LOS ANGELES » A man charged with 10 counts of murder in the "Grim Sleeper" serial killings was given a June trial date after anguished family members of the victims told a judge Friday they were tired of years of delay.
Judge Kathleen Kennedy said lawyers would meet June 29 and jury selection would begin the following day in the death penalty case of Lonnie Franklin Jr., who has pleaded not guilty.
Family members of the women and girl slain over two decades in Los Angeles angrily denounced Franklin and blamed his lawyer for dragging his feet in a rare hearing in which they were able to speak under a voter-approved victims’ bill of rights.
Samara Herard, the sister of Princess Berthomieux, a teenager killed in 2002, said she appreciated the court’s need to balance the defendant’s right to a fair trial, but she said she felt hopeless by the "endless dance."
Defense lawyer Seymour Amster blamed the prosecution for delays but agreed to a June trial date after prosecutors said they would be ready in March to argue whether to turn over more evidence to the defense for forensic testing.
Franklin, 62, is accused of shooting eight of the victims and strangling two of them from 1985 to 2007, the brunt of the crimes during a period when crack cocaine plagued parts of Los Angeles. The nickname was coined because of the 14-year gap between slayings in 1988 and 2002.
The hiatus occurred after one woman managed to survive her gunshot wounds. Franklin is charged with attempted murder in that case.
Survivor Enietra Washington took a moment to compose her thoughts Friday when she noticed Franklin sitting next to his lawyer in orange jail clothing.
"You left me for dead. I know it’s you for a fact," said Washington, who promised to haunt Franklin. "I thought I forgave you. I was wrong."
Franklin didn’t turn to face the family members and showed no emotion during the hearing.
Police arrested Franklin in July 2010 after his DNA was connected to more than a dozen crime scenes. An officer posing as a busboy at a pizza parlor got DNA samples from dishes and utensils Franklin had been eating with at a birthday party.
It’s not unusual for capital cases to take years to complete, but Marsy’s Law, passed by voters in 2008, gives victims some leverage to speed things up, though it’s still not widely used, said attorney Nina Salarno Ashford, a board member of Crime Victims United.
Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said the case has been plagued by delays with no end in sight. Trial dates have been set before, but then scrubbed as the defense continued its investigation.
Amster said his expert found DNA from another man at three of the crime scenes and is seeking to test more material because it could help his client.
Some of the 13 people who spoke during the hearing said afterward that they felt they had been heard in court and were hopeful the case would proceed as scheduled.
But they were also frustrated that other family members who had already passed away wouldn’t be there to see the trial.
Porter Alexander Jr., 74, said he waited long enough for an arrest in the 1988 slaying of his daughter, Alicia Monique, that he was going to stay strong to see the case through.
"As God is my witness, I’m going to live to see it," he told the judge.