Any more punishment for convicted killer?

Inmate accused of killing officer could face death penalty

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Inmate Richard Franklin and Sgt. Ruben Thomas

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Convicted murderer Richard Franklin is already serving a life sentence and is now accused of killing a correctional officer at the Columbia Correctional Institution near Lake City.

So what more punishment can a man already serving life in prison receive?

Attorney Richard Kuritz said whether someone is in prison or not, everyone has a right to trial.

Kuritz said that with so many unanswered questions about what happened late Sunday night when Sgt. Ruben Thomas was stabbed to death, two key factors will determine how Franklin will be tried.

"If we find out that he was actually planning this and had been contemplating this over a period of time, had him come in and sabotage, attacked him and killed him, absolutely that's going to be the direction of the death penalty," Kuritz said.

He said that with Franklin's prior convictions, he's a prime candidate for the death penalty, if convicted of killing Thomas. Kuritz said it's most likely this case will go to trial.

As for the Columbia Correctional Institution, it has 2,885 inmates, including 1,256 in the unit where Thomas worked. With the Department of Corrections shutting down 11 prisons, an unknown number of inmates will be transferred to the facility.

DOC officials said the prison has 309 corrections officers and said it is adequately staffed.

A viewing for Thomas will be held from 5-8 p.m. Thursday at Dees Parish Chapel, located at 458 S. Marion Ave. in Lake City. His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Christ Central Ministries in Lake City.

Corrections officers speak about dangers of job

The death of a corrections officer on the job has other current and former correctional officers speaking out about the dangers of the job.

"Inmates are real unpredictable," said David Haskett, a recently retired corrections sergeant for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. "The family who just lost the sergeant who was killed just the other day, it just reminds you of how dangerous the job is inside the prisons in this country."

Haskett and about 30 JSO retirees were honored at a ceremony Tuesday. Several of those honored, like Haskett, were corrections officers.

Haskett served for about 30 years and said there have been many changes since his first day on the job.

"When I started when I was 19, you pretty much went to the jail and they handed you some keys and pointed to a wing and said, 'There you go,'" Haskett said.

Although conditions have improved, Haskett said the dangers still exist, and that's what the officers train for.

"With 30 years, you figure I spent a third of my life in jail and never did a crime," Haskett said.

Officers like Haskett said even though they spent a lot of their life in jail, it was time well-served.

"Our correctional personnel is one of the reasons we sleep safe at night," said Jimmy Holderfield, director of the Department of Corrections for JSO. "We're looking at better ways of doing things, but officer safety is the No. 1 priority."

Holderfield said he is not surprised an inmate is accused of easily making a weapon and attacking an officer. He said to prevent those attacks, JSO corrections officers search jail cells daily.

"I can assure you and our community that our staffing is maintained to ensure officer safety and inmate safety," Holderfield said.

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