Judge appoints attorney for defendant accused in Lawrence woman’s shooting death

photo by: Contributed photo, Journal-World file photo

At left is Lei-Ala A. Turner, who was fatally shot shortly after 11 p.m. on Dec. 27 at 2310 W. 26th St., the August Place Apartments in south Lawrence, shown at right.

The man charged in the shooting death of a 30-year-old Lawrence woman appeared Tuesday in court, where a judge appointed an attorney who has represented him before in past felony cases.

Willie K. Franklin, 27, of Lawrence, told Douglas County District Court Judge Peggy Kittel last week that his fiancee’s family was looking to hire an attorney for him. But Tuesday morning he told the judge that wasn’t happening and requested a court-appointed attorney.

Franklin, who is jailed on $100,000 bond, said he was not currently employed.

For defendants who’ve worked with court-appointed attorneys before, judges often appoint the same one for new cases.

That was the case for Franklin.

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Willie K. Franklin

Kittel appointed attorney Michael Clarke, who has represented Franklin for multiple felony cases in Douglas County. Those include a 2008 case that resulted in a robbery conviction and a 2013 case that resulted in convictions for being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine, according to court records.

Franklin was released from his most recent prison stay in August, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Lei-Ala A. Turner was fatally shot shortly after 11 p.m. Dec. 27 at 2310 W. 26th St., the August Place Apartments in south Lawrence. Police said she suffered a single gunshot wound to the chest, which initial information indicated may have been accidental.

The shooting happened at Turner’s sister’s apartment during a gathering that included Franklin — a longtime family acquaintance — and other relatives and friends. According to family, Franklin was handling a handgun and pulled the trigger, mistakenly believing that he had cleared the chamber of bullets.

Franklin was arrested Dec. 31 and charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, for allegedly “recklessly” killing Turner, according to charges. He also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, less than 10 years after his conviction for cocaine possession. Both charges are felonies.

Franklin’s next hearing was set for Jan. 17.