Emotional first day in Portsmouth wrongful death dispute

Marshall Franklin (Family photo)

Correction: The Franklin family attorney told 10 On Your Side that the family is seeking $5 million. The family initially filed a lawsuit for $1.5 million.


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — It was an emotional day in court as jurors heard from witnesses during a wrongful death trial involving the City of Portsmouth, the Portsmouth Police Department and its former Chief Ed Hargis.

The jurors – five men and four women will decide if the evidence proves the family’s claims.

Officers shot and killed Marshall Franklin in 2009 at his home on Campbell Street. Police said Franklin barricaded himself inside the house and fired first, injuring two officers.

Franklin’s family filed a $1.5 million lawsuit, claiming former Portsmouth Police Chief Ed Hargis and his officers were responsible for Marshall’s death. An attorney for the family now says the family is seeking $5 million.

The family says the police force was negligent in handling someone with mental illness.

A family member said Franklin was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

A 10 On Your Side investigation last fall found a dispute between what police say happened and what actually happened.

In all Tuesday, jurors heard from five different witnesses.

During opening statements, the attorneys laid out there cases.

Stephanie Bolen, who represents the family, said if the proper policies and procedures were in place, Marshall Franklin would not have died. She said former Police Chief Ed Hargis was the person responsible for implementing those policies and is thus responsible for Franklin’s death.

Cheran Cordell, the Senior Deputy City Attorney for the City of Portsmouth, said Hargis isn’t liable for Franklin’s death.

Cordell said on the day of the shooting, Hargis had only been chief seven weeks. She said Hargis wasn’t in command of the scene that day and didn’t authorize the actions.

On the stand, sisters Alberta Thomas, Yvonne Franklin Sparks and Toni Dixon described hearing rapid gunfire. However, none of them could say whether or not their brother fired at police first.

A neighbor testified that he saw Marshall Franklin outside the house that day and Marshall walked into the back door when a police dog started barking.

Wednesday, we’re expected to hear from some of the officers who were there that day.

At some point during the trial, we also expect to hear from former Chief Ed Hargis, who’s expected to take the stand.

10 On Your Side will have updates on the case all week on air and online.