Tyris Franklin was convicted of first degree murder with special circumstances Thursday in the killing of Gene Deshawn Grisby-Bell in January 2011.
Franklin, 17, showed no emotion as the clerk read the verdict in a Martinez courtroom. Wearing glasses and a gray button-up shirt, Franklin looked at a cluster of family and friends as they left the courtroom.
Franklin, who was charged as an adult, faces 50 years to life in prison for murder with a firearm. The jury deliberated Wednesday and Thursday morning.
“It was a particularly callous crime,” Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove said as he exited the courtroom. “The jurors realized that and came to an appropriate decision. It’s tragic that a 16-year-old’s life was taken.”
Closing arguments concluded the trial proceedings Tuesday. Grisby-Bell, a football player at El Cerrito High School, was shot four times and killed on Jan. 10, 2011, as he walked to the gym from the Crescent Park apartment he shared with his grandmother.
Franklin, armed with a .22 caliber handgun, rode into the complex with four other teens. Grisby-Bell was the first person he saw, and he exited the car and chased and shot the teen, according to testimony from multiple witnesses. Grisby-Bell was pronounced dead just inside his grandmother’s door, which he had crawled to while trying to elude his attacker.
The teens traveling with Franklin did not exit the car. Three were not charged, but the driver, Jean-Pierre Fordjour, has been charged with murder and is set to stand trial separately.
Franklin was motivated by years of feuds with rivals from Crescent Park, including a beating of his 12-year-old brother on the morning of the murder. Grisby-Bell was not a particular target and played no role in the earlier feuds, Grove said.
Minutes before the verdict was read, Grisby-Bell’s father, Terry Bell, stood by the courtroom door, his son’s school ID badge hanging from a string around his neck.
“I am just waiting to exhale,” Bell said. “I’m looking forward to moving on.”
After the verdict, Grove told nearly a dozen of the victim’s family members that they would be able to make statements to the court during the sentencing hearing.
The courtroom was quiet as the verdict was read. Grisby-Bell’s aunt and cousin wore his #42 football jerseys from El Cerrito High. Some of Grisby-Bell’s family members shed silent tears as the verdict was read.
Later Thursday evening, Terry Bell said, “I feel like my son has finally given me the O.K. to go on without him.”
Franklin’s mother, seated in the front row of the courtroom, cried. A male member of Franklin’s family punched a wall and cried outside the courtroom before leaving.
Franklin’s defense attorney, Elizabeth Harrigan, had argued that her client was in a state of shock over the constant harassment and violence that he and his family had endured in the months preceding the shooting.
Early in the two week-plus trial, Harrigan argued for a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, saying Franklin was in a state of altered consciousness and shock over recent violence victimizing he and his family. But Judge Leslie Landau instructed the jury to consider only charges of first or second-degree murder.
Harrigan said outside the courthouse Thursday that her client would appeal the verdict.
Sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 25.