Accused takes stand in trial of killing of Gene Deshawn Grisby-Bell
on April 27, 2012
For Tyris Franklin, the rest of his life could depend on what was going through his 16-year-old mind when he shot Gene Deshawn Grisby-Bell four times, killing the unarmed student-athlete.
“I don’t remember what happened,” Franklin said Thursday, testifying on his own behalf. “Things just boiled up and boiled up to where I had no choice … I don’t know, I just snapped and things happened.”
Franklin, now 17, is on trial, accused of first-degree murder in the killing of Grisby-Bell, 16, which occurred in the Crescent Park apartments in January, 2011. The trial began April 23 in Contra Costa Superior Court in Martinez.
Called to the stand by defense attorney Elizabeth Harrigan, on Thursday Franklin testified for several hours under direct examination and then under cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove.
In his testimony, Franklin—compact and muscular and with a deep voice belying his age—said his actions that day came to a breaking point after years of violent exchanges he and his family had with rival teens from Crescent Park, a low-income housing community in south Richmond.
Grisby-Bell, an El Cerrito High School student and football player, was walking to the gym from his grandmother’s Crescent Park apartment on Jan. 10, 2011, when a white sedan packed with five teenagers stopped in the street. According to both the prosecution and defense, Franklin exited the back seat and chased and shot Grisby-Bell four times as he ran for cover. Both the prosecution and defense have said that Grisby-Bell was not a target, but just happened to be the first young man the teens encountered as they drove into Crescent Park.
Franklin testified that he knew Grisby-Bell and associated him with Crescent Park, but had never had a violent altercation with him before.
Franklin was arrested later that day when Richmond police stopped the white sedan. Franklin was nabbed while in possession of the .22 caliber handgun used in Grisby-Bell’s killing, according to earlier testimony.
Grove seeks a first-degree murder conviction. Harrigan is arguing for voluntary manslaughter, saying her client was reacting to the beating of his younger brother that morning by rival teens, and years of threats and fights with teens from Crescent Park.
Grisby-Bell was not Franklin’s specific target that day, Franklin said, and was not involved in the beating of Franklin’s brother.
In his testimony Thursday, Franklin recounted a childhood marked by violence, discipline problems at several schools and persistent “beefs” with teens at school and on the streets.
Since 8th grade, Franklin said, his adolescence had been marred by frequent fistfights and classroom discipline problems, which resulted in at least one expulsion and a stint in Juvenile Hall for beating another teen. Franklin said the home he shared with his mother was sprayed with bullets at least twice, acts which he alleged were perpetrated by rivals from Crescent Park.
“I was mad at them all,” Franklin said.
According to earlier testimony by other witnesses, Franklin asked for a ride to Crescent Park from friends the day of the killing. Franklin had just received word via a friend’s cell phone that his younger brother Terrell, age 12, had been beaten by a group from Crescent Park.
Bent on revenge, the other teens in the car accompanied Franklin as “back up,” but did not know Franklin had concealed a handgun and extra magazine clip in his hoodie sweatshirt, according to testimony by one of the teens earlier this week week.
The driver of the car, Jean-Pierre Fordjour, a 2009 honors graduate from El Cerrito High, has been charged and will face trial separately. The other three teens in the car were not charged in the killing.
In chilling testimony, Grove grilled Franklin about shooting Grisby-Bell.
“The gun was pointed at Gene Grisby as he was running away from you?” Grove asked.
“Correct,” Franklin responded.
“You fired the gun as Gene ran away from you?” Grove asked.
“I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking nothing, nothing at the time,” Franklin said. Franklin went on to say that after the shooting he thought Grisby-Bell had not been hit.
Proceedings are scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Monday. Closing arguments are expected next week.
Coverage of this trial is thanks in part to our partnership with journalists at RichmondPulse.org, another community-based news organization.
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