Man’s murder, assault convictions in 2017 Middletown bar shooting upheld

The 12th District Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a Middletown man for fatally shooting one victim and wounding others in 2017 at the D&J Nite Spot in Middletown.

Malcolm Franklin, 29, was convicted in November 2018 of murder, three counts of felonious assault and tampering with evidence for firing 11 shots into a group of four people on the patio of the Middletown bar on May 30, 2017.

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Julian Johnson died at the scene, two others were injured and one narrowly escaped physical injury.

Franklin was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 40 years by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater.

At trial, Franklin took the stand in his own defense and said he was scared for his life after alleged threats made against him on social media. He said he did not go to the bar that night to shoot anyone but simply to talk to Johnson.

But prosecutors say the Louisiana native acted with “absolute callousness and disregard for human life.”

Prosecutors laid out a timeline for jurors during trial, saying Franklin went alone to the bar on Elliott Drive, sent his ride away and then did not go into the bar. Instead, they said, he walked around the back to a fence and opened fire 19 seconds later when Johnson walked outside the bar.

“Of the 11 gunshots Franklin fired, eight hit their target,” said Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall.

A gun and a magazine loaded with 29 bullets were found under Johnson’s body, but there is no evidence it was fired.

At sentencing, defense attorney Frank Schiavone III again pointed to the handgun found under Johnson as evidence that Franklin acted in self defense.

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During appeal, Franklin argued the evidence presented at trial did not support his conviction because he acted in self-defense.

In a unanimous decision, the appellate judges disagreed, saying Franklin did not prove he acted in self-defense because he waited for the victim outside, shot 11 times at four people, the victim never fired or used a weapon, Franklin came to the location knowing Johnson would be there.

“Despite Franklin testifying that he feared for his life, and that of his friend, and that he only shot once he heard gunfire, the jury believed the state’s witnesses and did not believe Franklin’s testimony that he acted in self-defense on the night of the shooting,” said Judge Robin Piper in the opinion.

“We will not disturb the jury’s credibility determination, and we do not find that the jury clearly lost its way or that a manifest miscarriage of justice occurred.”

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