Los Angeles

‘Grim Sleeper' Trial Escalates to Courtroom Outburst

When a defense attorney pushed a chair into a table, three courtroom deputies moved in closer to him

The attorney for a man charged with killing nine women and a 15-year-old girl in the "Grim Sleeper" trial in Los Angeles repeatedly shouted at the judge in the case Monday and refused to proceed.

Defense attorney Seymour Amster and the lead prosecutor spent nearly two hours Monday heatedly arguing over a number of points in the trial of Lonnie Franklin Jr., who has pleaded not guilty to 10 murders between 1985 and 2007.

The back-and-forth, which jurors did not see, escalated into an outburst by Amster after Judge Kathleen Kennedy ruled that he would have to refile a subpoena to make it narrower.

"I am now going to rest. We have no defense," Seymour said to gasps in the courtroom. "I cannot represent this man any further."

After Kennedy questioned Amster further, he shouted twice that he was resting. When he began pacing and pushed a chair into a table, three courtroom deputies moved in closer to him.

The tension eased after Kennedy calmly told Amster to stop yelling at her and they discussed how to move forward.

Amster repeatedly said earlier that he didn't want to have a stroke during the trial, citing the stress involved.

"I'm not asking you to have a stroke," the judge told him. "I'm asking you to do your job."

Earlier, Amster and prosecutor Beth Silverman clashed over a witness that Amster wants to put on the stand, a professor he did not disclose earlier to the prosecution as required. Silverman complained it was "trial by ambush."


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When Amster later said the professor would be addressing previously introduced material, Silverman said, "You can put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig."

After a short break, Amster began his opening statement to jurors, honing in on DNA that didn't match his client.

Amster told jurors that many victims had DNA on their bodies from as many as five male contributors, and many samples didn't match Franklin.

He said he also would dispute firearm analysis being used as evidence against his client.

In her opening statement last month, Silverman told jurors that Franklin's DNA was connected to a number of the victims and that all the cases were either linked through DNA or firearms evidence.

Silverman showed jurors a photo of the only known survivor of the Grim Sleeper attacks. The photo showed a woman with a gunshot wound to her chest, slouched over in a car. The Polaroid was found in Franklin's possession when he was arrested in 2010.

The 10 murder victims in the case were between 15 and 35 years old. Their bodies were dumped in alleys and garbage bins in south Los Angeles, some naked, some covered with mattresses and trash. Most had been shot in the chest after some type of sexual contact, others strangled.

Autopsies showed all but one had cocaine in their systems. Some had turned to prostitution.

Silverman told jurors that Franklin took advantage of the crack cocaine epidemic in south Los Angeles, targeting women "willing to sell their bodies and their souls in order to gratify their dependency on this powerful drug."

The Grim Sleeper nickname was coined because of an apparent 14-year gap in the murders between 1988 and 2002.

Police have dueling theories about the gap. Some think the killings stopped after one intended victim survived in 1988, scaring off the attacker. Other investigators believe there were more victims but their bodies just weren't found.

The Grim Sleeper was among at least three serial killers who stalked Los Angeles-area women during the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. The attacks were dubbed the "Southside Slayer" killings before authorities concluded more than one attacker was involved.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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