Psychological Evaluations for Franklin Hearings
We get several requests from defense attorneys and non-profit firms representing offenders who have been given lengthy sentences or are serving juvenile LWOP (Life Without Parole) to complete a psychological evaluation to be reviewed at a future parole hearing or upcoming parole hearing and resentencing hearing for post-conviction cases. The recentness of Franklin Hearings poses many questions about how psychological evaluations are completed or used in a Franklin Hearing. Of note, a Franklin Hearing is a supplemental sentencing hearing for those offenders who were under the age of 26 at the time of their offense. Essentially, offenders and their attorneys ask for an evaluation that will address mitigating factors explicitly related to the offender’s youthfulness (age) at the time of their offense and render a report that will detail such. These youthfulness factors would then likely impact the length of their sentence or resentence.
Juvenile Tyris Lamar Franklin was 16 years old when he shot and killed another teenager. A jury found him guilty and convicted him of first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement. The California trial court was obligated by statute to hand down two consecutive 25-year back-to-back sentences. Franklin’s total sentence was life in prison with the possibility of parole after 50 years.
After Franklin was sentenced, The Supreme court held that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment to the federal Constitution- the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment as indicated in Miller v Alabama (2012). Miller v. Alabama (2012) prohibits a mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentence for a juvenile offender who commits homicide. Franklin appeared citing this case among others that supported the claim that his life sentence did not include judicial consideration of his youth and its relevance for sentencing.
Ultimately, The Supreme court ruled that an individual sentenced to a lengthy prison term for a crime committed while 26 or under must have had the opportunity to present, during trial, the mitigating evidence that would be relevant at a future parole hearing, even if the hearing is set to happen 10, 15, or 20 years from now. Therefore, a franklin hearing is a special type of hearing where an attorney requests to present mitigating factors that were never introduced in the trial or sentencing of the original case.