LOS ANGELES – Overwhelming DNA and firearms evidence speaks for the 10 women who were silenced by the "Grim Sleeper," a serial killer who menaced the south side of Los Angeles for many years, a prosecutor told jurors on Monday.
That evidence points directly at Lonnie Franklin Jr., Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said in closing arguments, a man she said took advantage of some of society's most vulnerable people — black women addicted to crack cocaine — and treated them like garbage.
Franklin, 63, faces the death penalty if convicted of killing nine women and a 15-year-old girl between 1985 and 2007. All were shot or strangled, and their bodies were dumped in alleys and trash bins. He's also charged with the attempted murder of a woman who survived a gunshot and got away.
Franklin has pleaded not guilty, and his defense lawyer has challenged the DNA and ballistics evidence.
The killings in South Los Angeles were dubbed the work of the "Grim Sleeper" because of a 14-year break between 1985 and 2007, though prosecutors believe his violence never ceased.
Perhaps the most riveting witness was the only woman known to have survived the serial killings. She described being shot in the chest and sexually assaulted after a man picked her up in 1988. She recalled her attacker taking a Polaroid picture of her bleeding body before pushing her out of his car.
When Franklin was finally arrested 22 years later, the same photograph — showing the wounded woman slouched over in a car — was one of many pictures found in his possession, prosecutors said.
Franklin was connected to all ten victims named in this trial through either ballistics or DNA evidence, prosecutors said.
Many were prostitutes; others used cocaine. Franklin targeted women who were "willing to sell their bodies and their souls in order to gratify their dependency on this powerful drug," Silverman said.
Before his arrest, a police officer posed as a pizza parlor busboy to collect DNA samples from dishes and utensils Franklin used at a birthday party.
Defense attorney Seymour Amster told jurors that many victims had DNA from more than one man on their bodies, and that more than 20 DNA tests excluded his client.
Both Silverman and Amster acknowledged disliking each other, at times arguing heatedly with each other while jurors were out of earshot.
Amster even yelled at Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy after she ruled that he would have to refile a subpoena.
"I am now going to rest. We have no defense," Amster declared, prompting gasps in the courtroom. "I cannot represent this man any further." However, he continued on with the case.
Authorities dubbed this serial killer the "Grim Sleeper" because the killings stopped from 1988 to 2002. Dozens of police officers had failed to solve the case in the 1980s, and the renewed killings prompted the creation of a special task force. Franklin was finally arrested in 2010.
The closing arguments began with prosecutors after the judge delivered jury instructions on Monday. The process could last two days.