Jurors recommend the death penalty this week for the South Los Angeles man convicted of the “Grim Sleeper” killings of nine women and a teenage girl.
Lonnie David 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 him 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.
The same jury deliberated for about five hours over the course of two days before recommending yesterday that Franklin, a former city garage attendant and sanitation worker, be sentenced to death.
On June 3, defense attorney Dale R. Atherton urged the seven-woman, five-man panel to recommend life in prison without the possibility of parole for Lonnie David Franklin Jr., saying a death sentence would delay the healing process for the victims’ families.
“I want you to know if you vote for death, that’s fine … It’s a fair and just verdict. But my point to you today is that there is a better way,” Atherton told the jury.
In her closing argument June 2 in the trial’s penalty phase, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said Franklin “deserves to pay the ultimate penalty” for his crimes.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy turned the case over to the jury shortly after 10:15 a.m. June 3, and the panel went home about 3:30 p.m. The jurors resumed deliberations at about 9:15 Monday morning.
Atherton told jurors that he believed there was “serious lingering doubt,” and called into question Washington’s identification of Franklin as her assailant, saying she was not “tested” on her ability to identify him in a photo line-up containing other men.
“Are you going to execute a man on her testimony, on the testimony of Enietra Washington?” Atherton asked jurors.
He argued during Franklin’s trial that an unknown assailant may have been responsible for the 10 killings for which Franklin was prosecuted. He told jurors that advances in DNA and ballistics testing in the future could point to another suspect and questioned how they would feel if they had recommended a death sentence for Franklin.
“Life is the better way,” he said. “Death is absolute. You can’t go back and fix it.”
Anticipating the defense’s argument about an unknown assailant rather than Franklin being responsible for the killings, the prosecutor told jurors in her closing argument that Franklin “acted alone” and that his DNA profile is “the only DNA profile that repeats over and over.”
Silverman called the defendant a “sexual predator” and “career criminal” who committed crimes dating back to the 1974 kidnapping and gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in Germany while he was “in the military representing us.”
“He’s a prolific serial killer and he’s evil,” she said, telling jurors that there was “a long line of victims behind him.”
“You can either give mercy to him — the serial killer — or you can impose justice,” the prosecutor said. “Death is the only just punishment for this defendant … the 14 lives he stole.”
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.
The jury, which heard about 2 1/2 weeks of testimony during the trial’s penalty phase, deliberated about 1 1/2 days before finding Franklin guilty of the killings, which occurred between 1985 and 1988 and 2002 and 2007. The assailant was dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because of what was believed to be a 13-year break in the murders.
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.