An attorney assisting in the defense of the man charged in the “Grim Sleeper” killings of nine women and a teenage girl was suspended Monday by the State Bar, threatening to further delay the trial set for Dec. 15.
Defense attorney Louisa Pensanti is no longer eligible to practice law in California because she has not passed an ethics exam that she was ordered to take following earlier professional misconduct, according to the State Bar of California’s website.
Seymour Amster, the lead defense attorney for Lonnie Franklin, a 63-year- old former city employee charged with the “Grim Sleeper” murders, said he would seek a stay allowing Pensanti to continue with the trial.
However, neither Amster nor Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy thought a stay was likely to be granted.
“They’ve given her a lot of continuances and they’re probably done,” Kennedy said of the bar association.
Pensanti was ordered on May 16, 2013, to take the Professional Responsibility Exam and then granted an extension of time in December of last year, according to State Bar records.
Pensanti had been given a year of probation and a stay of a one-year suspension after stipulating to three counts of professional misconduct: failing to perform legal services with competence, failing to promptly return unearned fees and appearing for a party without authority.
In one case, Pensanti failed to file an opening brief in an appeal, which led to a dismissal of the appeal, according to a summary of the matter by the bar association.
Her suspension may leave Amster looking for a new second chair on the long-delayed and complicated “Grim Sleeper” case.
Hundreds of witnesses are expected to be called, and the attorneys are still wrangling over which of many experts will be allowed to testify.
Last week, Kennedy denied a request by the defense to present evidence at trial suggesting that 20 other people, including an already convicted serial killer, might be responsible for the crimes. The judge criticized a defense expert’s analysis seeking to tie that DNA to the crime scenes as unscientific.
The parties are expected to return Friday to update the court on the status of the defense team.
Franklin is charged with the murders of nine women — who were mostly in their 20s — and a 15-year-old girl. The victims’ bodies were dumped in alleys and trash bins in and around South Los Angeles, Inglewood and unincorporated county areas. He is also charged with the attempted murder of another woman.
The killings occurred between 1985 and 1988, and 2002 and 2007, with the assailant dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because of the roughly 13-year break between killing sprees.
Detectives have said they are also investigating whether Franklin might be connected to the disappearances or deaths of eight other women whose photos were found in his home near 81st Street and Harvard Boulevard.
— Wire reports