Quarter Century Later, Conviction in James Hawkins’ Murder

James Hawkins was brutally murdered in his Chelsea apartment in 1993.

Nearly six years after he was arrested in the case, a Manhattan jury convicted Gordon Francis on a single count of second-degree murder in the 1993 killing of James Hawkins.

“Cold cases should never become forgotten cases,” Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said in a June 28 statement. “As forensic science accelerates forward, law enforcement has new opportunities to ensure that previously unresolved cases are examined with the same care and technology as newer cases. I thank our prosecutors and partners in law enforcement for their years-long commitment to obtain justice for Mr. Hawkins and his family.”

Hawkins, who was 54 at his death, had been stabbed 25 times in the brutal killing when he was found on August 15, 1993 in his fourth-floor apartment on West 20th Street. Francis, now 60, left a trail of his own blood down the stairs and on the inside of an inner door at the building’s entrance.

Gordon Francis’ claim third man was on scene rejected by jury in gay man’s slaying

With his blood and DNA found at the scene, Francis could not argue that he was not there. He took the stand in his own defense and testified that a third man entered the Chelsea apartment as he and Hawkins were smoking crack. That third man cut Francis’ hand, he said on the stand, and he then fled the apartment. Hawkins was alive when he left, Francis said.

In an effective cross-examination, Coleen Balbert — the assistant district who prosecuted the case along with Annie Siegel, also an assistant district attorney — showed that Francis had specific and detailed memories of what occurred on August 15, 1993, but could not recall much if anything at all about his relationship with Hawkins before the murder or what took place following the murder. Francis testified that he was a male escort in 1993 and Hawkins was a regular client.

Jurors heard testimony from a Rikers Island inmate who said that Francis confessed to the killing and from a neighbor who heard the struggle in Hawkins’ apartment and then heard one person exit the building. Only Francis’ and Hawkins’ blood was found at the scene.

Francis made statements to police following his 2012 arrest and to his wife in a phone call that could be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Prosecutors also presented testimony from seven experts.

In 1993, Francis did seek medical attention for his hand, but in the Bronx where he lived. He did not go to the 10th precinct, which is directly across the street from Hawkins’ building, after being attacked. In 1993, Francis was told by a friend days after the killing that Hawkins had been murdered and he did not go to police then.

“I don’t like investigations or the police or snitching,” he said when cross-examined. Francis insisted that police and the prosecutor were conspiring against him with the Rikers Island inmate.

Francis first trial in 2014 ended in a mistrial. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 18. He faces a maximum sentence of 25-to-life in prison.