Testimony wrapped up Tuesday in the penalty phase of trial for the man convicted of the “Grim Sleeper” serial killings, setting the stage for closing arguments as jurors are asked to recommend whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Lonnie David Franklin Jr.’s lead attorney, Seymour Amster, opted not to give an opening statement as the defense began its portion of the case this morning, then called two witnesses before announcing that its case was complete.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you have heard all of the evidence in this case …,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy said.
She told the seven-woman, five-man jury that it would receive jury instructions and hear closing arguments Thursday, and that it would then most likely begin its deliberations late that day. The trial will not be in session Wednesday.
Franklin, a 63-year-old former city garage attendant and sanitation worker, was convicted May 5 of 10 counts of first-degree murder for the killings of nine women and a 15-year-old girl between 1985 and 2007.
Jurors also found Franklin guilty of the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, who survived being shot in the chest and pushed out of a moving vehicle in November 1988. In testimony Feb. 25, she identified Franklin as her assailant.
During the trial’s latest phase, the defense’s fingerprint identification expert, Kurt E. Kuhn, agreed that Franklin’s left thumbprint matched the fingerprint found on the magazine of a firearm found at Franklin’s property. The prosecution contends the weapon was used in December 2000 to kill Georgia Mae Thomas — one of the victims of a series of other killings in which Franklin is suspected.
When asked by Amster if he could determine if all others universally could be excluded as a source of the fingerprint, Kuhn responded that he could not.
The judge asked the witness, “Your science has never found two individuals with the same print?”
“Not as of yet,” the defense’s expert responded.
Jurors also heard from a former Los Angeles police detective-turned- private investigator Timothy Williams Jr., who was called by the defense to discuss a 911 call made involving the August 1988 killing of Inez Warren — another of the killings in which Franklin is suspected but has not been charged. He said his review of the police reports indicated that the 911 caller reported that some guys pushed her out of the vehicle, but told jurors under cross-examination that he was not asked to review the tape of the 911 call itself and had no way of knowing if the 911 caller was providing truthful information to authorities.
Along with the fingerprint evidence put on during the prosecution’s portion of the trial’s penalty phase, jurors heard from an LAPD criminalist who testified that two guns found on Franklin’s property were linked to bullets taken from the bodies of three women, including one gun that was linked to the killing of Janecia Peters — one of the women Franklin was convicted of murdering — and the January 1984 killing of Sharon Dismuke — a killing in which Franklin is suspected.
The other gun seized at Franklin’s property was determined to have been the weapon that was used to kill Thomas, the criminalist testified.
Jurors also heard from the murder victims’ relatives, who gave emotional testimony about the impact the killings have had on them and their families.
The jury also heard testimony about a gang-rape the prosecution contends Franklin was linked to while he was serving in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1974.
The rape victim — who was not asked if she could identify Franklin in court — told jurors last week that one of the three men held a knife to her throat after she was pulled inside a vehicle and that she was driven to a field about 30 minutes away.
Speaking through a German interpreter, she said she was in fear for her life and was raped by all three men in an ordeal that she said took “the rest of the night.”
Another prosecution witness, Frank J. Pyle Jr., testified that he attended the trial of Franklin and two other men in Germany.
“I was there each of those eight days along with my interpreter,” Pyle said of his work with the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps branch.
In his closing argument in the trial’s guilt phase, Franklin’s lead attorney contended that an unknown assailant may have been responsible for the 10 killings for which Franklin was prosecuted.
The prosecutor countered that there was no evidence to support the defendant’s theory and told jurors that “the only DNA profile that repeats itself again and again is the defendant’s.”
Jurors deliberated about 1 1/2 days before finding Franklin guilty of the killings, which occurred between 1985 and 1988 and 2002 and 2007, with the assailant dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because of what was believed to be a 13- year break in the killings.
Franklin was convicted of killing:
— Debra Jackson, 29, found dead from three gunshot wounds to the chest in an alley on Aug. 10, 1985;
— Henrietta Wright, a 34-year-old mother of five who was shot twice in the chest and found in an alley with a cloth gag stuffed in her mouth on Aug. 12, 1986;
— Barbara Ware, 23, shot once in the chest and found under a pile of debris and garbage in an alley on Jan. 10, 1987;
— Bernita Sparks, 26, shot once in the chest and found in a trash bin with her shirt and pants unbuttoned on April 16, 1987;
— Mary Lowe, 26, shot in the chest and found in an alley with her pants unzipped behind a large shrub on Nov. 1, 1987;
— Lachrica Jefferson, 22, found dead from two gunshot wounds to the chest — with a napkin over her face with the handwritten word “AIDS” on it — in an alley on Jan. 30, 1988;
— Alicia Alexander, 18, killed by a gunshot wound to the chest and found naked under a blue foam mattress in an alley on Sept. 11, 1988;
— Princess Berthomieux, 15, strangled and discovered naked and hidden in shrubbery in an alley in Inglewood on March 9, 2002;
— Valerie McCorvey, 35, strangled and found dead with her clothes pulled down at the entrance to a locked alley on July 11, 2003; and
— Janecia Peters, 25, shot in the back and found naked inside a sealed plastic trash bag in a trash bin in an alley on Jan. 1, 2007.
Franklin has remained jailed without bail since his arrest in July 2010 by LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division detectives.
—City News Service
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