CROWN POINT | After slightly more than two hours of deliberation, a jury Wednesday acquitted Samuel Lee Franklin of the murders of two Gary men on Jan. 14, 2013.
Franklin, 21, of Gary, was found not guilty of the shooting deaths of Terrell Frazier, 21, and Deshalone Williams, 18.
Franklin exercised his right not to testify at his trial on Wednesday.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michael Toth called two witnesses during the morning session. Dr. Young Kim of the Lake County coroner’s office testified about the autopsies he performed on Frazier and Williams on Jan. 15, 2013.
Gary Detective James Nielsen also testified about details of the murder investigation.
Frazier died of a gunshot wound to the head Jan. 15 at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary.
Williams died later that night. He also suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
Testifying for the prosecution, Halicia Hazley, 21, of Gary, the sole eyewitness, said on Wednesday she and Williams picked Frazier up to take him to work Jan. 14, 2013, and stopped at a gas station at 15th Avenue and Clark Road about 10 p.m.
A man wearing a hoodie walked up to Williams while he was pumping gas and started talking to him, she said.
She identified that man in court as Samuel Franklin and said he tried to get into the car on the passenger side but that Williams told him to get in back with Frazier.
Hazley said when he got in the back seat, Franklin said, “I’ve seen you two” and that Frazier said, “Say what?”
Later, she said, Willliams told Frazier to “Watch dude."
She also said she turned around in her seat to look at the man because he kept moving, trying to see out of the car’s windshield. He also had distinctive hand movements.
The four drove north on Clark Road to Seventh Avenue, where Franklin asked to be dropped off near a park.
Hazley testified Williams asked Franklin, “Is this good?” and that Franklin said, “Yes.”
“He (Franklin) said, ‘This is the procedure,' and then I see his arm coming up between me and Dee (Williams) and a bullet went through the window (windshield),” she said. “I jumped out of the car and ran up the third baseline of the baseball field and ducked.”
Hazley said she heard more gunshots and saw the “car light up” inside.
“I thought he (Franklin) was going to come after me,” she testified.
When she saw the shooter leave, Hazley said she went back to the car and sat on Williams’ lap to drive the men to the hospital.
She went to police and picked Franklin out of a photo lineup.
Hazley stuck to her testimony during cross-examination by defense attorney R. Brian Woodward, who hammered home the fact that Hazley testified she and the men were smoking marijuana just before the shooter approached the car.
Franklin is still being held at the Lake County Jail on Class B felony charges of robbery while armed, stemming from an alleged incident on Jan. 20, 2013, in Gary.
He is due in court Thursday to set future hearings on those charges before Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell.