Crime

Teen sentenced to seven years for manslaughter of Antonio Franklin in Lexington's Duncan Park

Antonio Franklin was memorialized during a vigil in May 2014 at Duncan Park, a month after his death at the park.
Antonio Franklin was memorialized during a vigil in May 2014 at Duncan Park, a month after his death at the park. Herald-Leader

One of four Lexington teenagers charged in the slaying of another man last year in Duncan Park was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison.

Daymion Jacobi Sanders was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Antonio Franklin, 20, who was shot in the head and found lying near some swings about 6:30 p.m. April 13. He later died at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. Franklin was an innocent bystander, police have said.

Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine sentenced Sanders, 17, to seven years after he and his attorney waived a formal sentencing date. The Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney office had recommended seven years. Because Sanders is a minor, he must be resentenced as an adult next year.

Sanders shuffled into the courtroom wearing a blue crewneck sweater with a green shirt, green pants and shackles around his ankles. He spoke only when asked, including when Goodwine peppered him with questions regarding his rights.

An attorney for Sanders, Rebecca Ballard DiLoreto, said Sanders entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant admits there is enough evidence to convict but doesn't actually plead guilty.

Sanders, who was raised by his great-grandmother and never had any previous run-ins with the law, wrote a letter to Antonio Franklin's mother, Anita Franklin, expressing remorse and asking for forgiveness.

But the mood of the courtroom changed when Goodwine asked Sanders what happened the day of the shooting and why he had a gun.

Sanders said he and a friend were playing basketball at the Dunbar Center when a group of people in a car began shooting at the them. They walked toward Limestone to a nearby liquor store and they were shot at again. They ran to Duncan Park — Sanders called somebody to pick him up — but the people in the car shot at the pair again. Sanders returned fire, he said.

Earlier that day, Sanders' friend had a fight with one of the people in the car at Castlewood Park. His friend told him about the fight, Sanders said.

The people in the car — Nashiem Dixon, 17, William Dixon, 19, and Bryan Brown, 18— were identified in court records. Nashiem Dixon is charged with murder, two counts of attempted murder, first-degree wanton endangerment and violating the conditions of release. Brown and William Dixon, 19, are charged with two counts of attempted murder because police say Nashiem Dixon shot at Sanders with intent to kill. They are also charged with violating the conditions of release. A female was also seen in the car during the shooting, court documents said.

They are scheduled to go on trial Dec. 7.

"My life was in danger," he said. "I didn't know what to do. It was a split-second decision."

Sanders said he was on his way to sell the gun to somebody before the altercation started.

Goodwine expressed frustration with guns and teenager violence.

"You are 16," she said. "Guns do not belong in the hands of 16-year-olds. That is my point. ... Because if there had not been any guns in the hands of these 16-year-olds and 15-years-olds and teenagers, Antonio Franklin would still be with us today. There is far too much of this going on."

Relatives of Franklin and Sanders filled the rows of the courtroom. They sobbed and cried as Sanders and Goodwine spoke.

Anita Franklin, who has led marches since his death and recently held a pageant for Lexington's disadvantaged youth, said she forgives Sanders.

"When you see me crying today, it's not only for Antonio but for you as well," she said. "I just want you to understand you aren't only hurting our family, your family, you're hurting the kids that were in the park, you're hurting yourself. And I hope that whatever happens from your sentencing and why you're in jail or when you get out, that your behavior changes."

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