Jurors Mull Death Penalty For ‘Grim Sleeper’ Killer
Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 – 11:14 AM
Jurors being asked to recommend whether the man convicted of the “Grim Sleeper” serial killings should be sentenced to death or life in prison will begin hearing the defense’s side of the case today.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy told jurors on Thursday last week that the defense’s portion of the penalty phase of Lonnie David Franklin Jr.’s trial may be finished by this coming Thursday. The case is not expected to be in session tomorrow.
The judge told the panel that she expected attorneys to give their closing arguments Thursday, with the jury expected to begin its deliberations either late Thursday or early Friday.
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, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told jurors that Franklin is also suspected in a series of other killings that jurors did not hear about during the first phase of his trial. Franklin was also linked to the gang-rape of a 17-year-old girl while he was serving in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1974, the prosecutor said.
The woman — 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,” prompting at least one person in the courtroom audience to gasp, “Oh, my God.”
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.
The witness noted that he had watched the woman’s testimony and that he had seen Franklin testify in his own defense.
Prosecutors wrapped up their portion of the penalty phase the same way they opened their case — with the murder victims’ relatives offering emotional testimony about the impact the killings have had on them and their families.
Barbara Ware’s older brother, Billy, told jurors that he was shocked when he heard the news that his “baby sister” had died nearly 20 years ago and that he finally felt he might get some closure after he heard about Franklin’s arrest.
“The pain is still there … the pain always will be there,” he said of his sister’s killing.
Like some of the other victims’ relatives, he said he believed his sister “trusted people a little more than she should have.”
At the start of the trial’s penalty phase, Franklin’s lead attorney, Seymour Amster, said he wanted to reserve his opening statement. In his closing argument in the trial’s guilt phase, 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 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.