‘Grim Sleeper’ Prosecutor Chips Away at Bullet Expert

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — An LA county prosecutor on Wednesday questioned the credibility of an expert witness in the trial of the accused Grim Sleeper serial killer, pressing the witness on why the advanced technologies he promotes have not been embraced by crime labs.
     County prosecutor Beth Silverman continued her cross-examination of defense witness David Lamagna during the morning’s proceedings after he told jurors Tuesday that he believes the method used to examine bullet evidence in the case is unreliable.
     Lamagna was given two days in the jury room to examine bullet evidence but told the court that he quickly realized that under those conditions he could not conduct a thorough enough examination. He was instead limited to cataloging the evidence for the defense, providing notations and writing a report, he testified.
     Prosecutors have charged former garage attendant Lonnie Franklin Jr. with ten counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
     During the trial, which began in Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy’s courtroom in February, Silverman has told jurors that Franklin killed young black women over a period that began in the mid-1980s. Prosecutors believe Franklin’s last victim was killed in 2007.
     The prosecution has repeatedly pointed jurors to evidence matching bullets in seven victims with the same .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun.
     But Lamagna told defense attorney Seymour Amster on Tuesday that firearm examiners in the case had relied on two-dimensional comparison microscopes to analyze the unique tool marks left on bullets. More advanced technologies for tool mark analysis have been available for decades, he testified.
     Lamagna was critical of firearm examiners for not using 3-D microscopes and 3-D mapping that would allow them to look at bullets and barrels in finer detail.
     But during cross-examination Wednesday morning, it was Silverman’s turn to scrutinize Lamagna’s methods and credentials.
     Silverman asked Lamagna if the use of 3-D microscopes had been validated by anyone in the forensic science community, challenging him to name one peer-reviewed study that supported the method.
     “I can’t name one off the top of my head,” Lamagna said.
     Silverman wondered if Lamagna was stumped because no study had validated his methods.
     But Lamagna said more than once that a “tool mark is a tool mark” and that the technology he was encouraging law enforcement to use had been used by engineers since the 1930s.
     “I am promoting technology that has been widely accepted in the other scientific disciplines for decades,” Lamagna told Silverman.
     Lamagna acknowledged that he had never tested the methodology he espoused at a crime scene or in the field because it costs thousands of dollars to rent the equipment he would need.
     He is the owner of American Forensic Technologies, which according to his LinkedIn page provides “forensic review and analysis of evidence in civil and criminal cases” as well as field investigations.
     Franklin’s alleged victims were often sex workers, and prosecutors say he prowled the streets during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic.
     The Grim Sleeper earned the nickname because of a possible fallow period during the late 1980s and 1990s – though it’s believed that the alleged killer may have murdered many more women.
     The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday at the Clara Shortridge Foltz criminal courthouse.

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