DALLAS (AP) — A former Fort Worth police officer who served 21 years of a life sentence for raping a 13-year-old girl was freed Thursday after his accuser admitted that she lied during his trial.
Brian Franklin was released on $10,000 bail, but Tarrant County prosecutors said they plan to retry the 56-year-old man for assaulting the girl in her father’s backyard in 1994.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled last month that Franklin did not receive a fair trial in 1995. His accuser testified two years ago that she lied in part of her testimony, but the woman, now in her 30s, is standing by her accusation that Franklin raped her.
The court said the perjured testimony also led others to give false testimony at the trial.
Franklin was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was eligible for parole in 2025.
Sam Jordan, spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said Thursday that the case against Franklin will be sent to a grand jury to decide if he should be indicted.
“We feel that the evidence still substantiates the claim against him,” Jordan said, later adding: “It was a police officer. We call on them to protect a child, not cause harm to them.”
Franklin graduated from the police academy in the early 1980s and was an officer with Fort Worth police when he was accused in the attack. He was friends with the girl’s father and was convicted almost entirely on her testimony.
Franklin’s attorney — Houston lawyer Dick DeGuerin, who has represented high-profile figures including Tom DeLay, Robert Durst and others — said the accuser “has infected every aspect of the case” with testimony she later admitted was false.
Should a new trial be held, DeGuerin said he’ll make the accuser’s perjured testimony a centerpiece of his defense.
The teenage accuser testified in 1995 that she had never had sex before accusing Franklin of raping her. But she later told authorities that her stepfather had sexually assaulted her for years, including during Franklin’s trial, and that she had been too scared to admit that with her stepfather ever present.
The stepfather pleaded guilty to injury of a child and received 10 years of probation. He has since died, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
There is no suggestion that Franklin’s accuser will be charged with perjury.
DeGuerin says Franklin’s case reflects a recent shift in the willingness of the Court of Criminal Appeals to accept appeals that lack new evidence or clear proof of innocence. The court signaled in 2009 that it would reconsider how perjury by a witness might affect a criminal case, when it set aside the murder conviction of Clay Chabot after DNA proved a witness lied about his own role in what happened. Chabot later pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to the 22 years he had already served.
Three years ago prosecutors offered to allow Franklin to plead guilty in exchange for being released for time served, but Franklin rejected the deal.
“Here’s a guy who’s so insistent upon his innocence that he was willing to spend three more years in prison to prove it,” DeGuerin said. “There’s not going to be a compromise or plea.”