The former Los Angeles sanitation worker convicted of murdering nine women and a teenage girl in the “Grim Sleeper” killings returned to court on Thursday for the penalty phase of his trial as prosecutors began making a case that he deserves to be executed.
The penalty proceedings in the trial of Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, are expected to last about a month, at the end of which jurors will recommend whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A week ago, the same jury found Franklin guilty on all 10 counts of first-degree murder with which he was charged.
He also was convicted of attempted murder for an attack on an 11th victim who survived being shot in the chest, raped and left for dead in 1988.
Prosecutors said Franklin stalked the streets of South Los Angeles as he preyed on prostitutes and drug addicts in a crime spree dating back 30 years to the mid-1980s, at the height of a crack cocaine epidemic that gripped the area.
His victims’ nude or partially clothed bodies were found dumped in alleys and trash bins. Pictures of some victims were discovered in a collection of 180 photos recovered from his home, police said.
An apparent 13-year lapse between two spates of murders he was charged with committing earned the killer the “Grim Sleeper” moniker. But since Franklin’s 2011 indictment, police said they had linked him to several more unsolved slayings, some from the previously presumed lull in killings.
While Franklin was not charged with those additional slayings, prosecutors in the penalty phase were permitted to present testimony about five such cases, including two in which no bodies were ever found.
In her opening statement on Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman for the first time also revealed to jurors that Franklin was convicted in Germany for his role in a gang rape while he was in the Army during the 1970s.
Franklin has not testified in his own defense. During the trial, his attorney sought to raise doubts about DNA evidence and suggested another “mystery man” was behind the killings.
In addition to evidence about additional killings, prosecutors in the penalty phase are expected to call relatives of the victims to testify about the loss of their loved ones.
California has executed 13 people since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, the latest of which was in January 2006.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Rigby)
Source: Reuters US