LOS ANGELES An ex-sanitation worker found guilty of committing 10 Los Angeles murders three decades ago as the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer was due in court on Wednesday for a judge to decide whether he should receive the death penalty or life in prison.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury in June recommended the death sentence for Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, a month after convicting him on 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
But it is up to Judge Kathleen Kennedy to decide whether to formally uphold the jury’s preference or sentence Franklin to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Even if Kennedy chooses capital punishment, Franklin is unlikely to face execution any time soon. The last person put to death in California was Clarence Ray Allen in 2006, for the murders of three people 25 years earlier.
Soon afterward, the state’s system of administering capital punishment ground to a halt over a court ruling that outlawed its lethal injection protocols, leaving the ranks of California’s death row to swell to more than 700 inmates.
Franklin was convicted of shooting seven women to death from August 1985 to September 1988, then strangling a 15-year-old girl, and strangling or shooting two other women in a second round of killings between March 2002 and January 2007.
Franklin was dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because he seemed to have taken a 13-year break between the two spates of murders.
He also was found guilty of attacking an 11th victim, who survived being shot, raped, pushed out of a car and left for dead in 1988. She testified against Franklin at his trial.
Prosecutors said Franklin stalked the streets of South Los Angeles as he preyed on prostitutes and drug addicts in a crime spree beginning 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.
Franklin did not testify in his own defense. During the trial, his attorneys sought to raise doubts about DNA evidence and suggested another “mystery man” was behind the killings.
Authorities said after Franklin’s 2011 indictment that they had evidence tying him to several more unsolved slayings, some of which occurred during the presumed lapse in killings.
Prosecutors in the penalty phase of the trial were permitted to present testimony about four such cases.
(Writing and reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Richard Chang)