On May 1, 2017, I appeared on HLN’s Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield and CNN Legal Analyst, Danny Cevallos. Together, we provided legal analysis of a case in which an ex-school board president lured a child online for sex, another in which a married dentist murdered his mistress’ toddler, and a third wherein a murder defendant was released pending trial for lack of probable cause.
In the first segment, we discussed a case where the former president of the Adams County School District 14 board was arrested in an internet predator sting. Robert Vashaw pled guilty to attempted sexual assault on a child and a misdemeanor count of child abuse in mid-April. As I articulated in the appearance, I thought law enforcement did an excellent job to properly investigate the case. Very often in these internet sting investigations, police are unable to secure the critical evidence to prove a suspect’s intent. Here, the police obtained chat logs with the suspect and an undercover officer, a surveillance video of the suspect purchasing condoms, and a confession. Vashaw pled guilty for these reasons. His sentencing is scheduled for June 26th when he may receive up to 2 years in jail, 5 years of sex offender probation, and placement on sex offender registration.
Next, we discussed a case where a married dentist allegedly murdered his mistress’s toddler.
Roxanne Lewis-Randall had been in a secret relationship with a married dentist, 35-year-old Bert Franklin, for about a year. Prosecutors allege that Dr. Franklin slammed her son ‘s head into the ground, made a kicking motion, and carried the child while getting himself a piece of pizza. As I said, I thought the prosecutor’s charge of 1st degree murder (deliberate or intentional) was a very aggressive theory of the case. Most baby cases are prosecuted under the manslaughter statute, which criminalizes reckless conduct. It is rare that someone has the deliberate intent to murder an innocent baby or toddler. Here, the prosecutor believes that Dr. Franklin murdered the toddler because he was jealous of him.
Finally, we discussed a case where a man was released on 1st degree sexual assault and felony murder charges because the prosecutor wasn’t ready for a probable cause hearing. Probable cause is a much lower legal standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is required in a criminal trial. Prior to trial, an accused criminal defense attorney may request a hearing for a detained defendant to determine if there is enough proof to hold a person pending trial. Here, the defendant requested a probable cause hearing and the prosecutor was not ready because they were waiting on laboratory reports. In my opinion, the prosecutor inability to prove probable case is a sign that they will be unable to secure a conviction at trial.