Waterford man accepts responsibility for toddler’s death in court

05/02/2014 4:48 PM

05/02/2014 7:14 PM

Defendant Jacob Daniel Franklin appeared Friday afternoon in a Stanislaus County courtroom and accepted responsibility for a toddler’s death. But he didn’t tell the judge how or why the girl died.

“My actions or failure to act were the cause of her death,” Franklin said while reading a written statement. “I am responsible for her death.”

The Waterford man didn’t say anything else before he was formally sentenced to 11 years in prison for the death of his then-girlfriend’s 18-month-old daughter. The toddler is identified in the criminal complaint as Jasmine H.

The statement Franklin read in court Friday was approved by the prosecutor and Franklin’s defense attorney James Mootz. Franklin’s allocution was a requirement in the plea deal agreement with prosecutors.

On April 22, Franklin pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of child abuse causing death and second-degree murder against Franklin.

Dwanda Scott, Jasmine’s great-grandmother, told the judge that Franklin deserved to be convicted of second-degree murder. The child’s family had an opportunity to speak in court before he was sentenced. “He did a grave injustice to this family when he took this child’s life,” Scott said.

Franklin was baby-sitting the child and her older brother Feb. 16, 2008, when authorities responded to a medical call at the home in the 400 block of North Western Avenue in Waterford. Stanislaus County sheriff’s officials have said the toddler was left unattended in a bathtub and drowned.

Franklin, 31, has been in custody at Stanislaus County jail since April 15, 2008. He initially was arrested shortly after the incident on suspicion of willful harm to a child. He bailed out of jail soon after.

Two months later, Franklin returned to jail after prosecutors increased his criminal charges. An autopsy revealed the child had injuries indicating abuse, according to authorities.

Scott said in court that Jasmine’s brother, who was in the home when his sister died, has suffered with psychological problems. She said the small boy once looked at a photo of his sister and slapped her face in the photo, saying, “Now you’ll stop crying.”

She suggested that her great-grandson learned that behavior after seeing Franklin hit Jasmine. “I believe in my heart you did that and put that child in the bathtub to cover your tracks,” Scott said to the defendant.

She worries about Franklin’s eventual release from prison. Scott told Franklin, “Who knows when you get out what’s going to happen to the next person you get mad at?”

The defendant sat quietly next to his attorney and stared forward as the family stood up and spoke in court.

Marcell Monroe, Jasmine’s mother, chose not to be in the courtroom while Franklin read his statement. But she later went inside and was the first from her family to speak on behalf of her daughter.

“It was really hard to walk into that hospital room and hold your child and know you’re never going to see her again,” Monroe told the judge. “He deserves to rot in hell for all I care.”

She called her daughter’s death a senseless act. “I love my daughter, and I wish this had never happened to her.”

Ana Ramirez, Jasmine’s aunt, told the judge that Franklin acted with reckless disregard for an innocent child’s life. She said her nephew misses his sister and has received counseling to deal with the traumatic affects.

“Why didn’t you just say you didn’t want to watch her?” Ramirez asked the defendant. “Jacob, you took Jasmine away from us. You are the worst kind of monster.”

She said the defendant was getting off too easy, but she was glad to see Franklin was admitting his guilt.

Franklin’s plea deal was reached on the same day his trial was scheduled to start with jury selection. Had he gone to trial and been convicted, he would have faced a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden said in court that the plea deal was offered because of problems the prosecution had with proof in the case. She didn’t detail what those problems were.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Houston told the judge that the court’s rulings prevented some evidence from being introduced at trial and led to prosecutors agreeing to the plea deal.

McFadden told the defendant he must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he will be eligible for parole. She also told him that Jasmine’s family can seek restitution for counseling costs with help from the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.

The judge told Franklin that Jasmine could have achieved great things. She wished him luck in prison, hoping he takes the time behind bars to change his behavior and learn how to help people instead of harming them.

“You’ve certainly taken from society, so you owe society a great deal for taking this child’s life,” McFadden told the defendant.

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