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Closing arguments leave jury to decide fate of Gene Deshawn Grisby-Bell’s killer

on May 2, 2012

The jury has the case. What then-16-year-old Tyris Franklin was thinking when he shot another teen four times is what they have to decide.

Closing arguments concluded the trial proceedings Tuesday in the case against Franklin, now 17, accused of first-degree murder in the Jan. 10, 2011 killing of El Cerrito High School student athlete Gene Deshawn Grisby-Bell, 16.

Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove painted a picture of Richmond neighborhoods plagued by territorial rivalries and senseless violence, a milieu in which Grove said Franklin’s rage over his younger brother’s beating earlier that day drove him to load a silver handgun and go on the hunt for indiscriminate revenge.

“What ends up happening is they end up being pawns … it’s blind retaliation,” Grove told the jury. Grisby-Bell had nothing to do with Franklin’s brother’s beating, but he just happened to be the first youth Franklin saw when he rode into the Crescent Park apartment complex with a car full of friends, bent on revenge, Grove said.

“It was just, go get one,” Grove said.

Grove urged the jury to convict Franklin, who is standing trial as an adult, of first-degree murder. Grove said Franklin left from a friend’s house armed and with the intent of shooting someone. As evidence of Franklin’s presence of mind, Grove noted that Grisby-Bell was a moving target as Franklin shot at least five rounds at his back, while Grisby-Bell scrambled toward his grandmother’s apartment for cover.

Grove also noted that Franklin got back into his friend’s car and fled the scene, reloaded his gun, and later lied to police.

“(Franklin) went out to Crescent Park to get payback,” Grove said. “He went to Crescent Park to do somebody.”

Franklin’s attorney, public defender Elizabeth Harrigan, said Franklin had been racked with fear over a series of violent encounters with other youths, including drive by shootings on the house he shared with his mother.

Harrigan, who is seeking acquittal, said a “fuse was lit” when Franklin learned of his brother’s beating the morning of Jan. 10, 2011, and that her client was in a state of unconsciousness as he rode in the back seat, looking down at the floor, of a friend’s car toward Crescent Park. If there was any intent as he rode toward Crescent Park, Harrigan said, it was to draw attention to himself so that rivals would leave his family alone.

“This was an upset 16-year-old who says I don’t care anymore,” Harrigan said.

Harrigan referred to Franklin’s own testimony. Her client took the stand in the trial, and said several times that he didn’t know he shot Grisby-Bell.

“(The prosecution) hasn’t proved beyond a reasonable doubt what was in my client’s mind,” she said. “Find him not guilty.”

But Grove pressed to the jury the notion that Franklin was a cold-blooded killer in full command of his faculties. He likened the expedition to Crescent Park to “hunting,” and said Franklin’s actions spoke louder than his words.

“He had the presence of mind to adjust his aim and continue hitting his fleeing target,” Grove said. The prosecutor himself brandished the chrome .22 caliber handgun that was used in the killing. “He was holding the gun gangster style, holding it sideways,” Grove said, demonstrating the grip for the jury. “This is how the cool kids who want to be bad asses shot the gun. It’s more evidence of consciousness.”

The man who drove the getaway car, 20-year-old Jean-Pierre Dubois Fordjour, faces his own murder trial. The other three teens in the car were not charged.

Franklin faces life in prison if convicted. The jury begins deliberations Wednesday.

Coverage of this trial is thanks in part to our partnership with journalists at, another community-based news organization.


  1. jones alana on May 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    nobody wins: sad,sad…….

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