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Bond denied again for 2011 rape suspect

Posted: March 19, 2013 5:19 p.m.
Updated: March 20, 2013 5:00 a.m.

A circuit court judge denied bond Friday for a Columbia man accused of the October 2011 carjacking of a woman in Columbia and raping her in Kershaw County. Franklin Graham, 26, who faces charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping, has been held without bond in the Kershaw County Detention Center since his arrest 16 months ago. A judge initially denied Graham bond shortly after his arrest in 2011. Since being detained, he has been additionally charged with being a prisoner carrying or concealing a weapon, according to online court records.

Judge DeAndra G. Benjamin denied Graham’s bond Friday despite contentions by his defense attorney that there are issues with DNA and fingerprint evidence in the case. Benjamin did, however, grant defense attorney Lir Dereig’s motion for a speedy trial. Graham must now go to trial before the end of the calendar year or be granted bond.

According to information provided during Friday’s hearing, the victim said she was getting into her vehicle at a Columbia apartment complex on Oct. 5, 2011, when a gun was held to her head. A man described as a “Black male with dark clothing” allegedly forced her to get into her vehicle and drive. The suspect reportedly forced the woman to drive up I-20 through Kershaw County to Exit 101, to a four-way stop and then about 400 or 500 yards into a wooded area. There, the suspect allegedly proceeded to rape the victim during a 45-minute to hour-long period. Afterward, the woman was allegedly forced to drive back on to I-20 and into Lee County. The suspect then reportedly left the victim on the side of the interstate and drove off. The victim walked to a nearby gas station and called 911.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office contacted Kershaw County deputies since the incident took place here and the victim was taken to KershawHealth in Camden.

Information given during Friday’s hearing revealed that the victim’s cell phone was left in her car and that the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division tracked the car using it. Around 3:50 p.m. the next day, Oct. 6, 2011, deputies found Graham in a wooded area where the victim’s car was located.

Graham still contends it was not him who committed the rape. Dereig said they believe the victim experienced the “horrible things” she said she did, but just not that Graham committed the crime.

The defense claims that the prosecutor’s case is more fact- and situational-based rather than evidence-based. Dereig said none of Graham’s prints match any of the prints found inside or outside the victim’s vehicle and there has been no official DNA report.

A DNA report goes through two phases. Dereig said the first phase of the DNA report was taken in November 2011; the second phase just two days before Friday’s bond hearing. According to information given during Friday’s hearing, the preliminary report shows that Graham’s DNA does not match that found on the victim. The only evidence provided in court linking Graham to the vehicle and the victim was found on a cigarette butt found in the vehicle. In July 2012, DNA found on the victim also came back as matching someone other than Graham. The defense asked why the second phase of the DNA report has occurred so late in the case.

Dereig said Graham gave fingerprints twice before refusing to do so a third time after talking to his lawyer. Solicitors at Friday’s hearing said that they wanted “major” prints, which includes the palms and fingers. They said the only prints they received were fingerprints taken during Graham’s initial booking in 2011. Dereig said he didn’t think the prosecution should get another chance just because they messed up before.

Benjamin ordered that Graham’s major prints be taken Friday.

Dereig said the defense believes Graham was arrested because he matched the victim’s general description of her attacker and that he was found in the wooded area where the victim’s car was located. The victim said there is no doubt in her mind that it was Graham who raped her. However, Dereig said that Friday’s hearing wsa the first time, to their knowledge, that the victim said she identified him, specifically.

“Franklin Graham looks forward to being able to prove his innocence,” Dereig said.

The solicitor’s office did not return calls seeking comment before deadline.

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