A reputed gang member was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Ditiyan Franklin Jr. in Oakland in May shortly before Franklin was scheduled to graduate from high school. Jurors deliberated for two hours before convicting 22-year-old Michael Heartsman for the death of Franklin, a senior at Castlemont Leadership Preparatory School, in the 2400 block of Ritchie Street at about 2:25 p.m. on May 25.
Jurors also convicted Heartsman of attempted murder for shooting at, but missing, 20-year-old Lionel Harris, who was with Franklin when Franklin was shot. In addition, Heartsman was convicted of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. Heartsman faces 60 years to life in state prison when he’s sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon on Dec. 28. Prosecutor Eric Swalwell said the fatal shooting stemmed from a gang rivalry, as Franklin belonged to a gang called the Taliban Mafia and Heartsman belongs to the rival Case Boys gang, which is a successor group to the Nut Case gang that engaged in a crime rampage in Oakland about nine years ago. He said the rivalry escalated after 16-year-old Deaddrian Chapman, a suspected member of the Case Boys gang, was fatally shot in the 2600 block of Ritchie Street on Oct. 30, 2010, and the rumor on the street was that a Taliban Mafia member was the culprit, Swalwell said.
The prosecutor said Hearstman “coldly executed” Franklin on May 25 as Franklin rode his bicycle near the corner of Olive and Ritchie streets, near Arroyo Viejo Park. Swalwell said Heartsman, whose nicknames are “Fat Mike” and “Nut Case Mike,” first shot Franklin in the arm and then “finished him off” by shooting several more times in the side in a driveway about 20 yards away as Franklin fled. He told jurors in his closing argument on Monday that they should believe the testimony of Harris, whom he said is a fellow member of the Taliban Mafia who was riding on the handlebars of Franklin’s bike when Franklin was shot and identified Heartsman as the shooter. Swalwell said that although Harris “is not an angel,” his testimony is corroborated by other evidence in the case, such as Franklin’s autopsy and cellphone records that place Heartsman in the area where the shooting occurred. But Heartsman’s attorney, Gregory Martin, told jurors that Harris isn’t a credible witness and alleged that Harris wasn’t even at the scene of the shooting and tried to insert himself into the case afterward. Martin also denied that Heartsman is a gang member. However, Swalwell said Harris was a reluctant witness who testified only after authorities arrested him and dragged him into court.
Swalwell said the culture in the area where Franklin was fatally shot is “if you snitch you die” and Harris “risked his life to tell what happened.” Martin said today that he’s “shocked” that jurors convicted Heartsman and disappointed that they didn’t believe the testimony of five defense witnesses who said Heartsman was at a different location, the Youth Uprising community center, at the time of the shooting. But Swalwell said jurors told him that they found the defense witnesses “not to be credible” and found that Harris’s testimony was “very credible.” Swalwell said Franklin’s death was “tragic” because he was trying to get out of the gang life and had written an essay on ending gang violence shortly before he was killed.
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