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Posted: October 8, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Benson requests new trial

Cites ineffective assistance of council, inefficient evidence

By Brittany Thomas /

Nearly a year after his first trial, convicted murderer Franklin Elliott Benson on Thursday went before Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr. to request a new trial, citing ineffective assistance of council and inefficiency of evidence.

Benson, 50, was convicted of the murder and dismemberment of 49-year-old Leslyan Williams, whose body parts were found off Georgia Highway 212 on Oct. 30, 2007. Williams' head and torso were never found.

During the trial, which began Oct. 12, 2009, defense attorneys Leah and Terrence Madden attempted to prove that Williams had been a drug dealer, though all witnesses except Benson disputed these claims. District Attorney Layla Zon (who was chief assistant district attorney at that time), argued that Williams was killed by Benson after she refused to loan him more money and after she requested that he pay her back several thousand dollars she had loaned him.

Zon told jurors that Benson was not only a Casanova with the ladies, but that he was smart and good at "selling his game."
He's not just a liar," said Zon, "he's a pathological liar and has a pattern of being an arrogant narcissist."

However, during the week-long trial, jurors were unable to hear from a possible witness, Jimmy Lee Green, a maintenance worker at a hotel where Williams' vehicle was found and where video surveillance of Benson dropping it off was taken. Green had declined to come to court from Tennessee to testify during the first trial.

Thursday afternoon Green did take the stand. He testified that he noticed Williams' car parked in the hotel and that he had seen a white male walking around it before getting in another vehicle and driving off. According to Green, the white male was acting like "he was looking for a ‘For Sale' sign or something," and that he had not seen the man inside the car.

Benson's new attorney, Teri Smith, assistant chief public defender, also questioned his former attorneys about what measures they took to get Green to court for the first trial and how important they believed his testimony would be. Leah Madden said she believed that Green had said he saw a white male get into Williams' car, and, therefore, thought his independent testimony would help their defense, which was that Williams was involved in moving drugs.

She also said that he had been subpoenaed, but acknowledged that a subpoena from Georgia did not hold a lot of weight in Tennessee. She added that there wasn't time to get a Tennessee judge to listen to Green's testimony and declare him a material witness, because a judge was not available and Johnson had denied a request to continue things once the trial had begun.

"I think the investigators saw Franklin Benson on that (surveillance) video and didn't look any further than that," she said.
However, Zon called Special Agent Brian Johnston with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who testified that investigators had collected the video surveillance and reviewed it.

"Franklin Benson was the only one seen near that vehicle," he said.

After hearing testimony from the four witnesses, Johnson announced that he would reserve his ruling as to whether or not Benson would receive another trial for a later date.


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