Trial proceedings for alleged “Grim Sleeper” defendant Lonnie David Franklin Jr. accelerated this past Thursday when Superior Court Judge Patricia M. Schnegg unsealed an indictment from the Los Angeles County Grand Jury.
This, in turn, paved the way for Franklin’s arraignment, where he was formally charged with the murders of at least 11 victims, most them young Black women, over a 20-year period, from 1985 to 2007. A twelfth victim survived after being raped and shot in November of 1988.
Franklin had been awaiting a hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to require him to stand trial. Sandy Gibbons, press officer for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, explained briefly what an indictment involves.
An indictment may be sealed for a variety of reasons and eliminates the need for a hearing. It also smoothes the way for the district attorney to go on with the criminal proceedings. The prosecution can now continue with legal action, including the decision to seek the death penalty.
Prosecution will be a collaboration between Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman of the Major Crimes Division and Deputy District Attorney Marguerite Rizzo of the Family Violence Division.
The indictment was reportedly delayed by Franklin’s attorney Louisa Belle Pensanti’s request (working pro bono) for more time to prepare a defense. During the pursuit of this indictment, some 40 witnesses testified over six days to help the court determine whether Franklin deserved to stand trial.
Franklin was initially apprehended and arrested on July 7, the culmination of a massive investigation that hinged upon the still-contentious forensic method of familial DNA testing.
Despite the controversy around this new technology, the procedure is touted by scientific and public officials, including newly elected State Attorney General Kamala Harris as a breakthrough in the annals of crime resolution.
Most recently, familial DNA testing, which involves comparing a suspect’s genetic material with that of relatives within the California convicted felon database, was used in the apprehension of Elvis Lorenzo Garcia on March 11, in a sexual assault case in the coastal community of Santa Cruz.
Garcia was linked via a match with his father, while Franklin was implicated through the DNA of his son.