was shot.

But Franklin’s family has uncovered evidence they say supports their belief that the death of “Mookie”, as he was known, was an execution. Franklin was shot five times in the head. A ballistics report said two officers pointed their guns side by side at his head and fired simultaneously. Audio captured by a bystander – and never closely examined by police or prosecutors – directly contradicts officers’ claim that the shooting was in self-defense. Among the cries heard on the tape: “Come out little n—-r! Don’t put those hands up now!

“These agents need time,” Walter Franklin, Terrance’s father, told TIME on May 11. “I heard it’s moving, but it’s moving slowly. Yesterday is ten years. He said family attorney Mike Padden had recently met with Moriarty. A spokesperson for Moriarty would not comment on the status of the case. Padden was circumspect.

“All I can say is that we hope all five officers will be prosecuted,” he told TIME. “And I’m reasonably confident that they will be prosecuted.” He declined to elaborate.

change of the sea

The question is now criminal. On the eve of the family’s wrongful death civil lawsuit trial — which the city had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent — the Minneapolis City Council voted in February 2020 to settle, paying $795,000. $. The then chairman of the board said: ‘I think our policy changes within the police service, the leadership changes, have really created a scenario in which it’s unlikely to happen again.’

Three months later, Chauvin killed Floyd, profoundly altering, among other things, public assumptions about police credibility. “These are people who expected until four or five years ago that everything they said would be believed by a jury,” says Robert Bennett, who represented John Pope, the teenager retained by Chauvin , and specializes in police brutality. case. “It’s done. Federal judges told me. FBI agents told me.

Peterson’s career reflects this change. At the time of Franklin’s death, he had faced 13 excessive force complaints and had cost $700,000 in settlements, more than any other officer in the previous seven years, the Tribune of stars reported. But he was considered a “great performer” by a former police chief quoted by the newspaper, and after Franklin’s death he became a sergeant.

Learn more: Prosecutors have promised to review the police killing of Terrance Franklin. Almost a year later, little progress is visible

Today, Peterson is no longer employed by the Minneapolis police, according to Joseph E. Flynn, his attorney in the Pope case. The circumstances of his departure are not public, and Bennett told TIME that the prospect of them becoming so during legal proceedings was part of why the city settled. “That’s how you get seven and a half million dollars,” he said.

The agency is under great pressure. Although Minneapolis voters in 2021 rejected a vaguely worded proposal to replace the police department, a US Justice Department investigation into “unlawful policing” was announced the day after Chauvin was sentenced. Many believe it will end with the kind of consent decree enforced by the court that the MPD is already under the control of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, following its 2022 report finding that it is is delivered to discriminatory policing. Meanwhile, the city has hired a new police chief tasked with rebuilding trust in the department while dealing with an increase in violent crime. Brian O’Hara, who arrived from Newark, NJ in November, moved in to replace problematic supervisors.

Moriarty, a longtime public defender, rode the wave of revulsion in the prosecutor’s office. She took over from Mike Freeman, the prosecutor who originally cleared the five officers present in Franklin’s 2013 death, and who eight years later pledged to re-examine the case, after an investigation of TIME revealed untruths and contradictions in the police account. But although his office was reported to be in negotiations with at least two officers seeking immunity in exchange for testimony about the shooting, Freeman left office without taking action.

Moriarty had long criticized Freeman for his handling of police shootings and easily won over a strong candidate, Barbara Holton Dimick, a black former judge and prosecutor who focused on rising crime. Moriarty’s first five months in office have been eventful. But Rachel Moran, an associate professor at St. Thomas University School of Law who specializes in police accountability, noted that the biggest controversy – the new prosecutor’s decision to reduce the sentences of two murder suspects minors, citing, among other things, studies of brain development – was consistent with the principles on which it operated.

“I have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, but I think her position so far has basically been Mary living the things she campaigned on,” Moran says. “If I had to guess, she has people looking into it (the Franklin case), but she knows she really, really wants to have her ducks in a row.”

“It would be amazing if she did that,” said Ashley Martin, who celebrated the 10th anniversary of Terrance’s death earlier this month with their son, Nehemiah, by releasing balloons in a park. “I’m really worried about the result.”

They will return to the park with balloons on May 30, Terrance’s birthday. He would have been 33 years old.

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