Calling him “evil” and saying he preyed on women in his own community, a prosecutor urged jurors Thursday to recommend a death sentence for a former Los Angeles city employee convicted of killing nine women and a teenage girl.
In her final argument in the penalty trial of “Grim Sleeper” killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr., Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told the seven-woman, five-man jury that the he committed “horrific crimes of violence” and that “death is the only just punishment for this defendant.” “He’s a prolific serial killer and he’s evil,” the prosecutor said. “He terrorized his own community … He takes joy in inflicting pain and murdering women … His entire life has been about violence perpetrated against women.”
Defense attorney Dale R. Atherton will deliver his closing argument Friday, then Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy will give final instructions to jurors tasked with recommending capital punishment or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Franklin, 63, 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 penalty phase of the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that it contends links Franklin to four other killings: the January 1984 slaying of Sharon Dismuke, the August 1988 killing of Inez Warren, the December 2000 slaying of Georgia Thomas and the presumed killing of Rolenia Morris, a 31-year-old mother of two who “vanished under very mysterious circumstances” in September 2005, Silverman said. “Her identification and her picture were found in a serial killer’s stash or trophy chest, along with a disturbingly similar picture of another woman, Janecia Peters,” the prosecutor said, referring to one of the victims Franklin was convicted of murdering. “The same breast is even exposed.” The deputy district attorney argued that the two women “met with the same fate at the hands of the same man.” Franklin was also involved — along with two other men — in the kidnapping and gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in Germany while he was serving in the U.S. Army in 1974, Silverman alleged. “So, what did the defendant learn? Did he learn from his crimes in Germany?” the prosecutor asked, telling jurors that Franklin learned not to let a victim survive and testify against him or he would wind up in prison. “As you have heard, 14 young women and girls lost their lives due to the decisions and choices of the defendant,” the prosecutor said, calling the former city garage attendant and sanitation worker a “sexual predator” and a “career criminal” who has a “long line of victims behind him.”
Citing the enormity of his crimes, Silverman told jurors to “show the defendant the exact same mercy, the exact same compassion” that he showed to his victims. She called life in prison the “minimum sentence” and said “certainly the horror of the crimes in this case deserve more than the minimum sentence.”
The jury heard about 2 1/2 weeks of testimony during the trial’s penalty phase, including firearms and fingerprint evidence that the prosecution contends links Franklin to the killings in which he’s additionally suspected. The panel also heard from a series of the victims’ relatives.
The defense presented two witnesses during its portion of the penalty phase, but did not call any of Franklin’s family members.
A fingerprint identification expert agreed that Franklin’s left thumbprint matched the fingerprint found on the magazine of a firearm found at his property. The prosecution contends the weapon was used to kill Thomas. When asked if he could determine if all others universally could be excluded as a source of the fingerprint, Kuhn responded that he could not.
In his closing argument in the trial’s guilt phase, Franklin’s lead attorney, Seymour Amster, 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, who was arrested in July 2010, 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.
—Staff and wire reports
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