Jury to Decide Fate of ‘Grim Sleeper’ Killer

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A state court jury will decide whether the convicted “Grim Sleeper” serial killer should be executed for the murder of at least 10 victims after attorneys began closing arguments on Thursday.
     On May 5, a jury found 63-year-old defendant Lonnie Franklin Jr. guilty of the first-degree murders of nine women and 15-year-old Princess Berthomieux. They also found him guilty of the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, who Franklin shot, sexually assaulted and pushed out of a Ford Pinto in 1988.
     During the penalty phase of the case in Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy’s courtroom, prosecutors have presented evidence of the deaths of 43-year-old Georgia Mae Thomas, 21-year-old Sharon Dismuke and Inez Warren, 28, for which Franklin has not been charged.
     A search of Franklin’s South L.A. residence in 2010 uncovered hundreds of items of evidence including Polaroid images of his victims and a Titan pistol that Franklin used to kill Janecia Peters.
     During the penalty phase, prosecutors have introduced evidence of a second Titan that they say was used to kill Thomas.
     Identification cards for 18-year-old Ayellah Marshall and Rolenia Morris, 29, were found after a search of Franklin’s garage, the court has heard. Prosecutors say they have not been able to locate the two women’s whereabouts.
     Last week, the court also heard the testimony of Franklin’s first known victim, a woman who testified that Franklin was part of a group of men who raped her in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1974, where Franklin was serving in the U.S. Army.
     On Tuesday, Franklin’s attorney Seymour Amster waived his opening statement. He called to the stand fingerprint expert Kurt Kuhn, who had compared Franklin’s print to latent fingerprint impressions left on the Titan semiautomatic pistol used to kill Thomas, and on handgun magazines.
     Kuhn said he was able to conclude that defendant’s fingerprints were the source of latent impressions found on the magazines, though not to the “exclusion” of all others.
     As clarified by prosecutor Marguerite Rizzo on Tuesday, though examiners believe that no two fingerprints are alike, scientists have asserted that an examiner can only be 100 percent certain of a match by checking latent fingerprints against the fingerprints of everybody in the world.
     Kennedy asked Kuhn if he had ever found two fingerprints from two individuals that were the same.
     Kuhn said no, but joked that he would be out of business if he ever did. To truly exclude everyone, he said, you would not only have to undertake the task of checking the fingerprints of everyone alive but also everyone who has died.
     Franklin did not testify during the guilt or penalty phases of the trial.
     The former trash collector and LAPD garage attendant stalked vulnerable young black women in south L.A., targeting sex workers and luring women into his car with promises of drugs and alcohol.
     His modus operandi was to shoot his victims at close range in the chest or strangle them, and sometimes both. He then dumped their bodies in filthy alleyways, sometimes without bothering to conceal them. His victims were found naked or in various states of undress and sometimes partially decomposed.
     He earned the nickname the Grim Sleeper because of a supposed 13-year fallow period between the late 1980s and early 2000s. But authorities believe he may never have taken a break from killing at all – potentially making him one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.
     Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Barbara Ware, Sparks, Mary Lowe, Lachrica Jefferson and Alicia Alexander were killed in a period that began in 1985 and ended in 1988.
     Berthomieux, Valerie McCorvey and Peters were killed during the second period, from 2002 to 2007.
     Amster was to make his closing argument on Thursday afternoon. Jurors will then deliberate to decide whether Franklin should face the death penalty or life without parole.

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