5 years in prison for Lawrence man who showed ‘amazing lack of judgment’ in deadly shooting of friend

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Willie K. Franklin

Citing Willie K. Franklin’s “amazing lack of judgment” in the accidental but reckless shooting that killed a woman he considered family, a judge gave him the maximum prison time allowed under state sentencing guidelines.

That’s 68 months, or about five and a half years. His prison term will be followed by two years of post-release supervision.

Franklin, 28, of Lawrence was convicted by a jury in June of involuntary manslaughter and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Franklin fatally shot Lei-Ala A. Turner, 30, of Lawrence, shortly after 11 p.m. Dec. 27, 2017, at Turner’s sister’s home at August Place Apartments, 2310 W. 26th St.

The two had been partying at the apartment with a few other relatives and friends, and Franklin was handling the gun — unloading it, reloading it, and pointing it at others — as the group got ready to leave the apartment to go out in Kansas City.

Judge Peggy Kittel summarized Franklin’s criminal history before announcing his sentence.

Franklin had only been out of prison a few months when the shooting happened.

He was serving time for a previous conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm, plus possession of cocaine, Kittel said. He also has two prior DUI convictions and a criminal history dating to his juvenile days.

“Mr. Franklin has had court intervention since 2007, and there has not been a significant period of time where he has stayed out of trouble,” Kittel said.

Kittel said she chose the longest possible sentence given Franklin’s convictions and criminal history to protect the community from his “amazing lack of judgment.”

“It is my belief that prison doesn’t really improve people, it warehouses people … but foremost in my mind is community safety,” Kittel said.

photo by: Contributed photo

Lei-Ala A. Turner

Prosecutor Amy McGowan, in pressing for the longest possible sentence, cited Franklin’s recklessness in having a gun he wasn’t allowed to have, then consuming alcohol and marijuana before “messing around” with the weapon in a small apartment kitchen where one partygoer had already told him to be careful and quit pointing the gun in her direction.

Franklin’s girlfriend and the mother of his child was raised by the Turner family, so they considered him family, too, McGowan said.

“All homicide is senseless, but this is particularly so,” McGowan said.

Franklin’s appointed attorney, Michael Clarke, had asked the judge to give Franklin fewer months in prison. Clarke said that while Franklin, since his arrest, had not been in a position to interact with Turner’s survivors, he was remorseful and had not tried to shift blame from himself.

Franklin himself addressed Turner’s mother, siblings and other relatives who were in court, saying he was “truly sorry” for what happened.

“When this happened I was still in shock, I didn’t mean to come off as callous,” he said. “Y’all accepted me as family, and I feel like I let y’all down in the worst way.”

photo by: Nick Krug

August Place Apartments, 2310 W. 26th St., are pictured Thursday, Dec. 28. 2017.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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