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Alibi Doesn’t Protect Innocent Philadelphia Teen from 5 Months’ Incarceration

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Even a videotaped alibi didn’t prevent Lionel Franks, an 18 year-old high school senior, from being incarcerated for five months for an attempted murder he didn’t commit. Before his arrest in April 2009, Franks was a strong student months away from graduating and attending Lincoln University. However, Franks missed his high school graduation after being accused of being the “black male in green sweatpants” who shot a man named Robert Bryant eight times.

According to security cameras, from 4:20:50 to 4:26:33 p.m. on April 9th, 2010, Franks was in an Olympia Sports store in North Philadelphia shopping for sneakers. The shooting occurred eight blocks away at 4:20 p.m. and police arrived on the scene at 4:26. Witnesses could not see the shooter’s face but identified him as a black male in green sweatpants with white stripes. At 4:30, twelve blocks from the scene of the shooting, Franks was spotted wearing green sweatpants with white stripes and arrested. Police noticed that Franks had spots of blood on his shoes. The difference between the security camera clock and police radio time was two minutes, 12 seconds, not enough time for Franks to have made it from the shooting to the shoe store on foot, but enough time, according to the police, for Franks to have driven that distance.

Because Franks’ mother could not afford ten percent of his $250,000 bail, Franks remained in jail for months while Assistant District Attorney William Davis pushed to expedite the DNA testing of the blood on Franks’ shoes. Franks was released on August 31, 2010, after DNA testing revealed that it was his own blood on his shoes and not Bryant’s.

Unfortunately, mistaken identifications are all too common. Though it is tragic that Franks was incarcerated for five months despite a strong alibi and scarce incriminating evidence, thankfully, in this case, the truth came to light before a trial or conviction.

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