Blue Ridge, Ga. – Additional charges will be faced in the murder of Justin McKinney and the assault of Anna Franklin.
Three of the 4 juvenile suspects charged in connection with the crimes that took place in the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 2018 appeared in Fannin County Superior Court on Monday, Jan. 7 for another first appearance hearing regarding new charges.
Fifteen year old Hunter Hill, 15 year old Dalton Manuel and 16 year old Lakota Cloer were all present with individual legal representation to hear the charges that they will now be facing.
Fifteen year old Blake Dickey (AKA Blake Dye) was not present as his lawyer, Defense Attorney David Farnham, was out of state and unable to attend. Farnham waived his client’s right to this first appearance.
Originally Cloer’s attorney had filed a motion for the appearance to be a preliminary hearing as well as bond hearing. After discovery of the new charges, however, Cloer’s attorney opted to keep these motions filed but move the hearings to a later date.
Emotions were high in the courtroom as family members of the victims as well as the accused were present. Not present was alleged victim Anna Franklin.
“She (Franklin) was notified of the proceedings,” District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee said explaining the absence of Franklin to the court. “She is not present today. She did decline to appear.”
Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver told those attendance the reasoning for the day’s hearing, ” One of the purposes of a first appearance, of course, is to allow the defendants to know what they are being charged with.”
Weaver then proceeded to read the charges against the teens. In the first warrants served in Fannin County for the year of 2019 all four suspects will be facing the same charges “individually and as a party to the crime”. These charges include:
1. One count of malice murder
2. One count of felony murder
3. One count of aggravated assault
4. One count of aggravated battery
Felony murder entails a murder that is committed during the process of another felony. Having initially been charged with only malice murder, the added charge of felony murder came after charges concerning the aggravated assault and battery of Franklin were added.
Weaver gave detail into the additional charges stating that aggravated assault is “when said accused assaulted Anna Franklin with a deadly weapon” and that aggravated battery is due to the extent of harm Franklin had received “by rendering a member of her body, her left arm, useless.”
Franklin who was shot during the Dec. 4 altercation deflected the bullet by throwing up her arm in a defensive manner. The bullet entered and exited the arm before entering Franklin’s face and becoming lodged in the neck.
In the state of Georgia malice murder means the intent to take a life without legal justification or mitigation. In this case the State does not need to prove a motive in order to obtain a conviction but instead will attempt to show that the person accused deliberately intended to take another person’s life.
Foreshadowing came to the future direction of the trial as Defense Attorney Karen Shelley, representing accused Hunter Hill, objected to media presence in the courtroom.
“I would ask the court to perhaps consider less media coverage because of the delicate nature,” Shelley presented her reason for objection, stating that the accused in this case are all juveniles and that media coverage could prematurely sway public opinion.
Ultimately, Sheley’s request that her client not be photographed or recorded was denied with Weaver stating that the hearing was “open to the public” and the media would not be providing information that was not readily available for anyone in attendance.
“There’s going to be a venue objection when we go to trial on this matter,” Shelley stated of Weaver’s ruling, “if the media is covering this case, which the community is already began to cover.”
The defendants were dismissed with Weaver stating of their rights that all accused “are presumed to be innocent until such time that they are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A Grand Jury is expected to convene on Feb.18, 2019. The motion for a preliminary hearing and bond hearing could take place before this date.
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