Tag Archives: grim sleeper murder trial

Conviction Reversed Because Defense Expert Not Allowed to Testify

Ballistics Expert Witness Testifies in LA Grim Sleeper Trial

A LAPD police ballistics expert witness defended his research methodology in the trial of Lonnie Franklin Jr., the suspected Grim Sleeper serial killer.  The high profile murder trial continues into its fourth week with prosecutors calling expert witnesses to build their case against Franklin, who has been accused of carrying out 10 murders in the LA area.

Grim Sleeper Murder Trial Continues in LA

Lonnie Franklin Jr. was arrested in July of 2010 in Los Angeles for the alleged murder of 10 women and assault on one woman who survived the attack after DNA evidence linked him to a series of murders in the 1980’s and the early 2000’s.  Franklin, 63, has pleaded not guilty to the crimes, and prosecutors have built their case on eyewitness testimony from the surviving victim, DNA evidence from the crime scene, a photo of a victim that Franklin had, and expert witness analysis of bullet wounds which were allegedly caused by a weapon similar to the one in Franklin’s possession.

The gun allegedly used to commit one of the crimes has become a key piece of evidence against Franklin and was found inside a dresser drawer in his home following his arrest.  During a three day search of Franklin’s home police investigators found 9 guns, but the one in question has become central to the trial because it was allegedly used to kill 25-year-old Janecia Peters, who police believe to be the last of the Grim Sleeper victims.  With the weapon linked to Peters in hand, prosecutors called a forensic weapon expert witness to conduct further investigation into the caliber of gun used in a collection of other murders connected to the Grim Sleeper serial killer.

LAPD Ballistics Expert Witness Testifies in Grim Sleeper Trial

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman called Daniel Rubin, a LAPD criminalist expert witness, to link the same caliber gun as the one found in Lonnie Franklin Jr.’s home to a series of Grim Sleeper killings.  Rubin testified in court that Franklin’s gun killed Peters, and that the same caliber of weapon was used in seven other Grim Sleeper crimes.  According to Rubin’s expert ballistics analysis, the gun used in the other crimes left a unique signature on the bullets, and, like Franklin’s gun, was a .25-caliber semi-automatic hand gun.  Attorney Silverman used Rubin’s testimony to argue that Franklin followed a pattern of using the same type of weapon to kill his victims.

Attorney Seymour Amster, who represents Franklin, challenged Rubin on the techniques he used to form his expert opinion.  According to Amster’s line of questioning, Rubin used methods which did not qualify him to provide ballistics expert testimony during the trial.  Rubin responded by defending his methodology and informing Amster, and the court, that his methods were widely accepted in the forensic science community.  According to Rubin, his research followed the standard methods of testing ballistic evidence, and his criminalist expert testimony was backed by validated scientific processes which qualify him as an expert.

Grim Sleeper Trial Continues in LA

After the ballistics expert testimony by Daniel Rubin, the prosecution rested its case, leading to an intense confrontation between attorney Amster and Judge Kathleen Kennedy before the defense presented its case.  During a shouting match in the middle of the courtroom, Amster told the judge that he was concerned the case was going to cause him to have a stroke because of the prosecution’s tactics and judge’s rulings.

A brief recess followed, and Amster was able to calm down and give an opening statement which attacked the validity of the DNA evidence used by police investigators to arrest Franklin. As the trial continues this week, Amster will begin calling witnesses to break down the prosecution’s, and will likely include a forensic expert witness to explain his criticism of the DNA evidence.

Defense Fails at Attempt to Feature DNA Expert Witness in Grim Sleeper Serial Killer Trial

The Grim Sleeper serial killer trial in Los Angeles, California experienced another delay this week when attorneys for the defense were blocked from using testimony from a DNA expert witness.  According to the presiding judge, the defense team’s DNA expert was not a credible witness and could not contribute his analysis to the high profile serial murder trial.

Grim Sleeper Serial Killer Murder Trial

Lonnie Franklin, Jr. was arrested in 2010 based on forensic DNA evidence linking him to the so-called Grim Sleeper serial killer murders.  The Grim Sleeper, named because of an apparent 14-year break between 1988 and 2002, has been positively linked to the murder of 10 African American women in the Los Angeles area and the attempted murder of 1 victim who survived.  Franklin was arrested after DNA evidence collected from his son during prosecution for an unrelated crime matched a familial DNA search police investigators used to solve the Grim Sleeper case.  Since his 2010 arrest, Franklin’s capital murder trial has experienced a number of delays with attorneys on both sides building forensic cases in preparation.

Defense attorneys for Franklin have focused a portion of their case on linking some of the alleged Grim Sleeper murders to Chester Turner – a serial killer who is already convicted and sitting on California’s Death Row.  According to Franklin’s lead attorney Seymour Amster, DNA could connect some of the attacks – one of which resulted in murder – to Turner and not to Franklin.  Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy rejected the attempt, however, and ruled the defense’s DNA expert witness was not qualified to testify.

Grim Sleeper Defense Expert Rejected before Trial

Earlier this year in a pre-trial hearing, defense attorneys for alleged Grim Sleeper serial killer Lonnie Franklin, Jr. called DNA expert witness Lawrence Sowers to link forensic evidence found at the scene of murders to men other than Franklin.  Although the idea of using a DNA expert witness to use forensic evidence to suggest other perpetrators is valid, Dr. Sowers fell short in his efforts to help Franklin’s defense by admitting to conducting last minute re-calculations after hearing testimony from a separate DNA expert and backtracking on claims he made during testimony.

Dr. Sowers initially reported his DNA analysis found samples from other men – including convicted murder Chester Turner – at “several” of the crime scenes where police investigators gathered evidence which would eventually lead them to Lonnie Franklin, Jr.  During his testimony at a pre-trial evidence hearing held this week, however, Sowers backtracked and admitted to recalculating his figures after hearing a different DNA expert witness take the stand.  Defense attorney Seymour Amster attempted to postpone the hearing after Sowers began to hedge on his initial DNA analysis, but Judge Kennedy rejected the request in order to give prosecutors a full opportunity to critically examine Dr. Sower’s work and his qualifications as a DNA expert witness.

District attorneys prosecuting Franklin responded to Sowers’s DNA expert testimony by picking apart his calculation and investigation procedures, and asking pointed questions about his education and training which qualified him as an expert.  After testimony, Judge Kennedy sided with prosecutors and found Sowers “woefully failed to meet the generally accepted methods of the scientific community in the area of forensic DNA analysis.”  After this week’s rejection of the defense’s proposed DNA expert witness, attorneys for Franklin will not be allowed to use forensic expert testimony which directly points to other suspects.

Grim Sleeper Trial to Resume in December

Judge Kennedy postponed the Grim Sleeper murder trial of Lonnie Franklin, Jr. until December 15th, 2015 after almost a year of delays and evidentiary hearings.  The trial was scheduled to begin in January of 2015 after nearly five years of preparation, but has experienced multiple postponements during a contentious pre-trial period.  Franklin, Jr. has pleaded not guilty to the Grim Sleeper murders, and faces the death penalty if convicted of the killings.