Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawyer Says ‘Grim Sleeper’ DNA & Gun Evidence Flawed

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The attorney defending accused Grim Sleeper serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. said Monday that DNA from other men was found on several victims and that crime lab analysis of clothing and bodily fluids did not match his client's profile.

Prosecutors rested their case against Franklin, 63, last week. They are seeking the death penalty on charges accusing Franklin of murdering nine women and a 15-year-old girl during a period that began in the mid-1980s.

The former mechanic and Los Angeles Police Department garage attendant has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Several of the victims were sex workers. Prosecutors say Franklin prowled the streets during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, killing seven women during a first period that ended in 1988. The young black women were found strangled and/or shot and were dumped in garbage cans and alleys.

Franklin is accused of killing three more women between 2002 and 2007.

Criminal defense attorney Seymour Amster focused on authorities' DNA evidence during his opening statement but also called into question the method used to determine that the killer had used the same .25 caliber semiautomatic pistol to shoot victims.

Directly facing the jurors at a lectern, Amster said a crime lab had excluded Franklin as the source of DNA on the bodies and clothing of the victims but found the DNA of other men.

The attorney discussed samples taken from Princess Berthomieux, Barbara Ware, Bernita Sparks, Lachrica Jefferson, Alicia Alexander, Valerie McCorvey and the last known victim, Janecia Peters.

Amster cited multiple instances where the DNA of other men were found in semen samples taken from some victims but said that Franklin either wasn't a contributor or the results were inconclusive.

He also claimed that none of Franklin's DNA was found on the clothing of Enietra Washington. Washington is the only verified survivor of the accused killer.

Washington has testified that she survived an attack and sexual assault after Franklin allegedly picked her up in an orange Pinto in 1988, shot her in the chest and pushed her out of his car. Franklin has also been charged with her attempted murder.

But Amster cast doubt on the veracity of the star witness' testimony, claiming that a woman had heard Washington say that "'they'" raped her.

Firearms experts have testified during the trial that they were able to match bullets to a gun by analyzing tool marks on a bullet after it is fired. Because machine tools used to manufacture firearms leave unique grooves on the barrel, experts said they can determine if bullets were fired from the same gun.

But Amster told jurors that the method is unreliable.

"The defense will be disputing firearm tool-mark analysis," Amster said.

Jurors returned to the courtroom after a two-day break. But before they walked into the courtroom it appeared that there might not be any opening argument at all.

Amster had threatened to rest the defense's case after Judge Kathleen Kennedy ordered the attorney to refile a request for evidence from the Los Angeles Police Department. Amster asked for the appointment of an LAPD robbery-homicide detective Daryn Dupree as a custodian of record so the defense could establish a chain of custody for DNA evidence and other items of evidence.

The attorney grew visibly angry after the judge told him that a subpoena for the evidence was too broad.

"I've never been more frustrated in my entire career than I am now," Amster said.

After Kennedy quashed the subpoena, Amster became apoplectic, telling the judge that he could not competently represent Franklin and that his client's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial was being violated.

"We are resting!" Amster snapped.

"That's just a threat," prosecutor Beth Silverman told the court.

"It's not!" Amster shot back.

Amster eventually relented after Kennedy calmly explained that he only needed to narrow the subpoena.

"You do need to calm yourself down Mr. Amster," she said.

"Fine, your honor. We're not going to rest at this moment," Amster said.

After his opening statement, Amster called his first witness, former LAPD officer Richard Tamez, who interviewed Washington at UCLA-Harbor Medical Center after her alleged attack.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.