Prosecutors Urge ‘Grim Sleeper’ Jurors to Throw the Book at Him

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — Ballistics and DNA evidence linking a man to the murders of nine women and a teenage girl is “overwhelming,” a prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments Monday in the “Grim Sleeper” serial murders trial.
     During a trial that began in Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy’s courtroom in February, jurors have heard evidence prosecutors say shows that former LAPD garage attendant Lonnie Franklin Jr. brutally murdered 10 young black women over 22 years.
     On Monday morning, after Kennedy delivered jury instructions, Beth Silverman described Franklin as a predator who targeted sex workers in South Central Los Angeles and discarded their bodies “like trash” in filthy alleys and dumpsters.
     “Ten young women, all of them cruelly murdered by that man, the defendant, Lonnie Franklin,” Silverman told the jurors.
     Silverman said that women working in South Central Los Angeles had to be tough to survive and that if they put up a fight Franklin murdered them.
     “If they were not submissive enough, they were shot and killed,” said Silverman.
     Ballistics evidence suggests that the killer shot his victims, and Silverman said the trajectory of bullets led investigators to conclude that Franklin had killed victims in the passenger seats of vehicles.
     In 2010, officers tailed Franklin and observed him leaving his home late at night and driving up and down Western Avenue, a location frequented by sex workers, the prosecutor said.
     “His intent to kill could not be any more unambiguous, especially as he did it over and over and over and over again,” Silverman said.
     His victims were young and vulnerable, Silverman said, and Franklin lured them into his car with promises of alcohol and drugs. If the bullet he fired at close range to the chest did not end his victim’s life, Silverman said, Franklin strangled them.
     “That means that he watched as they were struggling to breathe, as they gasped for air,” Silverman said.
     Franklin has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the death penalty case.
     His defense team has poked holes in the evidence, noting that DNA of other men was found on the victims’ bodies. They also put on an expert witness who claimed that the longstanding methods used to match bullets to the same undiscovered .25 pistol allegedly used to shoot eight victims are unreliable.
     But Silverman said expert testimony had demonstrated that two-dimensional comparison microscopes used by examiners had been used for 100 years in murder cases and that each match in the Franklin case had been corroborated by more than one examiner.
     As gruesome crime scene and autopsy images of the 10 alleged victims were projected on the courtroom wall, Silverman said that time and time again investigators were able to match Franklin’s DNA to samples found on the victim’s body.
     “Most of his victims have been dead for 20 years. It’s time that justice is served,” Silverman said.
     But Franklin’s defense attorney Seymour Amster suggested that the case against his client was flimsy.
     “Is the People’s case a true pattern or is it just an illusion?” Amster asked jurors, once again pointing to DNA evidence of other men on the victims.
     Amster said that aside from the testimony of survivor Enietra Washington the evidence against Franklin was circumstantial. He said that while his client was “obsessed with sex” that did not “make him a murderer.”
     Franklin appeared in court dressed in a pale blue dress shirt and glasses.
     Authorities arrested and charged Franklin six years ago after a detective disguised as a busboy collected a half-eaten pizza, napkin and drinking glass from Franklin during a party at a John’s Incredible Pizza restaurant on July 5, 2010.
     DNA found on those items was used to link him to the victims.
     A search warrant for Franklin’s South Central residence uncovered 800 items of evidence, including $17,000 in cash and 10 firearms.
     Prosecutors say that a .25-caliber Titan pistol found at his house matched the bullet used to shoot and kill Franklin’s last known victim, Janecia Peters, who was killed on New Year’s Day 2007.
     During a police interview, detectives showed Franklin images of the deceased victims but he claimed he had not had any contact with them.
     In a video shown to the jury during the trial, Franklin was depicted laughing and making light of the photos of the dead women, calling one woman “fat” and another “butt-ugly.”
     Victims include 15-year-old Princess Berthomieux and 18-year-old Alicia Alexander, whose family has come to every court proceeding and has sat through the entire trial.
     A 12-member jury will decide the death penalty case.
     Amster will continue his closing argument on Tuesday morning.

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