A woman who said a Fort Worth police officer raped her when she was 13 acknowledged on the witness stand Thursday that she lied in part of her testimony against him in 1995, but still insisted the officer was guilty of the attack.
She faced now-former officer Brian Edward Franklin in an unusual state district court hearing ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The appellate court, the state’s highest for criminal cases, in recent years has changed how it reviews allegations that someone did not receive a fair trial.
The court agreed to review a new appeal filed by Franklin under the same argument it denied more than a decade ago: that a witness potentially lying was enough for a new trial.
On Thursday, the woman, now 33, said she lied when she testified that she never had sex before Franklin raped her in her father’s back yard in March 1994. A few years after Franklin was sentenced to life in prison, she told authorities her stepfather had been raping her for years before the assault by Franklin.
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Dick DeGuerin of Houston, one of Franklin’s attorneys, asked the woman, “But the fact is you did lie, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did,” the woman replied.
She testified that she feared her stepfather. She said he stayed in the courtroom during Franklin’s trial and accompanied her during police and doctor appointments beforehand.
“He was there everywhere I went,” she said.
The stepfather received 10 years’ probation after pleading guilty to injury of a child, according to a Tarrant County district attorney’s spokeswoman.
The woman was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair Thursday and appeared to struggle with spasms throughout her testimony. Prosecutors said she suffers from an autoimmune disease that has left her with severe muscle spasms and blindness in one eye.
The Star-Telegram does not usually identify accusers in sexual assault cases.
Prosecutors had no DNA evidence tying Franklin to the rape. Instead, the case rested almost entirely on the testimony of the accuser.
“It’s a simple case,” DeGuerin said after the hearing. “A conviction cannot stand if it’s based on perjury, in whole or part. That’s just basic fairness and due process.”
Prosecutors disagreed, arguing that the woman never wavered on whether Franklin raped her and that it wasn’t clear the change in her testimony would have made a difference. Jack Strickland, one of the prosecutors, said jurors might not necessarily have acquitted Franklin if they knew about a separate case of abuse.
“The truth of the matter is we don’t know with certainty,” he said, adding that it would be a “travesty” for the case to be overturned based on that omission.
Strickland called on state District Judge Wayne Salvant to consider having a hearing to resentence Franklin without setting aside his conviction.
More than 10 years ago, during a previous appeal, he ruled that Franklin’s conviction ought to be set aside. The criminal appeals court overturned his ruling.
He is not expected to rule this time for at least a month.
Franklin did not testify Thursday, although he jumped up once early in the hearing and said he wanted to speak. His attorneys and a bailiff quickly told him to sit down.
Franklin’s attorneys say the renewed case reflects a shift in the court of criminal appeals’ willingness in recent years to accept appeals like Franklin’s that lack new DNA evidence or clear proof of innocence. Texas lawmakers, after being confronted by a series of overturned convictions, have also passed several reforms in the last decade, including new requirements for investigators to share evidence with defense attorneys before trial.