Los Angeles (AFP) – A garbage collector convicted of the “Grim Sleeper” killings that terrorized southern Los Angeles for more than two decades was sentenced to death on Wednesday.
Lonnie David Franklin, 63, had been convicted of 10 counts of first-degree murder for the killings of nine women and a 15-year-old girl between 1985 and 2007.
“It’s not vengeance, it’s justice, Mr. Franklin,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy told the serial killer before sentencing him to death for each count.
“There could never be a justification for what you’ve done. It’s obvious that you have a deep-seated hatred for women that started long ago.”
During Franklin’s three-month trial, which ended in May, the prosecution presented evidence it said linked him to the killings of another four women, although the authorities suspect he is behind dozens more murders.
After the sentencing, Franklin’s attorney Dale Atherton dismissed California’s death row system as “a joke” and voiced doubts over whether the punishment would ever be carried out.
“The case is far from over. I seriously doubt he’ll be executed — he’s already too old,” the lawyer told AFP.
Franklin committed crimes dating back to the 1974 kidnapping and gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in Germany while he was in the US military, the court heard.
He showed little emotion during the sentencing, staring straight ahead as victims’ relatives made statements to the court.
– ‘True piece of evil’ –
“I’d like to know why. What did (she) do to you?” asked the mother of Alicia Alexander, who was 18 when she was found naked under a mattress in an alley with gunshot wound to the chest.
Franklin turned and mouthed something inaudible, then turned back to stare ahead as she said she was thankful she had “lived to see this day.”
“I’m one of your living victims,” said Enietra Washington Margette, who gave evidence about surviving being shot by Franklin.
“I really think you are truly a piece of evil. You’re right up there with (Charles) Manson.”
Laura Moore, who was not called as a witness during the trial, told the judge she was at a bus stop in 1984 when Franklin convinced her to accept a ride.
“He shot me six times and started laughing at me,” she said.
“I just want to ask him why, why? I didn’t do anything to him.”
Franklin stalked the streets of South Los Angeles at a time when an epidemic of crack cocaine plagued the neighborhood, authorities say.
Several of his victims were prostitutes and drug addicts whom he shot or strangled, dumping their bodies in alleyways or trash bins. He raped some before killing them.
Prosecutors said Franklin took advantage of some of his victims’ addiction to crack, luring them to his backyard camper with money and drugs before killing them.
Investigators searching his home found nearly 200 pictures and videos of women, many of whom have not been identified.
Deputy district attorneys Beth Silverman and Marguerite Rizzo, pushing for the death penalty, pointed to the “staggering number of murders” in the case.
– Killing spree –
“He routinely manipulated others to achieve his goal: doing evil,” they said in a written submission.
Franklin earned the moniker “Grim Sleeper” because of a 13-year gap in the murders.
Although he was arrested in July 2010 after investigators connected his DNA to some of the victims, appeals and judicial wrangling repeatedly delayed efforts to bring him to trial.
The killing spree was the subject of a 2014 HBO documentary by British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, who claims the Los Angeles police failed to properly investigate because the victims were mainly drug addicts and prostitutes.
A defendant sentenced to death in California has a right to three lengthy and expensive stages of review, a complex appeals system and can petition the governor for clemency.
The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice reported in 2008 that the average time lapse between sentence pronouncement and execution was 17.2 years, attributing the majority of deaths among condemned prisoners to natural causes.
It pointed out, however, that the average could be misleading since only 13 people had been executed since the reinstatement of the penalty in 1978.
More than a decade has passed since California’s last execution. Clarence Ray Allen received a lethal injection in January 2006 after paying a fellow inmate to commit three murders.
Seymour Amster, Franklin’s lead defense attorney, said in a statement a life sentence without parole would have “saved millions of dollars from being spent in the often futile pursuit of eradicating a life from this earth.” [/restrict]